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Hi Angela,
This can be a delicate topic. Many worship planners and pastors believe Hallmark & national holiday celebrations (Mother's/Father's Day, Valentine's, 4th of July, Labor/Memorial Days, etc) do not really belong in worship, and for very good reasons theologically and pastorally. God transcends national and international borders so our worship should reflect that; some congregants may have histories of abuse by their fathers and mothers, or there are worshipers who do not have children for what may be from painful circumstances. Others believe that ignoring these holidays altogether, especially when they fall on a Sunday, disconnects the church from the culture around them, thus making them irrelevant. I understand this point to an extent. As for simple things: you could include prayers of thanksgiving for mothers/fathers within the context of a larger prayer, or a simple "Happy Mother's/Father's Day" along with other pastorally sensitive words at the welcome would be fitting. For a greater challenge, the pastor could use Mother's Day as a teaching moment to explore the characteristics of God that are like a mother (similarly, this is often done at Father's Day).

For whatever reason - perhaps because of its most common placement in the service - I operated under the misconception that "doxology" meant "the last song in the service." As a child, I remember singing the doxologies mentioned in this post, always at the end of the service, too.

Truth is, "doxology" means "song of praise" and can be used at any point in the service. It is often Trinitarian in form and the last stanza of many hymns are doxologies (Come Thou Almighty King, Holy God We Praise Your Name, and Now Thank We All Our God are a few of my favorite examples of this). We have regularly concluded our offering - which took place in the middle of the service - with a doxology, and varied which doxology was sung depending on the Sunday within the Church Year. 

Our church is accustomed to singing something after the benediction (if not just before as well), so it bodes well for us to use a doxology at the end of the service. If the hymn before the benediction includes a final doxological (if that's even a word) stanza, we'll sing the 2 or 3 opening stanzas prior to the benediction and the doxological stanza following. Then we'd "go in peace to love and serve the Lord." 

In any case, I wouldn't include a doxology (or THE doxology) just to do it. It must be placed with purpose and intentionality - which is another reason why I like it as a conclusion to the offering.

[quote=Mark]I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs.[/quote]

*raising hand* I'm an advisory committee member who doubles as worship leader with a full band, triples as organist, lead vocalist, and choir director. My congregation worships in the styles of Tomlin, Hillsong, Iona, Getty, Haugen, Wesley, and Luther. It would be foolish for any of us to assume that most congregations worship exactly the way ours do (on any point of the spectrum from "traditional" to "modern"), and I also do not believe if other congregations worship differently that they're doing it wrong. I cannot speak to the total percentage of committee members who are of the "modern" church persuasion. However, at our advisory committee meetings I have observed a widespread diversity in terms of worshiping voice. So while Lift Up Your Hearts may not meet the needs for “modern” worship as some define it, most of our congregations will be very well-served by this collection. My own congregation may not even purchase the books for the sanctuary, but as a worship planner and leader I will certainly be able to use it well, even if only to introduce new hymns (yes, they may even be called "modern hymns") to the congregation, or provide condensed music for my song leaders who more often than not prefer music to chord sheets.

[quote=Mark] visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. [/quote]

I have attended Symposium half a dozen times in the last decade and I find this assessment a bit unfair. I do understand what you are saying in that we don’t worship there in the same way as at a David Crowder Band concert, but using “non-modern” is hyperbolic. I believe there is more to modern than the latest hits on the CCLI list. The target audience for an event like Symposium is altogether different from that of a worship conference at Dallas Baptist University (maybe this separation is something that needs to be addressed). So perhaps worship is done a certain way at Synod or Symposium, but that does not dictate an official position for the denomination. Yes, a stronger resource is needed for the modern worship as some voices here define it, but I will not discredit the hard work of people like Paul Ryan, Ron Rienstra, and others by saying little has been done to understand or resource the genre change. I see Reformed Worship mentioned in this thread as well. Certainly it can be one arena for that "modern" voice. I know Joyce continually seeks to include new resources and submissions from worship planners. I think it would be great for "modern" worship leaders to contribute to RW, which could help expand its platform to serve other modern congregations or those transitioning to more “modern” styles of worship. Also, it should be noted here that an open invitation was offered to any and all who wanted to serve on this advisory committee. Like I said, I do not know the breakdown of those who hail from “modern” churches, but the opportunity for them to participate was equally given to those of any church.

I'd like to echo Joyce's initial reflections here in regards to employing styles of worship that may not be indigenous to our congregations. I consider myself fortunate to have talented instrumentalists in my congregation who can lead “modern” songs. These are guitarists, bassists, drummers, and vocalists who are dedicated to leading us each week in modern expressions of musical worship. At this point, our sound is not even close to that of Hillsong, Crowder, or Tomlin, but it is still done well and, more importantly, it is genuinely offered. Is that an injustice to the genre? I truly hope not. I've heard many bad organists slaughter hymn-accompaniments, and while it's unfortunate and it may distract ME, I think that is something I need to work through and get over in order to refocus on the bigger picture here. I just don't think we can really take such a purist stance on this.


