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September 2005

And All God's People Say...

When is the last time you said amen out loud at the end of a prayer that someone else led in worship? And what’s the difference whether you say it aloud, or let the person leading the prayer say it? What does it mean to say amen?

The Emerging Church: A Guide for the Perplexed

The growing attention paid to the “emerging church” has certainly got people talking. And whatever the “emerging church” is, it seems to be quite a chameleon. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either the latest threat to biblical faith or that which will save us from two thousand years of error!

What We've Learned Along the Way: Reformed Worship Through Twenty Years of Liturgical Change

Robert Webber has been an editorial consultant for Reformed Worship for many years and has written for RW several times. To help us start off our twentieth anniversary year, we asked him to reflect on “what we’ve learned along the way.” This article is the first in a series by a variety of writers associated with Reformed Worship since we began twenty years ago.


Expanding by the Day: A Glimpse at the CICW Website

In this column, I want to explore the great-granddaddy of worship websites, the expanding-by-the-day website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship ( This site reflects the wisdom of a whole congregation of worship gurus, clustered around the vision of CICW and its director, John Witvliet. That vision encompasses both rigorous, high-level scholarship and wheels-on-the-pavement ministry practice.

The Big Picture

Ordered for Impact: Using the Revised Common Lectionary's Scripture Choices for a Rich Celebration of the Incarnation

A mother and father travel to meet their teenaged daughter, who is returning home after a year in Argentina. On the trip the parents snap pictures: (1) the departure, (2) a stop to swim in a mountain lake, (3) pictures of that lake shot from an overlook, (4) the airport, (5) the daughter’s arrival, and (6) the rainbow crowd of passengers disembarking the plane from South America.

New Piano Music for Worship: A Resource List

An abundance of new materials for church pianists was published in the last twelve months, with many different repertoires and styles from which to choose. Because of space constraints, I have chosen to list no more than three representative titles from each volume. You can find more information, including complete tables of contents, at publisher’s websites, your local print music dealer, or website stores such as or Within great latitude, volumes are graded E=Easy, M=Medium, and D=Difficult

A Voice Cries Out...: Creative Approaches to Selected Scripture Readings for Advent

How well do you “hear” Scripture?

For some people the spoken or written word is powerful. But others “hear” more clearly through other senses. Worship leaders face the challenge of presenting the Scripture to people who have a variety of intelligences and learning styles. How can we help all these people hear the Word of God with greater clarity and understanding?

Book: Gathered Before God: Worship-Centered Church Renewal

Jane Rogers Vann. Westminster/John Knox Press, 2004. 192 pp. $19.95.

Here is yet another book on worship, but one that stays clear of the “contemporary versus traditional” debate. In Gathered Before God, Jane Rogers Vann encourages church renewal, not through programs but through worship. She then offers an educator’s perspective on how liturgy might accomplish that goal.

Another Year Is Dawning: Scripture and Song Provide an Overview of Christ's Sovereign Reign

The last Sunday of the Christian year (this year very early, on November 20) offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce the new year that will begin on the first Sunday of Advent. This past year we decided to celebrate it in a special way with scriptural readings from nine major events in the life of Jesus. While we used about a dozen different readers, as few as four or as many as twenty-plus could effectively be used. (For all the Scripture readings, arranged for various readers, see below.)

Move the Furniture

The church I attend celebrated its fortieth anniversary a couple of years ago. The pulpit furniture—lectern, baptismal font, and Lord’s Supper table—had been there from the beginning. During those forty years, the building’s interior had been updated but the furniture had not. It was time for something new.

The Places of Christmas: Six Weeks of Service Plans for Advent and Christmas

How often do we really think about “place” in connection with the Christian life?

In our highly mobile culture, many of us know what it means to feel displaced or removed from “home.” When I first returned to my childhood home in southwestern Ontario, I was struck by the sense of solidarity I had with this place—not merely with the people, but also with the topography and landscape that had been part of my childhood background. This place had shaped me.


