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If emotional overtones disqualify the word "wrath", I guess we'll also have to be looking for a replacement for the word "love".  Besides the emphasis on satisfaction doesn't stand on its own (in the song, in the catechism, in the Bible) but to underline the costliness and depth of God's love.

A few thoughts.

1) IN CHRIST ALONE is definitely a newer staple in church music, but it definitely has long term staying power. Any hymnal being published these days would have a pretty big hole in it if they don't include it. And that's not because the theology isn't dealt with many other songs, but because it is deeply attached to people's hearts. For this reason alone, the PCUSA editorial committee made quite the misstep.

2) Wrath is an important emotion, especially in regards to punishment of sin. Anyone who has suffered a great injustice and deeply desires justice understands the wrath against the evil that caused the injustice (and how right that emotion is). Relatedly, it is also important as an emotion of God, especially given the Bible talks this way. If we give up on Biblical language, our theology will soon be given up too.

3) What does "The love of God was satisfied" mean? Really? Someone threw some nice sounding words in there, but theologically makes no sense (at least to me). When is God's love satisfied?

4) Artists have the rights to their work and deserve the respect to not have it changed by others (or at least without permission). Granted the PCUSA folks did ask, but changing lyrics is a pattern with hymnal editors. The results are generally less then spectacular. This would have been another example had the Gettys/Townend said ok.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Greg! 

I acknowledge the fact that there are irate bloggers who have commented on this.  However there have also been valid criticisms and concerns regarding this decision.  Having an opinion and voicing a concern does not mean "flaunting our more-orthodox-than-thou attitude" nor does it have to be classified as hate speech.  Passionate disagreement can be a good thing and we would do well to have the debate without judging the attitudes and motives of those who voice their passionate points of view.  I wish we would spend more of our energies talking about the atonement and what the Bible says about it.  

I have to admit as a congregant I more relaxed in regular attenance during the summer months.  Part of it is vacations, part of it is that the  children's services are on summer break and part of it is the laziness of summer.

We have some gluten-free wafers available, with the sorts of bulletin notes that others have mentioned. But, as others have mentioned, this is an imperfect solution (because of the proximity to gluten and the fact that there are other allergies).

Here is an additional reason to use an allergy-free bread, rather than just providing a gluten-free option: "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf" (1 Cor 10:17). Now, using different kinds of bread (or multiple loaves, for that matter), doesn't make the sacrament invalid. But it always distracts and obscures the "thing signified" for me when I see that we are not all eating the same thing. I do not like it at all. But we haven't yet found a great alternative.

This thread has prompted me to look into this again. My wife is, for the second time, on an extremely strict elimination diet (for reasons related to breast-feeding infants). Although she can have gluten (this time), she cannot have eggs, dairy (or any beef products), soy (or similar legumes), or a few other things that are unlikely to be in bread products. We know the difficulties of making bread without these allergens. But surely there is a way.

Please experiment and report back with "successful" products or recipes! I shall do the same.

Hi, Liz, from your old pastor!
Well, we are experimenting with all gluten free bread next Sunday. I tried a sample from the local bakery. It won't win any flavor awards, that's for sure! I've been told the cost is significantly higher as well (not that cost is the most important factor). So we will be looking at the responses to this post for good ideas! It's not only a health issue, but an inclusion issue, a spiritual issue, and maybe a good opportunity for the congregation to reflect on what communion, in the true sense of the word, really means.

In case you haven't considered it, some folks with gluten issues are extremely sensitive.  To the point that unless, the people preparing the elements, wash everything thoroughly between cutting the bread and never allow someone to touch the bread and the GF bread, then it may be harmful to those with issues.  


Our goal is not to just say, we provided it for you.  But to provide it in a way that shows Christian love, care, concern and even defernence to the needs of others so that we are all truly one body.  To isolate people to a council room says, you are not part of the broader body, we need to segregate you.  I would challenge each church to truly think through the issues involved and not simply limit their elements to GF or not, but to take the full range of allergies into account and try their best to serve all God's people from the one loaf.



I know one church puts GF bread in saran wrap in the middle of the communion tray and it's noted in the bulletin as such.  Our church just recently started putting in the bulletin that if anyone needs GF bread, they should go to the council room before the service for it.  (I'm not sure how visitor friendly that is, but it certainly is a good start.)


