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September 2002

Learning with Brothers and Sisters Across the Globe: A report on a church music conference in Taiwan and an invitation to a symposium closer to home

Some of you may have noticed my new byline as “senior research fellow” for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. With the completion of the new hymnal Sing! A New Creation, I had thought of kicking back a bit, but instead I accepted an invitation to join the growing staff of the Institute, which has had a close relationship with Reformed Worship throughout the Institute’s short five-year history. So now I serve in two arenas for the support, encouragement, and renewal of worship on the congregational level.

Getting into Prayer: Pastor Tony gets past the jargon

Janeen Simmons is—or so she’d told him—into prayer. Strange way of saying it, he thought. Like some kids are into Legos. Or some couples are into snorkeling. His friend Tom Branderhorst, a perfectly ordinary guy in seminary, was now into Christian yoga.

Sing of God's Care: A Thanksgiving celebration of God's providence

We were just finishing a ten-week series on “the big words” of Reformed doctrine. The word for Thanksgiving Day was providence, God’s continuing care for the world. As we started putting the service together, it became clear to us that we could sing practically the entire message. The idea of having a “lighter” service after all of the heavy doctrine was appealing. But how could we get all of the songs we wanted to sing into a one-hour time frame?

Singing the Church Year

Unlike other LOFT services, which take place on Sunday night and go for seventy-five minutes or more, this hymnsing service took place on a Friday morning and lasted under twenty-five minutes. It was part of a week-long project of educating students about the seasons of the church and what it means to find our identity, as Paul says, in Christ, inserting our stories into his story, giving our own lives context and purpose.

Advent Through the Psalms: An alternative to the traditional lessons and carols

I have often been struck by how different psalms fit different parts of the entire church year. For this Advent service I related specific psalms to the season of Advent in the traditional lessons and carols format. The anthems we used reflected themes in those psalms. Because the budget for our small choir allowed for only one new anthem, I chose several older anthems—some now out of print—from their library. You may want to choose different anthems, depending on your resources. Many of the psalms came from Sing!

Questions About Worship and Technology: A starting point for discussion

Quentin Schultze asks many questions here that churches should be asking. Author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker, 2002), Schultze continues to study technological issues that affect worship planning and leadership. After reading “all of the literature I could find on technology and worship,” Schultze offers the following list of questions as a place to begin thinking, not as an exhaustive list.

Six biblical characters, six traditions of faith: an Advent/Christmas series based on Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water, page 1 of 2

Some time ago, while reading Richard Foster’s book Streams of Living Water (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to plan a series of worship services based on this book. I was also beginning to plan for the upcoming Advent and Christmas services. As I began to explore the possibilities of combining the two ideas, I was struck by how nicely the two fit together.    

In his book, Foster contends that the Christian religion is comprised of six great traditions of faith:

Book: Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship

Robbie Castleman. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 139 pp. $10.99. Reviewed by Cindy Holtrop, program director for grants and congregational formation, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lift Your Light High: A reading for an Advent candlelight service

John Bush explains, “This candlelight service has been used here at Northbrook Presbyterian for at least twenty-five years; it follows an elegant holiday feast held at the church. I integrated this ‘service of light’ into an Advent Service of Evening Prayer.”

[The congregation are holding unlighted candles. Two readers, also holding candles, gather at the Advent wreath, facing the congregation. The appropriate Advent candles are already lighted.]

Continuing Education

It happens every time we use a new visual in our worship. One gentleman in my church catches me after the service and asks me what each part of the new visual means. We look at the banner, and I describe how the final piece came to be: what we started with, what problems we encountered while constructing it, and what pleasant surprises happened along the way.

In the Fullness of Time: A Christmas drama

In the Fullness of Time” was the third annual Christmas drama we wrote and produced. This year we decided to present the drama on two consecutive nights: not only for space reasons, but also to give actors a chance to have the satisfaction of performing twice after all their hard work at rehearsals!


Dear Dean,

Have you ever compiled all your beautiful banner ideas into a book? You should! We think they are great and appreciate your sharing them with us!

Mike Bryant
Director of Fine Arts
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Atlanta, Georgia

On the Balance of Word and Sacrament

The Light of Life: A dramatic reading for Epiphany

What is the meaning of light in the Bible? This drama was prepared for the conclusion of a series of sermons our pastor preached between Epiphany and Lent that asked that question. Rather than using a narrative approach, I began with three scenes: creation, fall, and redemption. Using my concordance, I found relevant Scripture passages for each scene. (All Scripture is taken from the NRSV.) When I noticed that my original three-part structure didn’t satisfy, I added scenes 3 and 5.


Corrections and Identification
  • In RW 64 (p. 12), the website address we provided for The Liturgical Press was incorrect. The correct address is
  • The liturgical calendar in RW 64 (p. 33) listed a couple of incorrect dates. In 2003 Maundy Thursday falls on April 17, Good Friday on April 18, and Trinity Sunday on June 15.

Where Did You Get that Script?: An interview with biblical storyteller Dennis Dewey

It isn’t often that listening to Scripture in a worship service is absolutely riveting. But listening to Dennis Dewey proclaim Scripture was one of the most powerful parts of COLAM 2001, a worship conference cosponsored by Reformed Worship and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Wheaton, Illinois. I spoke with him one afternoon during that conference.

Six biblical characters, six traditions of faith: an Advent/Christmas series based on Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water, page 2 of 2

Fourth Sunday of advent

The Charismatic Stream:
The Shepherds

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Song setting of Psalm 89: “I Will Sing of the Mercies     of the Lord” PsH 169, TWC 30 or “My Song Forever Shall Record” PsH 593, TH 99

Romans 16:25-27

Sermon Text: Luke 2:8-20

On All Saints' Day, Devotional Prayers, and Distinctions Between "Songs about God" and Songs to God"

Q. All Saints’ Day sounds so Roman Catholic. Why does our Reformed church celebrate this day? Doesn’t this betray our roots?

A. The sixteenth-century Reformers abolished all celebrations related to saints. They had deep pastoral concern for people who believed that the saints could offer prayers on their behalf. The Reformers saw this as a direct challenge to the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement for sins and priestly intercession.

Continuing Education: Notes

The following is a possible note of explanation that could be printed in a bulletin to accompany the Epiphany banner shown here.

Songs from Asia and Argentina for Advent and Christmas

I-to Loh and Pablo Sosa are highly respected authorities on congregational song, I-to Loh on Asian hymnody, and Pablo Sosa on songs from Latin America. We’re thrilled that both are planning to come to the 2003 Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, and they’re looking forward to seeing each other again—previously they’ve worked together in international ecumenical conferences, including the World Council of Churches. Here is a brief introduction to both.

The Hymns of I-to Loh

Comfort, Comfort Now My People: A hymn and prayer service on the theme of peace

Many churches held prayer services after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. A year later, or during Advent, or during the cold of winter, your congregation may wish once more to gather to pray for peace in our broken world. This service could be adapted in many ways. For example, a choir is optional and you may want to consider alternative hymns (if so you’ll need to adapt the commentary as well).

Give Us This Day Our Daily Web: Internet resources for congregational prayer

The disciples asked Jesus a simple question: “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). He gave them, in response, the Lord’s Prayer. Today’s wired Christian might ask that same question not only of Jesus, but also of Jeeves, an electronic concierge/search engine located at What he or she gets in response will show that in the daunting task of putting words of prayer on the lips of God’s people, good help is hard to find. Hard, but not impossible.