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Welcome! From projection screens to professions of faith, from sacraments to song selections this is where worship teams and planners can connect with others about all aspects of worship.
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That is a great verse, too. "Fill the whole universe" -- that's pretty big! Thank you, Kirk.
We stand for scripture reading every Sunday. About 8 years ago, one Sunday the worship leader invited us to stand, saying this was customary in Jesus' day. No fuss, no discussions, no meetings needed. We were invited to stand, we did it, it was well received and we've done every Sunday since. It has became the norm for us. On the occasional time we forget to let a guest pastor know they should invite us to stand, the congregation just gets up of it's own accord. Now when we visit another church where they remain seated, it feels very strange and borderline disrepectful. I heartily recommend standing for the reading of scripture.
Yes, there are churches stand for the Gospel Reading and the recitation of the creed. I was in an ELCA (Lutheran) church for a year, and it was "standard" to stand.
Are there churches that are really doing this? I bet the meeting that decided it was interesting ;)
You should either stand for neither, both, or the Word.
It is good to take time to think about the "bigness" of God, this past Christmas season I thought about it often as well. The verse that stood out for me was Ephesians 4:10 ( He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.)
Does that mean that we as preachers can sit down when we preach like the rabbis did? Sounds good to me! ;)
Read Nehemiah 8. There it talks about the Reading of the Law and the People standing to hear the Law being read. (It has other acts of worship in there too! - not to mention the idea of a pulpit above the congregation). So It is appropriate to stand to hear God's Word being read. Other Denominations (Lutheran, etc.) stand to hear the Gospel Reading. Jesus must have stood to read the scroll in the New Testament, because the passage says that he "sat down" after Jesus read. So why not stand to hear the reading of God's Word? It Is Biblical!
Thank you, Denise! Amen to that.
I enjoyed being reminded that our God is big! Psalm 8 is one of my favorite psalms. In 2014, as we think about him may we be inspired to give all praise! Thanks
Good, insightful stuff here, Sam! I am challenged in a good direction by your urging of an integrated, basic style to set the overall format of worship, thus avoiding the disjunctive "variety show" problem. And I love your notion of pushing the boundary outward to other worship sensibilities! I note all three of the major musical orientations you see operating are Western. But then, of course, we are here in the West! That, however, is rapidly changing because of the demographic shifts in Euro-American society--shifts happening even faster in the churches. So we'll get to explore the boundaries that include more global music styles; some congregations will have dominant styles, as well, from Asian cultures, African cultures, Islander cultures, etc. Here in Salt Lake City we have strong Tongan and Samoan congregations, strong Hispanic congregations, and various others--Nepalese, Burmese, South Sudanese, etc. I work for The Vine Institute which equips leaders from these various groups, working multiculturally; two or three times each year we sponsor a multicultural worship experience and usually feature two different ethnic groups in a service leading with their own style and language (translations on screen). It is very rich, but I must say I hunger for more integration in the service as a whole--thank you for your wisdom and encouragement toward this!
Thanks, Joe. You have hit on the tension we face a Christian congregations. When we gather as a congregation, do we so in a way that reflects the present or the future, who were are or who we hope to become? And to what degree do we, as a gathered community accommodate our guests? Tough decisions. I am thinking that each congregation will have to determine their answers to those questions. You?
John, thanks for your thoughtful response. I would have loved to have witnessed the 24 hour sing-a-thon!
The children in our church, along with children from some other churches, organized a twenty-four hour sing- a-thon to raise money for our community christian radio station. They set a target of $5000 and raised $5100! Singing non-stop for twenty four hours (in shifts of course) means you sing a lot of songs, perhaps over 700 songs, maybe more, although a few were sung more than once. It started with a concert by two children's choirs, and in the second day they had three guest musician groups singing different styles of music. Some of the kids learned praise songs they had not known before, while other kids who normally did not sing hymns, learned a lot of hymns. They began to enjoy all types of worship music.
Sam, not just ethnic cultures abound, but worship cultures also vary. The idea that people do not all relate to Christ in exactly the same way at all times, is an idea that can help to understand the benefit for variety in the music, in the words, in the order of worship, and in expressions of praise and thanksgiving. Not everyone will be happily flexible towards all kinds of music, but I think if a few principles are maintained, then a variety of music will be possible, and eventually upbuilding and rejuvenating for all. Variety is not for show, but to enlarge the beauty and variety of creation in our response to God.
