Worship Renewal: 500 Years Later

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When worship leaders gather to discuss renewal in worship, conversation easily turns to music. Who should lead, what music helps the congregation worship, what instruments should be used? Conversation also turns to the words used in worship. Are we using words that are “churchy” and difficult to understand for people who have not been raised in the church? What about non-verbal communication? Are people seeing our passion for worship and our love for God? Unfortunately, it is also easy to discuss criticism that worship leaders are hearing from the congregation. Some are grateful to report that as a result of the renewal process they are hearing less criticism. But sadly some are hearing more. What is the role of the elders in worship? Are they expressing support for the worship leaders?

On January 4, Karin Maag, who holds significant roles at Calvin College and has become an expert on John Calvin, spoke at the January Series on 500 Years Later: Why the Reformation Still Matters. She observed that one of the challenges 500 years ago was that people held on to deeply rooted worship practices. Is that still a challenge in our churches today?

Karin noted that the Reformation brought the development of congregational singing. With no written music and a change from Latin to the vernacular, congregational singing has come through the ages and blessed us—and, unfortunately, too often has given us opportunities for disagreement. She observed the importance of singing the Psalms during the time of the Reformation. Might that be an important component for worship renewal in congregations today?

But Karin also focused on the importance, 500 years ago, of the people learning to live in community with those who held other faith confessions. She observed that faith is communal, not personal. What impact would that perspective have in how we approach worship today?

Karin’s lecture can be heard on the January Series website. Perhaps you could take time to listen to this lecture with others on your renewal team and then discuss whether there is wisdom to learn from the Reformation 500 years later. We would love to hear from you if you have new insights that we could share with others!

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