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Content about Worship

October 25, 2018

The following discussion is from the second part of a session led by Dr. Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, Rev. Cindy Holtrop, Dr. Warren Kinghorn, and Dr. John Swinton at the Calvin Symposium on Worship in January 2018. The first section appeared in Reformed Worship 129 and dealt with the promises and pitfalls around public worship and mental health. The rest of the session focuses on prayer.

May 11, 2016

My wife Evelyn and I worship at a congregation which very intentionally invites children, teens, and young adults to engage in worship together. Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church (Ancaster, Ontario) does this quietly, almost organically, so that if you’re not looking for it you may not notice it.  

Because it’s almost invisible, I’ve conducted a “Worship-MRI scan” so that I can understand it better. Here’s what I saw:  

January 19, 2016

I live just outside Hamilton, ON (Canada), a city of half a million that boasts one professional sports franchise:  the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. This year the Cats were favored to win it all, under the leadership of their star quarterback, Zach Collaros, until a season-ending injury took him out.

Suddenly I realized that the Cats’ chances of winning it all had deteriorated profoundl. It struck me that perhaps the quarterback is more important to a football team’s success than any other position in any other team sport. 

December 3, 2015

Insights from My College Students About What Helps and Hinders Worship

I recently taught a class on worship and theology to an insightful group of 30 undergraduate students. They came from churches all over the stylistic spectrum, from eight denominations, twelve states and provinces, and three countries. 

As part of the course, I asked them to submit brief written reflections to these open ended questions: 

August 31, 2015

“You treated us like we were in kindergarten!” blurted Betty, the crusty older woman who had been a soprano in the choir I directed for many years.

After recovering from her barb, I realized she was right.

July 20, 2015

“People can’t worship when they’re learning.” I was working with another planner—I’ll call him Mike—on a combined worship service of our two churches. Together we were responsible for selecting songs, recruiting singers and deciding the order of worship. Mike and I shared many important traits: both of us loved Jesus, both of us were committed to the Church, both us wanted true and good worship to happen at the combined service.

May 31, 2010

How often do we equate an experience of God with good feelings? I regularly hear my students make this association. From time to time I ask them how God is at work in their lives. Their answers are telling: “My relationships with friends are really good” or “I did really well on my mid-term exam” or “My spring break trip was awesome!”

May 31, 2010

Early this year I began working on an article for RW on the liturgical use of difficult psalms. Then on January 12 we received the news that an earthquake had struck the island nation of Haiti. By Sunday it was evident that the number of people killed, injured, or homeless would be measured in the hundreds of thousands. That Sunday morning I worshiped with two different congregations. The first congregation offered impassioned prayers for Haiti, but in a liturgical context that did not deviate from the plans laid out earlier in the week.

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

As our worship committee planned a service around Psalm 130, we were reminded that this is a Psalm of ascents, sung by the people of Israel as they approached the temple to worship. The psalmist begins in the depths of sin, moves to trusting in God as the One who forgives, and concludes with a communal call to trust in God. Wanting to remain true to the text, we planned our service as a journey moving from sin to trust. This momentum helped us all to acknowledge our need for a Savior and to go forward, confidently trusting in the Lord’s compassion.

May 31, 2010

"You are holding an unusual hymnal! The texts here are not grouped by theme, season of the year, or order of worship. Rather, they are presented in chronological order by text, beginning with a sampling of Old Testament psalms and continuing right up to songs written in the past few years. Paging through this book, then, is like taking a 3,000-year journey through the songs of God’s people.”

May 31, 2010

Our congregation lives in a secular California suburban culture that’s enamored by and often addicted to the latest trends in fashion, décor, and home design. A thousand voices urge us to work and purchase our way to happiness. Two years ago anyone driving through our growing city might have been impressed by its carefully manicured lawns, late-model SUVs, and growing number of hybrids. Everything looked new. Everyone looked happy. On the outside everything was fine. It was as if everyone was busy refining what sociologists call “image management.”