First, when singing, the words need to be heard, and preferably, singable by all. ("Performances" should be infrequent, and rare, and perhaps participatory.) That means words for new songs on the overhead or in print. It also means that drums and organs and brass should not drown out the singing, but should have their volume adjusted downwards. It's interesting how many hymns can be accompanied by drums as well. Volume needs to be appropriate; damage to ear drums not allowed, but a sense of joyous praise encouraged. Sing more songs standing up! Second, the theology of the song must not be incorrect. (With allowances for poetic language!) Every song will not express the entirety of the gosple, but it certainly should not express something which contradicts scripture. Third, the majority of songs should be familiar with new songs introduced one or two at a time. If the congregation cannot sing the song after three tries, the song should probably be dropped. But repeating a new song or singing it two or three times in a row may be a good way to learn a new one.
I personally find most genres of songs beautiful, whether hymns, southern gospel, vineyard, children's songs, spirituals, or whatever. But a few songs in all genres strain the meaning of praise. And harmony adds a huge beauty to the singing, so songs that can be harmonized should be included preferentially most of the time, although ocassionally a unison song can also be very beautiful in contrast. Also consider some acappella verses in some well known hymns.... its a beautiful contrast! Think of music like the landscapes in the world. Singing the mountains is grand, but the budgies, the streams, the canaries, the trees, the prairies, the seas, and even the desert has its own music, meant to praise and worship God. Sometimes the music is like a hurricane, and other times like the quiet wisper that spoke to Elijah. Sometimes the music is like the bellow of a bull, or the roar of lion, and other times like the rippling of a brook, or the honking of the migrating geese, and sometimes it is blended together in a melodious harmony. Sometimes the music makes you laugh, and sometimes it brings tears of joy and sadness. God made it all. It is our prayer to God, and His gift to us.
There is another side to this. To organize the worship service in a way that helps a few people unfamiliar with traditional praise songs feel more at home, we risk turning the worship hour into an unfamiliar experience for the greater part of the congregation. I wasn't born here and I've learned to worship my God in the spirtually-uplifting songs and music of my congregation. As a former Roman Catholic I'd find it disenchanting to have the liturgy in an RC format, reminding me of the errors of the Church of Rome I left behind when I joined the CRC.
I guess that is your personal preference. Our church sings a lot and loud even with a full band on stage. You seem to be suggesting that if there's a full band then it's entertainment which is not necessarily true. Not everyone worships the same way. Your response also judges those who are being used by the Lord to lead people into the Lord's presence through contemporary music. By it's nature, contemporary worship music is more of a band oriented style. It speaks to many people in our culture in a way you may not appreciate. But God still inspires some very faithful, committed Christian men and women to write this contemporary worship music from the depths of their love for Christ. Your assumptions are just that, assumptions and judgements.
I am not sure I follow all the things you mentioned. I have a simple rule for worship. If the music/singing on the stage or front of the church is amplified I no longer am able to worship because I can not compete with microphones and amplifiers. Why sing when the entertainers up front do it for you? Seems you teach the congregation NOT to sing.
Actually Leo, not only our band but the congregation appreciates it as well. Our musicians (especially developing musicians) find it helpful in their musical development in that it pushes them to stay on tempo and they feel less shy when there is a whole band kind of feel. Some have gotten better by leaps and bounds. They've become better, more confident musicians.
Our congregation appreciates the full sound and actually sing the contemporary songs with a lot more vigor. So it enhances their worship experience as well.
I wonder what would happen if you and your guitar and a few others, instead of worrying about the right effect on stage, used the paucity of instruments at the front as an opportunity to get the congregation to sing. Isn't it about their worship?
What people envision themselves to be and what folk who come from other traditions experience are two different things.
I have been to a small 'liturgical' church in Jasper where the visitors from all over the country spotaneously broke out in 4 part harmony. Then I visit praise and worship churches where I can not hear anyone in the church, but the praise team whose loudspeakers drown out any attempt to hear each other attempt to sing.