As a pastor we faced this a few years ago in our body.  But instead of just targetting gluten free, we targetted every allergy (our body has a high rate of food allergies) So our bread is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free, though it may contain egg.  That was the one piece we couldnt get rid of.  We buy from a local bread shop in town, but trader Joes also has sometihng that meets this.  We serve everyone from the same loaf and though it has a different taste and texture than normal bread, it has been a great opprotunity for us to talk about sacrificing for one another as the body of christ.  Remember that gluten isn't the only allergy out there and we need to incorporate as many people as possible.


Our church does almost the same as Tim's, where people come forward and there is a note in the worship order, "Gluten-free elements are available at the far left station (second elder)." It is not always announced in addition.

We also sometimes do circles, in which case any person can let the serving Elder know, and another Elder is nearby with the gluten-free bread.

We have a separate plate and dipping bowl for the gluten-free elements, and it's distinct enough that our preparers always know which serving pieces are for gluten-free, but similar enough in color and material that the difference isn't very noticable to participants and observers.

We offer a gluten free option on the same plate with the bread. We have the bread around in a ring around the outside, and a kind of "donut-hole" spot for the gluten free rice cracker in the centre. We keep them separate with a little paper cup.

Maybe we should use individually packaged "Life Savers" for communion. At least the name is appropriate.

We offer a gluten-free plate.  We come forward for communion, so it's been very easy to make this available.  Each time it's mentioned that there is a one station where gluten-free bread is available. The elders will use that plate for those persons.  The two breads are kept very separate for the needs of those with extreme allergies.

We have just started offering a gluten-free option. In fact, one of our members needs gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, so she suggested a Plentil chip. It doesn't look like bread, but gives those who are GF an option. We have had up to 5 people choose this option. And it makes it so that anyone can participate.

We also go forward to take communion, and have the GF station on one side. All of the congregation goes forward in the center aisle, and back to their seats in the side aisle. The server on the GF side holds 2 plates, one of bread and one of Plentils. We also put it in the instructions given verbally and also on the screen.

(Please walk forward to receive the Lord’s Supper using the center aisle and returning to your seat down the side aisle..  We will begin at the front.  The elder station on the drum side will have a gluten free option available.  If you are unable to walk to the table, please signal the server, the bread and cup will be served to you.)

So far this seems to work, but we have only tried it for a couple of months.

My church has gluten-free elements available. Usually we have communion by people coming forward in the three aisles. As part of the instructions for how communion will proceed, the pastor always mentions that "gluten-free elements are available at this station (pointing). Just indicate that to the serving elder and they will be offered to you". When someone wants gluten-free elements, the elder just puts down the bread and picks up the plate. There are several people in the congregation that need gluten-free elements and, even if there weren't, it's nice to do for guests.

When we do a 'communion circle' at the front of church, it's not quite as easy as the elder with gluten free elements needs to walk around a bit and see who needs them. But it works.

We don't have communion seated in pews...but perhaps another church has experience serving gluten-free elements with that method?

We've tried having all the bread gluten-free, but had trouble finding the right one. Periodically, we experiment again.

Hope this helps. I'm curious to hear how many other churches have gluten-free elements, and the logistics of how they offer them in a way that's as seamless as possible.

One thing, ServiceBuilder has added an attendence feature since I orginally posted the blog.  It also allows different levels of permissions (admin, group leader, user, etc) so that multiple people can work on the schedule.

Correction to the website:

We don't yet have the projection version of the new hymnal, but are starting to use and teach the new hymnal materials. Thanks for the website

Thanks for this note. Some of our screen operators use this, but I was wondering about the website.

Did you know our own new hymnal, "Lift up Your Hearts," provides materials to project both music and words? Take a look at this web page with examples. We're planning a hymnfest in the fall to introduce this new hymnal at our church. I'm looking forward to exploring the new songs and resources such as this. (I know it sounds like a shameless plug, but I'm not on the editorial staff or anything. Just a participating worship team member. :))

There is someone who does this very thing as a service to churches, etc. They incldue the notes and the words to songs in a legible and easy to follow PowerPoint.  

It is possible, and it does encourage 4-part when the music permits.