I think it would be awesome to develop a modern-worship CICW/Symposium! I know I could definitely use some additional training and my band would probably also find that very beneficial. I go to Symposium and glean knowledge and info based on what's offered there...if more was offered on this end of the spectrum I'd definitely check it out. I think I saw in another thread someone mentioned a small underground network of modern worship leaders (was that you?). How can we encourgage some mobilization with them and with others who would be interested in an effort like this?

Hi John,

As music & worship director for my church, I wear many hats including head organist and worship/praise team leader. I hope I can offer some helpful advice.

I see from your post that you have lamented the change in your church's worship style, but that you are seeking to make the best of the situation now even if it's not what you personally prefer. I think this is very important because as worship leaders, it is okay for us to be voices for the instrument of our choice, but we must also be ready to ascribe value to the worship styles that we may not always prefer. I visited your profile and there found your church's website which provides your orders of worship online. Based on what I read, it seems the organ could still be featured as a prominent "solo" accompanying instrument. In the service that is currently shown online, there are nine songs/hymns for the congregation to sing. Of these, five are straight out of the Psalter Hymnal. In my church, the hymns do not require assistance from the song leaders. However, if they are accustomed to singing every song, there is no reason the band can't take a break during the opening hymn, the hymns for confession/reconciliation, or the hymn following the sermon. The opposite though is also true. That is, if the band is willing to take a break for some hymns, the organist should also be willing to do the same for the songs that are not suitable for organ accompaniment. On the other hand, the organ is versatile and can be used much like a synthesizer playing chords while using foundation stops in the manuals and pedal and using the pedal to play the same notes as the bassist. 

One of the best combinations I have ever experienced in worship was when a praise team/band led us in the song "God of Wonders" and, after the first two verses and choruses, they transitioned seamlessly into "Holy, Holy, Holy". I believe they were playing the two songs in the same key, so as "God of Wonders" found it's way back to the tonic chord, the organist picked up there with a strong but short intro to the hymn using full plenum (mixtures and all). The band (instruments only) cut out for the singing of two stanzas of the hymn but picked up again at "blessed Trinity" and brought us back into the refrain of "God of Wonders". The organist at this point reduced the registration slightly and merely played the chords (no melody) to the song's end. Now it doesn't always require such creative energy and engineering to use both praise team and/or organ...though it is wonderful when it is done well. I'm curious what kind of service music is played during your worship (prelude, offertory, postlude). That is an opportunity to feature a wide variety of musical offerings each week (piano or organ solos, vocal solos accompanied by piano or organ, the band, other instruments and organ, etc.).

If your congregation just recently purchased your organ, they made an investment in and a value statement on their worshiping voice. I can't say too much more without knowing more about your church. I will say though, that if your church is seeking a balance in their "blend", or whatever that ratio might be (my church is about 60% traditional, 40% contemporary), then be very intentional about that blend, pick the best from a variety of styles, do them as authentically as your resources allow, and do them well. To God be the glory!

Chad Meeuwse on November 23, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Paul,

My congregation is similar. They are more comfortable singing with some sort of musical notation than without, at least when learning new songs or hymns. My first suggestion is to take a look at Faith Alive's Contemporary Songs for Worship. You will find music to many of the songs our churches are singing today. They are condensed and reduced, but it works as a general guide. Since it is condensed to 2 or 3 small pages, it can be easily reproduced. Just make sure you have the license to do it.

In our church, I have taken on the role of creating PowerPoint slides with music and text. We comply with copyright in this case because it is done in house using our own notation software and is not distributed. Much of my time when first in this position was creating these music slides. It has its weaknesses, but it has helped us in so many ways.

I am also a big fan of using the choir indirectly as a tool to teach the congregation new music. Have the choir sing through the new songs together in rehearsal, then when the song is introduced on Sunday there will be dozens of voices spread throughout the sanctuary that can help carry the new tune along. 

Hi everyone, I thought I'd join in the conversation here to add another voice from a different (though for some, maybe more familiar?) CRC-subset.

First, I would like to suggest here that there is no good formula for "modernizing" worship that can work in every congregation across the board. I'm sure you all can agree with that. Here is our story:

The church I serve was established in the mid-1930s in central California. It is said that the churches in our classis are more conservative than most in the whole denomination. My congregation's overall voice still includes a strong Dutch accent as a vast majority of our body is descendants of immigrants. Needless to say, change happens slowly. Over the last 10 years our congregation has checked some things off the modern worship list- projectors, quality sound system, and the addition of the "praise team" – including drum kit, guitars, and bass. However, 25 years ago, our church also purchased a pipe organ which to this day is one of the finest instruments from Fresno to Sacramento.

There were a few issues in place when I was hired 4 years ago at Modesto.
1. There wasn't much buy-in from the congregation from the beginning of the movement toward "contemporary" music. Though the equipment was purchased, it was still met with resistance. There is still some residual groaning to this day.
2. The "praise teams" were assigned 4 songs to sing at the beginning of the service only (the real worship began when they were finished), and the songs were chosen months in advance, therefore having little to do with the rest of the service.
3. The "praise songs" used (some, not all) were of what I like to call the "hoke" variety. Let me know if you need a further explanation of “hoke” or “hokeyness”.
4. The worship after the "praise songs" was disjointed, often taking on the flavor of "liturgical tossed-salad".