Some churches like to have different wording or actions for the liturgical parts. The 'liturgical' churches avoid new wordings as dangerous experiments where important facts may be misreprented or missed altogether.
Gotcha. Though I am not sure those who embrace the "Sermon and Song" type would describe themselves as such (unless, of course, you are speaking from that context). Surely, they would grant the possibility that the role of the worship leader and preacher can and has been distorted into that of actors and performers. But, if Worship Leader magazine accuratley reflects this type, I believe they envision themselves more as prompters of worship (Worship Leader) and instruments of God's grace (Preacher).
In #6, The praise team actions tend to become performances, and the pastor one of the actors.
Excellent feedback, August. Thanks.
I understand the preference for the word "liturgical" because, in common usage, it accurately describes Type 1. I may have to give in to that. Its hard for me to go down that road, though, for in my setting I am constantly reminding pastors and worship leaders that every congregation has a liturgy, some simply have more rituals than others.
With my reference to the pastoral role of prophet role of the pastor in the Neo-Pentecostal/Charismatic type, I hope to highlight the function of prophet as one who speaks a word from the Lord. I have found this aspect of the pastor's work accented markedly in Neo-Pentecosal and Charistic settings. I hope that helps.
Not sure I understand the "preacher as actor" role in #6.
I ilke "liturgical" instead of the complex #1. By liturgical I mean preset precise wording before and/or after the sermon such as an official opening, and ending, confession and assurance, certain set prayers. The dominant Christ image is that of the crucified one. Anglican, Lutheran are examples. These are patterned after the catholic and/or orthodox liturgies
As every church is a combination of certain types,The convergent is not really required. The types need to be unique.
In #6, I would estimate that the Christ image is the ascended one. The role of the preacher is an actor trying to be as effective as the praise team which fills the auditorium with very loud music drowning out any reflective thought.
I am not sure what is meant by preacher as "prophet" Teaching or pointing to the future?
Great word. You are spot on. These are just types or models that don't really exist because every congregation expresses a unique blend. As such, they simple serve as tools for us to converse about worship.
In the aforementioned class on worship, the students tested the taxonomy by surveying about 100 congregations in Chicago and its suburbs. We discovered that Reformed folk (accompanied by both the diaological principle and a version of the regulative principle) can be found in each group, especially the "Traditional" type.
And thanks for referencing the Regulative Principle and the Dialogical Principle, both of which find a prominant role in my teaching at Northern.
Your list seems comprehensive enough, with the understanding that most churches employ a synthetic blend of these styles; a church could say they are mostly # 2 with just a dash of 6 & 7. This list brings up an interesting topic that needs to be pursued. Certainly all of these categories have strengths and weaknesses, and the subjective nature of the conversation makes rating each style as to it's Biblical adherrance and gospel effectiveness a futile endeavor. What's missing from the overall conversation is how each of these various taxonomies, each with their abilities to speak to the infinite number of socio/cultural situations, can be made compatible with the largely forgotten (and/or ignored) historic Reformed teachings on worship: the Regulative Principle and the Dialogical concept of worship.
Is there an overacrching principle of worship that the people of God need to observe first when they come into worship and if there is, how do these catagories deviate from this principle or bring people to a closer reality of this priniciple? Is worship first about the people who are doing the worshipping or is it about the One who calls and gathers his people to worship? To often when the church feels driven by a certain "style" or 'catagorie' of worship, they miss the point of why they worship in the first place. I feel the CRC is heading in that direction, thats not to say that the CRC had worship right to begin with. But thats just my observation.
Hi Dr. Hamstra,I completely agree with your blog, and I am glad to be able to make a comment about it. So here's my experience:I come from a diverse church. The church, which is relatively small (130 Sunday attendees), comprises in my estimation of 45% black, 30% white, 15% Middle Eastern and about 10% Hispanic and other. Furthermore, the ages range from newborns to those in their senior years. The leadership, the elders and deacons, include blacks, whites and just recently a Middle Eastern (Praise The Lord!). However, they are all males. With this in mind, as the worship team leader, I try to include a hymn each week, since I repeatedly get positive feedback when we sing them especially from those over 50 and hymns are universal in nature. It seems as if everyone is familiar with these. Next, we sing contemporary songs which are enjoyed mostly by the younger groups including the youth and the middle aged non-blacks. Finally, my personal favorite are the gospel songs which I am striving to integrate more into our selections since our demographics have a lot of people with a background with gospel music. Old-time gospel songs have been easiest to introduce from this genre since its been song in black and white churches. However, contemporary gospel songs such as I Call You Faithful by Donnie McClurkin, have not been easy to incoporate into our list and at times I get discouraged. I wonder if the worship team is afraid that the genre would make others feel excluded or uncomfortable. Why I feel this way, I do not know but I think both blacks and whites are afraid that it will take away the diversity. Suffice it to say, my list below shows that there are some songs that have been received quite well.