I've been a church musician for over 35 years (organ, piano, praise team) and have sadly observed the decline of congregational singing.  I agree with the majority of the online article.  In addition, however, I wonder why we've overlooked the fact that many of our congregants can actually read music or can at least understand the basics of how musical notes show us how, what and when to sing.  The lack of viewable musical notation restricts our ability to learn a new song (or remember a forgotten one).  When only the words are posted on the screen, it often makes for nice poetry... and confused singing.  

As a musician, I used to be able to stop playing in the middle of a familiar song and listen to our congregation sing acapella in 4 part harmony and, because the notes were in front of the members, the 4 parts were 4 parts.  We didn't have 8 versions of an improvised tenor line, with 6 "guesses" as to what the alto should sound like.  The absence of notes restricts our ability to learn new music, to sing harmony in harmony, and places far too much emphasis on the leadership of the musician or music team.  As a result, our teams/musicians are forced to "perform" as opposed to "accompany" -- a big difference!  I believe that worship would be enhanced  if churches project the actual musical score (even if it's only a melody line) or, when appropriate, refer to a hymnal.  Teams  can teach new songs and musicans can "lead" congregations through unfamiliar ones but, without the common map that notes provide, chaos, confusion, frustration and apathetic singing are more likely to occur.

Some months ago I recall an article on why Millennials are leaving the church, especially the megachurch, in droves--something I see happening right in our neighborhood. One comment among others by a respondent was "they will not tolerate any longer going to services where the platform team worships on their behalf." It seems like that's right on the money: very little of this is about style or genre of music, but rather about taking the voice of the congregation away from them. 

Yes, I appreciate 4-part music as well.  The deisre to read music and to sing in 4-part harmony is not encouraged much.  But I do give credit to contemporary musicians that they do write a 4-part harmony now for choirs, etc. so that it can be realized in today's music.  I just wish that it was made public and encouraged to sing in the public forum and in worship.


Has it occured to anyone else that something as old fashioned as four part harmony means there is a place, and a need, for everyone in the music?

I heartily agree with most of your comments. The inappropriate use of bands and worship leaders could lead to problems, but could also be solutions. The song leaders should have as a goal increasing and encouraging congregational participation and learning of unfamiliar songs and tunes. I wish that other men would be moved to participate in singing and so express their feelings in worship. Your idea of participating yourself to encourage your sons is a good idea, and we need to find the key that unlocks that desire to get involved this way. Worship needs our response to God, and this can be done in song.

As you said, we try to balance our song choices between familiar and new, while keeping all our songs Biblical, liturgical, etc.

As you noted, there's sometimes a tendency to point fingers at contemporary worship style singing but I would question that. We definitely got resistance as we introduced a praise band and new songs, but slowly we learned to acknowledge when a song was new and to try to help the congregation learn it by playing/singing it through first, and so on.

I don't think that amplified singing has to necessarily mean the congregation won't sing. Even if it feels like a concert to some of us, look at all the singing and dancing along that concert-goers do! I think the leaders, no matter what the style, can work on intentional ways to encourage congregational participation in the singing.

I have noticed the men-not-singing phenomenon myself, even with my own sons. For my sons it seems like it took a certain maturity level. I think it also helped that my husband and the rest of the men in our families set the example by always singing. Maybe we can be more intentional in our churches about that, too.

Interesting article. It is really nice when a new song is repeated over several weeks so that everyone has the chance to become familiar with it.

i concur with a lot of the sentiments in this article. Of course, I personally like singing and am a choir member, and have been most of my life but young men and boys as well as women are not being encouraged to sing. Many churches overwhelm anyone who would like to sing along with amplified singers up front, loud instruments, and singers who may be so good they intimidate or discourage congregational singing. the worship leaders should have as a goal, increasing congregational participation, and what they say and how they present their musical offerings can help to achieve this. I feel that their mandate should be to encourage and enhance this participation, not to stage a concert.

Guiding Light Mission is looking for quality art work and a one person prayer kneeler. The artwork does not need to be explicitly faith based, and the size does not matter. We are remodeling and we have a large room with nothing on the walls. 

Our remodeling also included adding prayer room and we would like to have a one person prayer kneeler in there so men in recovery and employees have an opportunity to use it. 


