Percussion in worship presents the same promises and problems as any other art. Played well, percussion can offer a wordless prayer, a lively conversation, an expression of sorrow, or an infectious call to praise. Performed poorly, it is an annoying, noisy distraction. How can a congregation learn to offer percussion as a skillful, powerful part of the pulse of worship?
This article is addressed particularly to congregations without a tradition of using percussion in worship and rests on these assumptions:
Matt Redman. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2001. 126 pp. $12.99.
From the moment I opened Matt Redman’s The Unquenchable Worshipper I faced a dilemma: to move onto the next chapter as quickly as I could because I was hungry for more, or to mull and ponder the chapter I’d just finished because I liked the taste it left.
Q: What do you get when you are asked to take part in an event for which you are remarkably unprepared?
A: Butterflies in your stomach.
Q: What do you get when you realize that the majority of participants in that event are as unprepared as you?
A: The false assurance of safety in numbers.
Q: What do you get when the leadership of that same event begins to realize what’s going on?
A: Frustrated and disheartened leadership.
Walter Brueggeman. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2003. 173 pp. $12.00.
Anyone at all familiar with Walter Brueggemann’s work will note his characteristic offbeat style already in the title of this book (awed to heaven). Brueggemann, an Old Testament theologian, is here the theologian at prayer. This collection of prayers brings together his prayers (no more than a page each, often less) from such diverse occasions as opening a class to leading a worship service.
With this issue, Reformed Worship begins its seventeenth year. Not very old, as journals count years, but when we stopped to think about it, a surprise even for our staff. Many of you have been subscribers since the first issue; many others buy back issues when they begin subscribing. We have a remarkably loyal readership, and we’re grateful.
Linda Clark, Joanne Swenson, and Mark Stamm. The Alban Institute, 2001. www.alban.org. Book (137 pp.) and video.
Many books and articles are written about worship today, especially about the style of worship. But these three authors and the Alban Institute have found a way to deal with the issues in a very compelling way.
Q One big change for us in the past few years is that our pastor just preaches in worship, while our worship team leads the rest of the service. We enjoy leading, but don’t have a lot of training. Shouldn’t the pastor take a more active role in the rest of the worship service?
In the preceding article, Lester Ruth suggests a calendar for celebrating Advent early, perhaps in November, for the purpose of spending more time during December on the rich doctrines of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Roger Eernisse took a similar approach in this four-week Advent series based on the opening verses, or prologue, to the gospel of John. Each week unpacks different aspects of the meaning of the Incarnation.
As a pastor, I’ve discovered that while many people know Bible stories about Jesus, few can readily articulate the Scriptures’ great overarching themes of creation, fall, and redemption. And I’ve become more convinced of the necessity of telling God’s people the whole story.
I love type. If youve been reading this column for any length of time, you have picked up on my infatuation with letter forms but also, no doubt, my resistance to traditional banner letters. So much can go wrong so quickly.
Lois Prahlow, one of the banner design workshop presenters at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, had such a clever idea that I couldnt resist passing it onand the inspiration it gave me for a Thanksgiving visual in my own church.
The Christmas season extends from December 25 through January 5 and includes at least one and sometimes two Sundays. Celebrating Christmas as a season helps us enter into the meaning of the Incarnation more fully than a single celebration. Consider some of these resources for your Christmas season this year.
Calls to Worship
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
On Thanksgiving Day many churches offer a very traditional worship service: Psalm 100, a litany of thanksgiving, “Come, You Thankful People, Come.” On a day when we look back with gratitude at God’s good gifts to us, it makes sense to make use of the work and wisdom of our forebears and to worship using that which is tried and true. Other congregations seek innovation: pilgrim puppets behind the pulpit, prayers of thanks colored (not written) in crayon on scraps of paper and dropped in the offering plate.
There’s a lesson for worship leaders in a famous scene in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and company are meeting with the Great and Powerful Oz, whose voice and visage have them shaking in awe and wonder. Meanwhile, the dog Toto pulls back a drape, revealing an ordinary fellow frantically pushing buttons and pulling levers, desperate to conceal his role in the spectacle of sight and sound. He bellows, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
2/16—Sunday Night after LOFT
Something’s been bugging me the last few LOFTs. Couldn’t put my finger on it before, but now I think I know what it is. It’s God’s voice. I could hardly hear it. Noticed its absence particularly after our prayer of confession tonight. We sang a Kyrie but there was no assurance of pardon after. There was a song about grace, but I’m not sure anyone understood the connection between the two. There was no clear absolution of guilt. No declaration of emancipation. No welcome home.
What are we to do with Advent?
The lectionary says, “repent and prepare,” but the rhythms of many congregations say, “children’s Christmas program.” The calendar says, “fast and pray,” but Sunday schools schedule Christmas parties with cake and cookies. Advent says, “not yet, not yet,” but church-goers clamor to sing their favorite Christmas carols.
Photographs in RW 68
In the interest of justice (!), we need to give credit where due: we regret that in our theme issue on Worship and Justice (RW 68), we omitted credits for two photographers. Nancy Olthuis (firstname.lastname@example.org), Graphic Design Services Officer at The King’s University College, took the photos on the cover and on pages 2-3.
Book and CD: The Book of Uncommon Prayer: Contemplative and Celebratory Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministry
Steven L. Case. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. 128 pp. $19.99.
While serving in youth ministry in an Episcopal church, Steven Case came to value The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) as one of the most important tools in his ministry “next to the Bible (and caffeine, of course).” He decided to write an “uncommon” book based on the BCP, where the prayers would be directly related to the obstacles and challenges teenagers face daily.
Twenty minutes after midnight one of the MCs at this year’s annual New Year’s bash in Niagara Falls, Ontario, asked the crowd, “How do you like the year so far?” The crowd, which had just enjoyed a rock concert and a fireworks display, screamed its approval, oblivious to a fatal bombing in an earlier time zone that had elicited screams of a different kind. That’s the schizophrenic kind of world we live in.
Many churches across Canada have been celebrating their fiftieth anniversaries the last few years. Following the end of World War II, the population of Canada exploded with immigrants, including many from the Netherlands who were grateful for the Canadian army’s role in the liberation of their country. As a binational denomination with Dutch roots, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Canada grew from thirteen small congregations in 1945 to 170 in just fifteen years.
It started innocently enough with the Advent wreath. Each Sunday during Advent an individual or a family from our congregation came forward after the greeting to read a
passage of Scripture and to light a candle. Because of space constraints, our congregation does not have a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service, so at the end of the fourth Sunday we lit the Christ candle, a big pillar candle, and sang a Christmas hymn right before the benediction.
Why do we make such a fuss about being home for Christmas? Those who have been blessed with happy childhoods may enjoy going home even after becoming adults. We like to be at home with the people we love; sometimes we even long for it.
We prepared this service for the beginning of Advent. It would also be suitable for the Sunday before Advent, when celebrating Christ the King Sunday, since it covers the entire Christian year. Worship leaders had printed copies of the service, including all the texts. The congregation had no printed worship folder; all the texts were projected on a screen. Also projected were the section titles of each section of the service along with medieval art depicting the Holy Family (also see front cover).
In Mexico City, for the most part, New Year’s Eve is a night for worship and family gatherings, not a night for wild public gatherings.
The congregation at Gethsemane Presbyterian Reformed Church in Mexico City celebrates New Year’s Eve with gentle traditions of remembrance spiced with hope. Families gather first for worship and then in their homes for midnight supper.