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The poem Darkness comes from a book titled Prayers & Litanies for the Christian Seasons.  It would be good to include the book title in the credits. The "c" above represents copyright--I'm sorry, I couldn't find the correct symbol on my Mac.  

I recommend this collection to all worship leaders and pastors who appreciate thoughtful, carefully crafted words for their own worship.  The poems also help me as starters for public prayers and sometimes--as this past week, I just use the whole thing, broken up with a sung response from the people:  Restore us, Lord and show your face and then we shall be saved. 

Posted in: Dress Code

Comforting to read that some guy pastors think about their wardrobe as much as we women pastors have to . . . are these earrings too long?  can I wear open toe shoes for preaching?  how about the pink suit?!

As noted elsewhere . . .geeky is IN!!  Long live the bow tie. 

I love the word "missional" and the many good cocepts related to it.  But when "missional" is used in contrast to "attractional" or "established," we create artificial barriers and limits.  We don't have to be one or the other.  We must be "missional,"  but if we are the aroma of Christ, we are also "attractional" to those who seek.  And if God blesses and the ministry is sustained over time, then it will become "established."  Is that not also of God?  

These and other terms are helpful when they are used in concert together as a collection of descriptors of a church.  But when they become labels, they serve to divide and cause hurt and pride.   I have grown weary of the sometimes-not-so-subtle references to my congregation as an example of an "established" church.  We have been around for over 100 years so, yes! -- God has established us--and God has caused our ministry to stick and grow.  But that doesn't mean we aren't missional too.  By Joel Hogan's definition above, we are very missional and by the Spirit's power and direction, we hope to continue to become more and more missional. 

New church plants are assumed to be "missional."  But there is no guarantee that newness or novelty will result in effective mission.  And. . . don't these churches also want to become "established" in their neighborhoods as places of true community and transformation?  Let's encourage new churches (and all of our churches) to be both, not either.

Kevin, great topic!  Some of us are creatures of habit and defend our repetitions as faithfulness.  Others of us are not less creatures of habit who are habitually changing things up out of a constant need for something new.  There's room for both faithful tradition and thoughtful creativity in planning Lord's Supper services.  The key is not to keep tradition for tradition's sake, nor to institute change for novelty's sake.  There are good theological reasons that should undergird our decisions about our practices in worship--especially in the Lord's Supper.

Several years ago, Reformed Worship Journal asked me to write an article about incorporating variety in our Lord's Supper services. Hopefully, some of these ideas are still appropriate for readers who are asking the same questions.  You can find it here:

Two women of our congregation started a ministry to offer support for families caring for a person with mental illness.  They received training from NAMI and now gather a small group once a month to share information, prayer and encouragement.  They call themselves Circle of Hope.

We enjoy being an intentionally intergenerational church.  It does present its own challenges as we try to help all the groups of people demonstrate hospitality and love for each other, but the rewards are wonderful.  It seems that our children and young people feel that the church (not just their groups--but the whole church) is their home.

We have also looked at WE and like it a lot.  For the coming year, we are creating an intergenerational program for our discipleship hour each Sunday.  For one year we are settig aside our age-divided Sunday School program. Instead, in worship, we will be preaching through the Old Testament--one book each week.  Following the sermons, we will meet in 8 intergenerational groups to reflect, discuss, create art, tell testimonies related to God's presence in that book. 

While it has created more work for staff and for Elders and Deacons who will help to lead, we believe that the outcomes of a more united  congregation and more caring relationships across the generations will be worth it.  We also believe that we will all learn and absorb this "race through the Old Testament" better when we do it together.

Star Wars and other geeky things are great intergenerational communication tools.  My 6th grade daughter and a few others (the rest are all guys) in her class know all the Episodes by heart.  We geeks are in every generation!  

Thanks, Neil for this thoughtful post.  I hope Elders are encouraged to engage in the conversation about worship as they "regulate" it.  In the past, I've heard from some Elders who feel out of their element, especially when talented musicians or artists lead the services, so they don't enter into conversation that might help to shape the theology and hospitality of the worship.  Thanks also for directing us away from the "I like, I don't like" conversations.  A great resource for developing conversations about worship is the book Discerning the Spirits by Neal Plantinga and Sue Rozeboom.

Dear Stan,

Thanks for noticing those strange lyrics.  I had forgotten that we struggled with them also, so we wrote lyrics that made more sense.  Here's what we did to adjust the text for the delightful service ordaining husband and wife pastors Nate and Sam DeJong-McCarron.  (You can see how well your idea of changing to plural works out!)

To answer your question, I don't know for sure what Brian Wren, the lyricist, had in mind with the "flag of faith" and "powers of death," but the context seemed to be a prayer for protection from the Evil One coupled with a prayer for courage to proclaim the gospel to a hurting world.  

Unfortunately, we lost the allusion to Frederick Buechner's famous quote, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." But we felt it made more sense to the congregation.  

Come, celebrate the call of God that wakens and renews,

And chooses from us, for our good, the bringers of good news.

The Spirit’s blessing all ordains to show what God has done,

Yet brings to focus and contains the many in the one.


Two chosen ones today reply, and fit and ready stand.

Their callings now we recognize with prayer and loving hands.

These servant leaders, truthful friends, are committed to your word,

Proclaiming forth in Jesus name the Gospel to the world.


Great Spirit, give them word and breath in Christ to live and speak,

And shield them from the deadly powers that seek to make them weak,

Grant them true faith, and courage strong to stand against the foe

Pour out your grace and truth and light through them where’re they go. 

Thanks, Rod, for the eloquent words of compassion and mercy.  I'll be borrowing your prayer on behalf of others.  

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