Guiding Light Mission is located in the Heartside area of Grand Rapids. We are a Christ-centered recovery program for alcoholics and drug users, we also have a back to work program, and we provide a homeless shelter. We are non-profit and depend soley on donations. 


Assuming that you are looking for donations of these items, what type of artwork are you looking for (e.g. faith-based pictures, landscapes, framed posters, etc.)?

As for the church pew, are you looking for the older style of simply wood or would you prefer that it be the type that is upholstered? What about maximum/minimum length for the pew since they come in more than one size?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help prospective donors determine if they can help you out.

This is an excellent article by John Witvliet.   I can't remember reading it in 2010, but if I did, it has taken on new significance for me.   Bottom line on this issue is that honesty must prevail.   Professions must be honest and sincere, and a formal membership profession using the forms and agreeing to the confessions and being examined on lifestyle must be sincere and honest.  It should not be a half-honest profession which skips over or ignores issues or problems or lack of understanding.   If children or young people or new christians are not ready for this, then an alternate simpler profession ought to be used, preferably in their own words which signifies their faith in Christ, even while not indicating a "professing membership" in the crc.  How I see it anyway. 

Hi Kevin,

'Appreciate this article on worship planning.  I agree that the Church Calendar should be our primary guide for worship planning in the church, and that is what I encourage.  But we also keep the "church program" calendar in mind (i.e., Sunday School kick-off; community service Sunday, etc.  And we also remember such "greeting card" holidays as Mother's Day and high school graduation.  As the Church Calendar is most important to me, I've found it helpful to be proactive and plan my preaching calendar based on it well in advance, which then pulls the worship committee in this direction in terms of their planning.  I suspect that if I didn't do that, the church program and "greeting card" calendars would have significantly more influence.

Thanks again for writing the interesting article. 


Google Docs/Drive has become a very helpful tool in worship planning. It literally lets everyone involved in planning worship work from the same page, instead of email editions flying back and forth.

I start by setting up a planning page, usually for a three month period of time. It looks like this:

To set that up, you need to learn some things about how to give people access to a page. For instance, that one I just gave the link for I changed to "Anyone who has the link can see the page."

Then, on that page, some basic information can be entered once the calendar dates are filled in. Things like Pentecost, or Communion, Liturgical seasons, Sermon series and titles/texts or which worship team is leading etc can be noted in the main line, and scheduled accompanists or techs can be given a column. All worship planners and leaders have access to this page.

Then, on the far right of the page, after the basic Order of Service (OoS) is prepared -- also as a Google Doc -- a link to the OoW or OoS is put on the main planning page, and it is set to "Anyone with the link can see" but another step is taken to give anyone who might need to make changes to it the right to edit the page. That gets a little more complicated, and I won't explain here, I'm just sharing the concept.

So, for instance, the bulletin editor or church administrator or a deacon can add in what the offering is for, and the Worship leaders can pick the songs and add them in. They can even leave a note for the Pastor asking if the song fits. Or the Pastor can leave a question about preferring a song but not being sure if the congregation is familiar with it.  A short theme statement or paragraph of where the sermon looks like it will go can be put at the bottom of the page by the pastor so others can be 'on theme' with their songs, litanies, prayers or whatever they contribute.

Then, at the printing deadline, it can be printed, or moved into a projection system. I've now already had the experince of being at a practice with worship leaders and editing it together on a tablet right on the spot. Part of the beauty of it is that it is availble anywhere an internet connection can be made.

So that is the concept. In my last church it (along with educating people to help design the service) was a definite game changer.

One additional thing is that I am slowly building up a library of my favourite liturgical components (mostly from The Worship SourceBook, or adapted from it) on Google Docs, making it very easy to find them and add them into an OoW.

posted in: Time for An Update

I posted about going to a conference and having it payed for.  I didn't go to a conference, but have since designed and upgrated our entire new sysem and it has been great!!

Not that I would argue with your mother, but heathens would not be singing.   They would not cling to the cross, and they will not be able to exchange it either. 

My mother always said the the Christian Reformed version of the last line is: "And receive from him one day a crown." Only heathens would consider singing about exchanging the cross for the crown. A warning!! Do not argue with my mother.