May 31, 2010

It’s time we held a special service of prayer for the Middle Eastern Church.

Some of you may be taken aback by this. Is there such a thing as the “Middle Eastern Church?” Is there really a Christian presence in the Middle East? And if there is, what does it look like?

May 31, 2010

Q Is it really legitimate to treat some psalms as if they refer to Jesus?

A Christians have long interpreted several psalms (16, 24, 72, 110, and others) as referring to Jesus. This is very similar to Christological readings of other Messianic prophecies, such as Isaiah 7, 9, or 40.

March 1, 2010

My church has the smallest sanctuary I’ve ever seen. The front wall of the sanctuary used to be painted with a kind of 3-D archway or portal that was black inside. The painting was old, chipped, and mildewed along the bottom. I always wondered what it meant and who had put it there. When I started asking around, many parishioners admitted to being “creeped out” by the painting. Finally someone told me that the painting symbolized the tomb. Eventually we painted it over in order to brighten up the worship space.

March 1, 2010

These days we’re connected to people all over the globe. The Internet and other electronic media allow us to be as “plugged in” as we want to be: websites and e-news blasts provide us with up-to-date information on what’s happening in the world (see sidebar).

As Christians, this awareness informs our personal devotions and our corporate worship whenever we intercede on behalf of those suffering from injustice in our own communities and around the world. It’s a natural step to put those prayers to music so that they may be sung by God’s people.

March 1, 2010

The Association of American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island has seventy-seven member congregations, including the historic First Baptist Church in America founded by Roger Williams in 1638. The mission of the association is to “resource our people and engage in Christ-centered ministries by promoting and building healthy pastors and healthy churches to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.”

March 1, 2010

A few months ago a package arrived in the mail from a friend of RW. Inside was a full set of Liturgy and Music in Reformed Worship newsletters. This RW precursor set the trajectory for providing worship leaders and committees with practical assistance in planning, structuring, and conducting congregational worship in the Reformed tradition. Unlike back issues of Reformed Worship, the jewels in these newsletters are not available online, so we decided to share a few of them with you.

March 1, 2010

Planning a service that incorporates staff, volunteers, and a congregation can feel like a particularly daunting task. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel—while each church is unique, there are general planning techniques that can be helpful to almost any worship planner. Our church finds the following outline helpful. It is not a detailed map, but it does provide the fundamentals. The trick is for each church to find what works best for its own staff, volunteers, and congregation.

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.

August 31, 2009

C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters consists of an imagined correspondence between the senior demon Screwtape and his young nephew Wormwood. Screwtape gives advice on tempting and leading humans astray. Lewis uses this correspondence to make some insightful and often biting observations about the human condition, and how easily we are deceived by the forces of evil.

August 31, 2009

Our church can be described as a singing church. As part of our worship pattern, once a year we usually hold a hymn-sing, gathering to worship God specifically through song. This year our pastor preached a series of sermons based on various psalms, so instead of a hymn-sing we decided to hold a psalm-sing.

August 31, 2009

Our church can be described as a singing church. As part of our worship pattern, once a year we usually hold a hymn-sing, gathering to worship God specifically through song. This year our pastor preached a series of sermons based on various psalms, so instead of a hymn-sing we decided to hold a psalm-sing.

August 31, 2009

Q My pastor was explaining John Calvin’s understanding that in the Lord’s Supper “the Holy Spirit lifts us up so that we commune with Jesus in heaven.” This sounds beautiful—but it also sounds pretty far-fetched. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t feel, taste, or look like heaven. What are we to make of this?

May 31, 2009

Sometimes my three-year-old daughter wants to join me for worship instead of attending her Sunday school class. On one such Sunday, I ran down the litany of things she would not be allowed to do during worship if she stayed. I told her she wasn’t allowed to walk around, crawl on the floor, or talk; she would need to sit still and listen. Innocently she looked at me and asked, “Am I in time out, Mama?”