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Content about Music in worship

May 31, 2010

Imagine a piece of art that you would like to hang or install in your home. If it’s a painting, you’d want to frame it and then find the right spot in the right room for it, so that your viewing of the painting would be enriched by its placement. If it’s a sculpture, you’d want to find the spot that best honors the piece and allows you to enjoy it fully.

May 31, 2010

Am I really supposed to pray like this? That is the question I kept asking myself when I first started praying through the psalms. I tried to make the prayers “my own” but found that I could not. I tried to pray through the psalms in their totality—their joy, anger, praise, lament, exultation, despair, longing, and hope—but it was just too much for me. I wanted these prayers to echo through the depths of my heart. I tried praying through the psalms in a week, in a month, in three months.

March 1, 2010

Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of MP3 players we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres. We can listen alone or with others, listen on or off the phone, listen in the car or on a walk outside. While we listen we can view photographs, videos, play computer games, or check the location of the nearest Starbucks. Music is available to us where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it.

March 1, 2009

It probably all started in Mr. Klyn’s class. As fifth graders, we weren’t too cool yet to sing together every morning, and Mr. Klyn decided that anyone in the class who could play piano well enough would accompany that singing. He chose a tune from the Folk Hymnal for each of us newly-anointed accompanists to play the following week. I went home and practiced “He took my feet from the miry clay; yes, he did! Yes, he did!” until my parents begged me to stop.

December 1, 2008

The Revised Common Lectionary offers a three-year plan of Scripture readings (Years A, B, and C). The Lectionary does this so that once every three years, public worship services can include readings from every book of the Bible.

December 1, 2008

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
—Psalm 150:3-5, KJV

August 31, 2008

Here’s the typical music director’s dilemma: you want to use instrumentalists in the service because that adds a unique dimension to your worship, but you also know there’s a wide range of ability among your willing volunteers; many, if not all, are amateurs.

How can you select repertoire that honors their capabilities and helps them reach their full potential in using their gifts to serve the Lord? Here’s some practical advice for doing just that.

May 31, 2007

This article is reprinted from The Stanza, Fall 2006, © 2006 The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (www.thehymnsociety.org). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Three times, recently, I was aurally assaulted in a church building: once at a concert, twice at services. The weapons were large pipe organs, and the penetrating device was most specifically 32-foot pedal pipes. Each time I had been invited to “sing along” as part of a group that then became engulfed, no, drowned in ear-splitting sonorities.

May 31, 2007

For some time, I’ve thought about how to portray music visually. How does one art form honor another? What could be done in our spaces to reflect the prominent position that music has in our worship?

What first comes to mind, of course, are clichés: a huge banner featuring a loopy treble clef. Flocks of brightly colored eighth and sixteenth notes soaring off into the sky. That sort of thing. Nothing wrong with these, mind you (you may have one of these hanging in your church this very moment!), but I was looking for something a little more dramatic.

May 31, 2007

Sometimes I’m asked to speak on the topic of recovering congregational singing. So I ask the question “What’s wrong?” The conversation goes like this:

“Apparently people are not singing like they used to.”

“Why?”

“We’re not exactly sure, but we’d sure like to have some tools to improve the situation.”

March 1, 2007

Our church follows the seasons of the Christian year and the lectionary Scripture passages, changing banners and colors accordingly. When we planned a service called “Singing Through the Christian Year,” it provided us with the opportunity to “walk through” the Christian year in one evening and to reprise many of the choir anthems we had learned and used in services over the past year.

March 1, 2007

In August 2006, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsored an amazing trip to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Nine Institute staff members, myself included, spent a month meeting with worshiping communities there.

June 4, 2005

Being intentionally intergenerational in worship can sound like an overwhelming task. Indeed, it does require some time and effort. As a place to start, consider planning a service that celebrates each generation and the particular gifts it brings to the body of Christ. Doing so may jumpstart your thinking about how to draw in all generations on a more regular basis. Following are two resources that could be used in such a service.

Litany of Thanksgiving for the Seasons of Life
December 4, 2004

This service was prepared for the 2004 Symposium on Worship and the Arts held at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. James Abbington played each of the songs on the organ or the piano; those considering this service will want to find a person (or more than one person) who is gifted at playing both instruments for the traditional hymns and spirituals as well as for the contemporary Black gospel songs. Most, but not all songs are by African Americans; those that are not have become favorites of African-American Christians.

June 3, 2004

t is difficult to imagine worship without music. Indeed, for too many worshipers the music is the worship. As congregations are working to make their worship more accessible to a wider range of people and more expressive of the voices of young and old, traditional and contemporary, modern and post-modern worshipers, the greatest struggles and most obvious changes often have to do with music.

December 3, 2003

LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) is the main student-run contemporary worship service at Calvin College. But it isn’t the only one. A little over two years ago, students on campus began a midweek, late evening, jazz- and poetry-based prayer service held in an underground coffee house known as the Cave. Ron Rienstra coordinates that service as well as LOFT. This column is offered in response to many inquires about what goes on there.

A Kuyperian Experiment

December 3, 2003

Jazz has a checkered past. While its deepest roots are in the spirituals sung in the slave fields of the South, jazz really came into its own in the saloons and brothels of New Orleans. It is still culturally suspect to many.

September 2, 2003

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.

September 2, 2003

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:

December 2, 2002
3/20 Pre-planning

Another communion service is coming up—just in time! We need all the grace we can get.

U To do: Confirm with Pastor Peter and elders from our supervising church to join us for planning and prayer.
December 2, 2002

Directing a children’s choir offers several opportunities to teach children what worship is and what it means to worship. As choir directors, our primary tool for teaching children about worship is the music that we sing. This article will focus on how the music we choose can be a teaching tool for children to understand worship—and at the same time, how it can help them lead the whole congregation in worship.

December 2, 2002

From time to time all of us who plan worship need some new ideas and triggers that will spark our creativity. Using handbells in worship can be such a spark. I like to think of bells as a seasoning to the “meat and potatoes” of the liturgy. Used with discretion, bells can be an outstanding asset to engage the congregation’s senses in worship.

December 2, 2002

Not long ago, I led a study of Charles Wesley’s hymns with a group of older adults. Despite their interest and attentiveness, there was pain in the room. One of the class members spoke up. “My son said to me, ‘Dad, the music at your church is boring and awful. You should come to my church so you can really worship.’” I asked whether this had happened to anyone else in the room. Of the eighty people in the class, over half raised their hands.

June 1, 2002

This liturgy was formed around the words of Jeremiah 18. Because it depended upon the visual image of a potter throwing a pot during the service, which complemented the spoken Word of God, it was different from any liturgy we’d used before. We purposely limited congregational participation so that the people could more easily listen and watch.

March 1, 2000

Recently I heard of a pastor who was trying to bring life and vitality to his medium-sized congregation's worship. He had become intrigued with "blended worship" and had experimented with adding some "contemporary" instrumentation and eliminating worship practices that might be considered too "high church." lie liked the concept of blended worship and was beginning to implement it, yet he still had reservations.