To begin with, the old Psalter, before 1936, was just that, only the Geneva Psalters. The CRC didn't sing hymns before that, or at least weren't supposed to. It was somewhere in this time period of the mid thirties that hymns were offically allowed in our churches. Also, because George Bennard was a Methodist preacher with a Salvation Army background this alone would automatically have raised all sorts of alarms in our Reformed movement no matter how great a hymn writer he may have been.


Great perspective. Worship through music, with a congregation, has often made me feel as though we are somehow tasting  a bit of what heaven might be like, especially with some of these old classic hymns. I like to believe that God is listening to our hearts, not to our imperfect human words.

There is more to be gained from actually looking at a particular song, than there is from making broad generalizations about song selection for hymnals.   Some of the benefits of some songs depends on the attitude with which we sing them, and then realizing that some songs only express a small incomplete part of our theology.   Balancing songs with each other is as important as selecting an individual song by itself, I believe.   I always think of certain psalms of David for example, which if taken by themselves, would seem to directly contradict some of the statements and advice given to us by Christ himself.   If they had been written by someone else, we would have considered them to be theologically incorrect.   Yet, they are scripture, and true, in the right context. 

We have incorporated communion into both Maundy Thursday/Good Friday (depending on the year we alternate) and Easter. The Maundy Thursday celebration is focused more on the last supper remembering, and the Easter celebration is just that--celebration. When we use it in the services a couple of days apart, we also vary how we partake. Often we use matzo instead of bread on Maundy Thursday. One of the services we will remain seated and pass the elements, the other we will walk forward to receive them. I don't think there is a wrong time to celebrate, just be mindful of the theme and mood of the service. 


We pride ouselves on being facidious about our theology (sometimes more so in our hymns than in our sermons), but if the cook is so carefull about having only the purest and healthiest ingredients in the meal that half of the family members leave to eat at McDonalds, haven't we defeated the purpose? Those abandoned Psalters (in the pew rack next to a non-denomintional alternative, or worse -- stacked in the basement) ought to tell us something.

Thank you Wendy for your response.  This year we will have communion on Good Friday... next year Easter!!  We will continue the discussion in our worship team. Diane Plug


One thing seems clear from church history, namely, that more theology is taught by songs than by stuffy theology books. Think of the huge impact of the Wesley hymns. I am not sure we can ignore or downplay the potential doctrinal impact of the songs we sing. They bury themselves deep into our souls and shape the way we think about God, ourselves, and the world. Just a thought.

Doctrines are important, but sometimes we over doctrinalize, and that prevents us from appreciating the nuances of various expressions.  In this song, I think it is simple... we presently cling to the cross as a symbol and reality of our need for forgiveness, and of God's love in forgiving.  But we will exchange that thought, that memory, that need, for the reality of victory and new life with Christ, the crown of new life that doesn't fade away, and that will make our forgiven sin a distant, vague, perhaps unremembered past.  As I see it, anyway.  

From what I remember hearing from years past, the song "The Old Ruggest Cross" is simply unbiblical. Where is there even in a hint in the Bible that we will each exchange the cross of Christ for a crown in heaven? If the song said we will put aside the cross we all must bear (Mark 8:34) because our sufferings will be over, that would be biblical. And, yes, we will receive a crown of glory. But according to the words of the song, it is the old rugged cross of Christ that we will exchange. I personally am not even sure what the theology of that is. (I do love the concept, however, of focusing on the cross of Christ and what he has done for us.

You may want to do some google searches. It largely depends on how you view communion. If it's to remember and re-enact, so to speak, it belongs in a Maundy Thursday service. If it's a celebration, it belongs in an Easter service. In most mainline churches, especially those who celebrate communion weekly, Good Friday is the only service of the year in which communion is not celebrated. In many cases the communion elements are even removed from the worship space, and/or covered in black cloth. The thought behind this is that Good Friday is the day Jesus suffered the torments of hell.  I've noticed that in Reformed Worship there are Good Friday services with communion as well as services without.

I did a few searches here, on the site (which also searches The Banner archives) as well as on and couldn't find any articles about this.

But maybe some other visitors can weigh in with their own thoughts on it...

Kevin, thanks for highlighting this important topic. Great to read what Gary's and Geri's churches are doing. Disability Concerns offers a variety of free resources on this topic on our Resources for Accessibility and Awareness page including our Inclusion Handbook and an accessibility audit guide.