Resource, Website

On the Church Year Resources page you can access all the resources available to your church for special dates throughout the year.

 

 

March 2, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource

The Contemporary Testimony and the Belhar Confession are doctrines derived from scripture that are designed to help us open up the treasures of the Bible. 

March 2, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 02/26/2014 This webinar will provide important information for worship leaders, committees, pastors, and musicians regarding copyrights, specifically related to worship.

February 26, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

What do we do with songs that mention the Rapture?  Should we avoid them?  Find alternate lyrics?  Maybe it depends on the song.

February 25, 2014 0 12 comments
Blog

If you want to remember something, put it in a song.  Songs that use Bible quotes are an awesome tool for learning God's Word.

February 19, 2014 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

We have several people who participate in selecting songs for worship at our church, and a question has come up regarding copyright and whether it is permissible to change the words of a song that is copyrighted.

One person says they had read one time that it was permissible to change...

February 11, 2014 0 13 comments
Blog

Why do we sing praises to God? Until recently it had never occurred to me to ask this question. God is worthy of more than just your regular, everyday voice.  Honoring God demands more than that.

February 11, 2014 1 5 comments
Blog

Greetings! I’m happy to introduce myself as the new Network Guide for the Worship blog. I’m excited to share thoughts and insights, hear your input and, I hope, ignite some discussion on lots of different topics.

February 4, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog

Funerals, like weddings, are family matters. So says, the church order. But it is never so simple. Families are part of communities. We come together, usually in church, to remember a person and comfort each other in the light of the good news of Christ... 

January 28, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog

It's been a while since I've posted anything as a Network Guide.  So I give you a final post as my part of being the Worship Guide for the Network.  The Network in general has been a place for me to go, to be inspired, and to question thoughts and attitudes regarding worship and other ministries of God's Kingdom.  It also is an encouragement for me to keep going and to see the things that others write that hold a similar thought I have been wrestling with for some time.    

January 28, 2014 0 0 comments
Q&A

Has anyone used the song "Great I Am" (Jared Anderson) in worship?  If so, I was looking for any suggestions about how to make the song more easily singable for the congregation.  It seems that no matter what key I put it in, either the verse is too low or high or the bridge is too low or high...

January 27, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog

We gathered together as a group of sincere and dedicated volunteers to prepare for the weekly gathering. We set up and tuned up, checked this and checked that, worked on a couple bridges and a few tags. Then, God called us to worship and we worshiped the Lord. But much of that which we prepared and practiced didn’t make it into the service...

January 20, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

We've witnessed an overabundance of resources for worship renewal during the last three or more decades. These resources have addressed a variety issues, including the role of music in worship, the formation of spiritually transformative liturgies, etc. In contrast, little attention has been given to the role of the sermon. According to a recent survey, the sermon...

January 7, 2014 0 9 comments
Resource, Article

In this post you’ll find several good resources to assist with worship planning. More resources are available on The Network or by searching Reformedworship.org by topic. 

January 2, 2014 0 0 comments
Q&A

It seems to me rather backwards, in most church services I've attended, that we are standing to recite the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and other of the church's documents, but not standing for the reading of God's Word? I know it doesn't make sense to stand every time a verse of Scripture...

December 31, 2013 0 9 comments
Blog

One question is, why does it feel like a good thing to be reminded how big God is and how small I am? Well, I’ll tell you why it feels like a blessing to me, and I’d love to hear why it does -- or doesn’t -- to you. I find comfort in knowing that what I do and say is infinitesimally small in the grand scheme of things...

December 26, 2013 0 4 comments
Q&A

Has anyone found a great solution for outdoor luminaries (ideally foolproof and weatherproof)? We like to have them up our driveway for Christmas Eve worship service and face unpredictable weather (Michigan in December). Last year I tried battery operated tea lights, but I think it was too cold...

December 11, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

When we promote multicultural or multiethnic worship, the listener often assumes that we are promoting the use of multiple musical styles of worship. In some instances, that may be the case. But, I suggest a different approach, one which affirms the default musical (even liturgical) style of a congregation, while exploring the boundaries of that style...

December 3, 2013 0 5 comments
Blog

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is excited to present to Network readers the Vital Worship Grants Program —a grants program for worshiping communities.  The annual grants of $5,000 to $12,000 are to foster vital worship in congregations, parishes, and other worshiping communities in North America.

November 26, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

There have been times when there are just a handful of musicians and vocalists on stage with minimal capabilities or it’s just me with my guitar and one or two others. The songs (especially the contemporary ones) scream for a full band with keys, drums and a bass, but we don’t have it available. What to do?...

November 19, 2013 0 5 comments
Blog

With the great diversity of worship practices in American Protestantism, it’s more and more difficult to share meaningful conversations about worship without an agreed upon taxonomy. By that word, I refer to ways of grouping things together, to an orderly classification of Sunday services according to their presumed connections with one another...

November 12, 2013 0 8 comments
Blog

I have to admit; sometimes I look around at our small congregation and see only the gaps in the pews instead of the blessed people sitting between those gaps. Have you ever thought of the hours you spent preparing for worship and wondered, “Why did I bother?”...

November 5, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Find guidlines and FAQs regarding reprinting or projecting music for worship.

November 2, 2013 0 0 comments

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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.

AKD

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!

posted in: A New Hymnal--Why?

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.

  

posted in: Practicing Medicine

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!

 

Living 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 ....   

 

posted in: Seeing God

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".

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.

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