Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Worship 2: Helps for planning worship

I love writing liturgies every week. It is, for me, a many-fold act of my ministry and life: it prepares my heart for worship; it itself is an engagement of worship; it drives me into Scripture and theological thoughtfulness; it is a service that I render to the souls of my congregation.

As I prepare for worship every week, I find a handful of resources (in addition to my Bible, of course) are always at-hand:
  • Hymnals-- we use The Celebration Hymnal in the pews. I also frequently turn to the Trinity Hymnal (the newer, 1990 edition) for supplementary hymns, and I have a collection of about 40 or so other hymnals and songbooks that I occasionally refer to.
  • Psalter-- over the last two years, we've increasingly used Psalter selections in our worship. (I'll talk about the Psalter in a future post.) I have several different Psalters, but we primarily use Sing Psalms, a Psalter done by the Free Church of Scotland in 2003.
  • The Worship Sourcebook-- this compilation, which was put out several years ago jointly by Baker, Faith Alive Christian Resources, and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, is an incredibly helpful tool for crafting liturgies. It has brief guides for each section of worship, then several (sometimes dozens) of examples for each section. It also has many sections dedicated specifically to the particular seasons of the liturgical year.
  • The Cyber Hymnal-- I use this website at least a couple of times a month, and sometimes weekly, for identifying tunes for hymns and psalter selections, and for finding alternate tunes.

In addition to these-- my "regular" tools-- I also find help in all of the following resources:
  • General worship sourcebooks-- The good old Book of Common Worship is a great help, especially for special events and services (like weddings and baptisms, for example); Terry Johnson's Leading in Worship is a very similar, but more contemporary, volume. (Incidentally, I find that both have a lot of content that is a bit on the legalistic/ungracious side for my tastes, which is why I don't use them more frequently.) Also, don't forget that the Book of Church Order of the PCA has a directory for worship. So does the Westminster Confession of Faith-- though most editions don't come with it, since it wasn't a "binding" section.
  • Specific worship sourcebooks-- I absolutely love Hughes Oliphant Old's Leading in Prayer as a sourcebook for prayers for different parts of a worship service. I also like Robert Vasholz's two pocket-reference works (published by Christian Focus), Benedictions and Calls to Worship; Vasholz has done some creative things in both. And I've been reminded recently of the great selections of responsive readings of the Psalms in the Trinity Hymnal.
  • Crafted Liturgies-- occasionally I'll mine the work of others for creative inspiration and direction in writing liturgies. I sometimes find that The Book of Common Prayer is helpful in this regard. I also read through the articles and provided liturgies from Reformed Worship magazine, which has all of its archives online.
  • Musical Help-- sometimes the Cyber Hymnal isn't enough, and I'll turn to Hymnary.org as an alternative; it's actually a better layout and easier-to-use website, but it doesn't have as much of the content I'm looking for, usually. I also sometimes find new tunes for hymns at the RUF Hymnbook website. I also (very) occasionally check the Oremus Hymnal website, which offers hymn selections based on the liturgical calendar.
  • Church/Liturgical Calendar-- I'm learning more and more about the liturgical calendar and how it can be helpful in shaping worship. Some sources I've found helpful are Ken Collins' website, the Reformed Liturgical Institute, and the churchyear.net site.

Here are some other resources; I don't personally use these often enough to mention in the lists above, but it's not due to any problem I have with them! I certainly know a number of people who do.
  • General Help-- Christ Community Church of Franklin, TN offers Community Worship Resources, a helpful site that offers all sorts of help for worship.
  • Sourcebook-- an online alternative sourcebook is The Open Sourcebook, which regularly offers very good options.
  • Collects-- a friend of my loves The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by C Frederick Barbie and Pau F.M.l Zahl.
  • Choral Music-- if you have a choir, don't miss the ChoralWiki, where you can find hundreds of choral selections published for free!
  • More on Hymns-- The Center for Church Music offers a website, Songs and Hymns, that is both a guide to hymns and a collection of helps for singing.There is also Hymn Studies, which looks at both origin and biblical/theological content of hymns.
  • Hymn Stories-- if you like to use hymn stories in your "rubricks" for transition between worship elements, you might find 200 Amazing Hymn Stories helpful.

PASTORS: what are some resources that YOU find helpful in planning worship services?

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