Two Letters from Readers in Asia

I have read the brief song analysis by Bert Polman (RW 71) on your website. It is quite interesting and it has given me more understanding about the songs. However, I think it would be helpful if you could add some historical background of the songs.

Nativity Dramas: Why an Ancient Practice Might Work Well for the MTV Generation

For centuries churches have played out the Christmas story in drama and song. Todd Farley looks far back into the origins of nativity scenes and liturgical Christmas dramas, and then offers some intriguing ideas for enlivening worship today. His ideas for a complete Christmas service involving the entire congregation are not spelled out in detail; every church would need to consider their own resources and abilities.


2005 Worship Renewal Grants Announced

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has announced this year’s grant recipients through its Worship Renewal Grants Program, now in its sixth year. This year the Institute awarded nearly $700,000 to fifty-four churches and organizations.

Figures of Faith: A Series of Children's Messages for Advent

When our worship committee selected Peter Hoytema’s series “Six Biblical Characters, Six Traditions of Faith” (RW 65) for the 2002 Advent season, I scrambled to find a series of children’s messages that would complement the services. Unable to find what I was looking for, I turned to Hoytema’s article to see what I could glean for use with the children of our congregation. 

Christmas Classics Revisited

Roger Bergs offers fresh treatments of three traditional hymns, one each for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. On these pages, Bergs, a published composer, not only provides arrangements for piano and/or organ or choir, but also offers them without charge to Reformed Worship and to our readers—a generous gift! We did not have room to include all the music, and some of what we did provide is too small for easy reading. To print your own copy of this music (PDF), please click here.

Longing for Full Redemption: An Advent Prayer of Confession and Lament

John D. Witvliet prepared this prayer for his ordination service into the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Christian Reformed Church.

This prayer is based on the ancient “O Antiphons” that are also the basis for the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” (see also p. 38). The elipses (. . .) are places for possible extemporaneous additions.

For All Generations: Princeton Christian Reformed Church, Kentwood, Michigan

Kristy Ruthven has two titles at Princeton Christian Reformed Church: youth director and director of worship and music. In the eyes of Ruthven and her congregation, the two jobs are integrally linked. Princeton worships with a vision for intergenerational unity, and the task of reaching out to youth cannot be separated from the practice of worship.

All God's People: Brazil

This resource page is the result of collaborative work during the Calvin Seminars in Christian Scholarship titled “Gather into One” held in June-July 2004. A group of scholars, theologians, musicians, and educators worked together and planned worship with a global focus for those who were participating in seminars that summer.

Making Our Own Confession: A Service for Reformation or All Saints' Day

A vibrant and living church is also a confessing church—a church that hears the good news, experiences the gospel power, and uses its own language to say what it believes. Already in the Old Testament, Israel confessed their faith in their own context: “Yahweh, One God, Yahweh, Our God” (Deut. 6:4). This confession protected true religion from the polytheism of the Canaanite idolatry. The early church confessed that “Jesus is Lord” (Rom.

The Forgotten Art: Developing New Writers for Your Worship

A year ago, I received a brochure inviting me to the Calvin Symposium of Worship, 2005. Even though the dates precluded my attendance, I could not put down the striking booklet, full of black and white pictures of hands: clapping, praying, welcoming, signing hands—hands performing on musical instruments, in drama and painting. The photographer beautifully depicted hands not only engaged in communal worship but also in preparation for worship, across generational and cultural divides.

On Hallmark Holidays, Calls to Godly Living, and Means of Grace

Q. Recent conversations I’ve heard dismiss Mother’s and Father’s Days as Hallmark holidays not suitable for worship. Aren’t these important pastoral topics in an age in which family life is so threatened?

Oh, Those "O Antiphons": There's More Than One Way to Structure a Lessons and Carols Service

11/17 Pre-planning

It’s been five years since we tried using those O Antiphons (see box) at LOFT. I’m thinking of introducing them again after one of the new worship apprentices mentioned reading about them in Webber’s Complete Library of Christian Worship. But if memory serves, the last time we tried to use them, the service didn’t go so well.

To do: Look at notes from last Antiphon service.