Songs from the last couple of Sundays include:
Give Thanks (Hymn)How Great thou Art (Hymn)I have decided to follow Jesus (Hymn)What can wash away my sin? (Hymn) You are Good (Gospel) I want to be a Follower of Christ (Gospel)We Have Come into His House (Gospel) My Redeemer Lives (Comtemporary)Mighty to Save (Comtemporary)You are Holy (Comtemporary)How Great is our God (Comtemporary)Jesus Mesisiah (Comtemporary) Some songs are sang together in two different formats. For instance: Doxology (Hymn) *This begins in the gospel method singing it acapella then we transition to the traditional method with the full band.I Love you Lord, Today (Gospel) followed immediately by I Love You Lord (Hymn) Also, there is one song that we sing a couple of time a year in Spanish then in English. When I look closely at this list, I realize that almost all the songs are written by males regardless of genres even though most of my singers are females. Also, there are fewer gospel songs than any other type sang even though the congregation is nearly half black. This is not to say that all blacks like gospel music or come from a gospel background, but I have received several requests from blacks in the congregation for more gospel choir type songs to be sang . I would love to have a perfect balance, but honestly it has only been a year since I have taken this leadership role, so perhaps it will eventually happen. Thanks again for writing about this topic that is dear to my heart. God bless, Stephanie
Well said, Kevin. Thanks!
Thank you, Jan! We sing a lot of Getty but haven't done that one yet, although I've heard of it. The others are completely new to me, I will check them out!
We are enjoying "Hear Our Praises", LUYH #302 and "Lift High the Name of Jesus" (Ed Cash, Fionan DeBarra, Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty) and "Here Is Love" Welch Revival Hymn (Robert Lowry, Wm.Edwards, Wm. Rees) reset by Matt Redman.
Thanks, Angela, Michelle, and Bev! Great input.
Bev, writing a prayer journal is definitely another good method for being more intentional about your prayer life. I actually heard a story from a friend who, when going through her elderly mother's things after her mother's death, discovered a bunch of "Daily Bread" devotional booklets where her mother had written prayer notes in the margins. My friend said there were penciled in names of the family and her mother's friends and so on, showing she had prayed for them by name for years and years. How sweet that is, isn't it?
And Michelle, good point about privacy. I had not really thought of that factor. I'm curious, too, about your space. If you're willing, would you describe what you have in your space and what your practice is for using it?
Bev, I love that image of the girls running to their "secret garden." The book, The Secret Garden, was (and is) such a favorite of mine, that image really resonates with me, too. I like the connection you make to the different verses and Scriptural references to gardens.
Thanks, and keep the comments coming!
I love Psalm 91:1 NKJV Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High (Elyon)... I have shared this concept of the secret place with others, and it often resonates.. I will encourage them to imagine their secret place, ie imagine a fort like you made as little child, or what often resonates for women is a secret garden, for some it might be a hay barn, or the woods, or the hills, it is whatever is meaningful and safe for you and Jesus.
I had the privilege of sharing this concept last week with a women's bible study at the local Christian Health Care center, and the day before I was there, I was getting some ideas for flowers for church that week and was at a home and garden store and came across this precious sign... it was 2 little girls in bare feet and sweet little dresses, running down a path toward a walled, enclosed garden... and the sign said "Secret Garden ahead"... what it says to me, is that we run to meet with Jesus in our "secret" place, whatever that might look like for each of us... that sign is now hanging over my desk, one of the areas I meet with Jesus, and spend time in His Word.