When I started the job, the first thing we tackled was flow. Musical and verbal transitions became much more important, and more actual worship leadership was given to the "praise teams". Secondly, we began connecting each song to its particular function in the service (praise, confession, illumination, etc). This added substance to the "praise songs" which they lacked when placed as token pieces of the service. I should also note that intentionality toward the placement of hymns aided in strengthening the flow. We also beefed up our diet of "praise songs". I saw the Top 25 CCLI list was mentioned in previous posts, so I reference it here for mine. Of the songs listed there, 15 are regularly sung in our worship, though I don't believe the CCLI list should be the end-all be-all to what we sing in church. Not suggesting any of you believes that either. The truth is, better songs are being written now than they were in the last couple decades (better hymns too!).

My congregation is a body that loves to sing, especially hymns. I believe they always will be. If you visit our church on a Sunday when we sing "It Is Well" you will know exactly what I am talking about. We also have a 30-voice choir that sings almost every Sunday. Our current pastor, who has served over a dozen churches in 40 years of ministry, has said that one way of gauging the health of a congregation is by how loud they sing. Our congregation is in a place now where they even belt out "Blessed Be Your Name" and "How Great Is Our God". We have provided them with the tools to grow by projecting music on the screens whenever possible and with 2 or 3-part harmony (4 if it's a hymn; all done in-house); we've taught the choir new songs in rehearsal so they can support the congregation when they're seated among them in the sanctuary; and they've learned by example that there is value in all kinds of music when they see praise team members wearing choir robes, teenagers in the choir and handbell choir, and the music director leading them in worship as he moves from organ to directing the praise team from the piano to directing the choir. Little practical things like the “hymn sandwich” (e.g. segueing to a stanza of “Holy, Holy, Holy” from the middle of “God of Wonders” and back), worship leaders who invite the congregation to join in singing a new song as they feel comfortable, and working toward finding a good balance between the “familiar and fresh” (thank you, Ron Rienstra) has also encouraged the buy-in we needed from the beginning.

Are we a “modern” church? No, probably not in the sense the original post had in mind. That’s not part of our DNA. But we are a living and growing body, in the here and now; a church unified (not blended, but unified) in our style of worship. I echo Marva Dawn’s words here when talking about traditional vs. contemporary styles of worship: “God is our ‘both/and’ to our ‘either/or’.” We didn’t just invent Him and we can’t put limits on Him. That’s how we see it. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t see a formula for modernizing worship that can be applied to every congregation. Other churches may take greater steps in that direction, especially newly established churches. But for us, this is how God is blessing our congregation. To Him be the glory!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading :)

I've been a part of both traditions - reading a form and extemporaneous speaking through the sacraments. I see value in both, but I think in each it was the delivery that created a worshipful moment or a dull going-through-the-motions event. My congregation had been using forms until recently. In the last few years, I enjoyed putting forms together from the Hymnal or The Worship Sourcebook to add some variety to the sacrament liturgy by including ancient words (e.g. the sursum corda), weaving in refrains or other songs, or adding other spoken parts by the congregation. Now, even though forms are rarely used, the theology of the sacrament is still covered, the promises of God are still recalled, and quite frankly, it doesn't take as long.

Our congregation has a long history of celebrating Reformation Day. A member of our church is a conductor of a community brass ensemble, so Reformation Sunday has become one of two Sundays of the year where we are blessed to sing with organ, brass, and timpani together. (Here is a link to our closing hymn from that morning: ) In the past, these services erred more on the side of history lessons, but this year our Reformation Sunday worship served as a reminder that God is the same both yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We took a standard worship format and used the five "solas" of the reformation (solo christo, sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, soli deo gloria) as the structure for the service. There was very little explicitly mentioned of the reformation itself, but connections were made to these principles through scripture and song. I found Jerry Dykstra's article in The Banner last month inspiring in many ways, but his words on the Reformed faith and its impact on the future, I thought, were very compelling. He said, "One of the beautiful things about the Reformed faith is that it is not simply about reforming the past—it is about preparing the future. Today, all across the world, including in North America, there is a new interest in Reformed theology. People are discovering and rediscovering both the power and the comfort that flows from understanding that our God reigns over all creation." This is true even in my 75-year-old congregation where people are coming now from many different walks and religious backgrounds (Pentecostal, Mormon, nonchurched, etc.) and they have the strongest desire to soak in everything that makes the Reformed faith so concrete. They're not seeking fluff because they realize that fluff cannot provide balm for the difficulties and complexities of life. They are seeking God's sovereignty and the truth found in his Word, the riches of his grace through his Son, and desire to give him all the glory. We will continue to mark Reformation Sunday in our congregation, perhaps not so much as a history lesson, but just as a reminder of the principles of faith on which the church was built, how God has preserved his Church to carry out the work in ushering his kingdom, and that we as part of this Church are called to doing that work in our community and beyond.      

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