I had already planned on sharing on Psalm 91:1 and the secret place, and so this literal "sign" was a wonderful confirmation on sharing that message. The LORD also confirmed that message through one of the health care workers that sat in on the study with us.
I personally love the Secret Garden image, it also reminds me of Song of Songs 4:12-5:1, and if we are open to this book of the Bible being an allegory between Jesus and His Bride, us, His Church, it expands on this concept of the garden.
I like hearing your thoughtful questions about the process of creating sacred space, Mavis. The questions you asked yourself made me see my own, personal sacred space with new eyes. My first observation is my answer to your question about location:
My sacred space is in my bedroom, because we have a small home, and my teenagers are still in the house, so I don't have other places that offer complete privacy. If you also value privacy for your time in the sacred space (for meditation, prayer, etc.), that might be a factor in your choice of location.
I've never thought of creating a sacred place in my home or of using liturgical colours and the liturgical calendar. Like you I have many questions about how that might work in my home. I think any place where you can creatively show that this is a sacred space and where you can see it when you have your devotions would be a good thing. I sometimes write my prayers in a journal so that they form part of what I am thinking etc. When I went through a difficult time years back, I put the prayers and scriptures in a special journal so that I could easily recount them. Don't know if that helps or not.
Thanks for sharing this story Kevin. I appreciate the efforts of worship leaders who help usher congregations into the presence of the Great Physician.
Are there any legalities to be concerned about when parishioners/members bake communion bread for the whole congregation?
HC 1 is a good Q/A. But I have begun to wonder recently whether we ever get past it, sometimes. What does it mean that we do not belong to ourselves... how does the rest of the HC explain that to us? What do we know about the rest of the HC? Why do we bother to learn the sections on the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer? How do we know that HC 1 is not just a bunch of nice sounding words, but that it really impacts our lives?
HC 1 is a good start, but how do we finish?
As an adult I read and heard it for ten years before I began to understand it. Maybe it is clearer in Latin, German, or Dutch. In English it doesn't quite compute e.g. "The Devil is in the details."
We are doing a short series called "Heidelberg Highlights", hitting on the main points of the HC. Part of it is different members coming up each week and reciting a question and answer. Last week we did the first Q and A. In preparing for it, I ran across a wonderful quote from Renee House who reflected on the meaning of comfort when she was dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. She wrote:
"The catechism is a theological bouillon cube--a dense, compact presentation of the biblical witness from a Reformed perspective. We don't eat bouillon cubes in their condensed state. Rather, we mix them with water and other ingredients so that their flavors can spread out. Similarly, the treasures of the catechism are best received in the church when we mix them with weekly worship, Scripture, and daily life."
Maybe a good way to bring this across in worship would be to videotape some members faith stories and ask them how the comfort of belonging to God has helped them as they have walked through life.
We had a dedication for our building renovations this past January. We used the following litany and prayer. The litany was adapted from one I found on-line, and the prayer was written by our pastor. Please feel free to use and adapt as needed.
Litany of Prayer and Dedication
O give thanks to the Lord for He is good!
His mercies endure forever!
We are grateful to have come to this day, a day to celebrate what YOU have done.
We thank you for the beauty of planning and design.
We give you praise and glory for guiding this project from start to finish; for so many evidences of your Hand.
Your people have served You as they have served others, Lord.
In your timing, Lord, you have provided for Grace Community Church’s ministry so we can minister more effectively.
You have provided future and hope! How can we keep from singing your praises?
We dedicate the prayer room, a place of quietness and serenity where all are welcome to pray.
Thank you, Lord for the prayer room and for all of the prayers offered within it.
We dedicate the handicapped accessible restrooms, which allow for increased participation in worship, fellowship and church activities among those who struggle with physical limitations.
Thank you, Lord, for reminding us of the welcoming nature of God’s Kingdom.
We dedicate REACH youth group room and storage areas, which allow us to create an environment of hospitality to all.
Thank you, Lord, for the REACH group, for their leaders and their energy and desire to serve you.
Lord, you are the giver of all good gifts and we pray that you would be glorified in all that is said and done through the people of Grace Community Church. As the psalmist said, “Not to us, not to us, O Lord, be the glory.”
Not to us but to You! Thank you Lord!
We have much to be thankful for. There are people who have given freely and have spent hours in meetings to evaluate plans, to secure trades, to meet with public officials, to remove appliances, to nail studs, to sweat pipes, install conduit, attach drywall, lay tile, paint walls, pull wires, and mop floors in order to make this day real. For the tens of people and the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that stand behind this project, Lord we give you thanks.
Holy Spirit, you gave us a dream born out of deep faith in you and a broad vision for advancing your kingdom here in this community. Lord Jesus, this physical building we are beginning is the concrete block and plumbing that supports that vision in our hearts. We pray that this will be a place for the gathering of a community busy nurturing a Bible based vision of life is instilled in the hearts of people of this community for the years to come.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the safety you have given to all who worked here and thank you for the wisdom to those who lead this project. We thank you for all who gave of their money and time. We pray that this may be a Bethel kind of place, where wanderers meet God, where we witness to your truth and grace.
Hear us now, we pray, in the name of Jesus,
This is a little different, but when we dedicated our 'House of Servants' next door to our church, we ended the service by going outside and holding hands to form a circle around the house. The pastor spoke a prayer that was repeated by a few people strategically placed so everyone could hear. That may or may not work in your situation, but it was very meaningful.
I love this blog that reminds us so eloquently of God's holy otherness, and that to be casual in worship is dangerous. And yet, and yet.... I want to remember also the psalm writers who longed and prayed to see God's face, and even more important to me is our ability to see the Holy God in the face his image - his son Jesus. there is something so beautiful and so biblical about this song's longing ....
We also celebrate communion around the table in the front of the sanctuary. I was aware of at least one individual at church who was on a restricted diet. So, at the begining of the year I started searching local markets looking for gluetin free options to offer during communion and also for daily dietary meals during the week. I ended up at a local Whole Foods store where I purchased a bag of frozen dinner rolls, small dish of frozen brownies, pasta and sauce. I brought the groceries to their home for them to enjoy as a family dinner. Even eating a dinner at resteraunts can become a dificult task when you are seeking gluetin free options. The feedback I received was positive for all of the products and said the products also didn't contain the soy, nut or other allergy ingredients. We now offer the gluetin free dinner rolls along with a loaf of bread during communion. The best part is there are about 10 rolls to a bag. This way you can serve the amount you feel is needed beacause they are frozen. Just defrost and serve as a small loaf or slice into pieces. Although I agree it would be nice to have one loaf for communion, I have not been able to locate a similar product in the form of a loaf which was not presliced into sandwhich bread. I am including the link here for Whole Foods Special Diets web page as a reference for home or church. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/special-diets It provides useful information worth passing along. Unfortunately I do not remember the brand name of the dinner rolls, but I will find out for you if your interested.
Here's the recipe: www.epcrc.com/bread
It should hold up very well to dipping.
If you happen to see this before the weekend, I wonder if you could include in your test whether this bread recipe holds up to "dipping"? Our usual practice is to have congregants here dip their bread into the cup of wine, and we've found even some "regular" breads disintigrate almost immediately. Thanks in advance for considering my question!
On Sunday we're going to do a test run with a simple home-made hypo-allergenic bread: free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and nuts. If all goes well, I'll post the recipe.
I fully expect to spend eternity with Greg Scheer. And probably anyone who comments on this article.
both lines are biblical. (MVL... the PCUSA suggestion is "the love of God was MAGNIFIED!")
Isn't the wrath line in agreement with Romans 5:9 (and other scriptures as well)? and one of the most powerful and prevalent lines of scripture is His mercy/love/chesed endures forever... the contexts of when this line is quoted in scripture is incredible
His anger is but a moment, and His mercy/lovingkindness is eternal... He will not harbor anger forever.... but His love endures forever...
so whether we focus on His wrath or His love... thank God,along with our brothers and sisters in the PCUSA that our eternal salvation is in Christ alone! Worthy is the Lamb!
maybe for every one time we sing it with wrath, we should sing it 5 times with love, or just sing the verse 2x alternating this line
I might sing it the suggested PCUSA way next time =)
Even though God's love is very important to the Christian, there are some who ignore the holiness, the justice, and the wrath of God. We can't just talk about God's love without also talking about his other atributes. The Bible never said that God was "Love, love, love", but it does say that He is, "Holy, holy, holy".