Fall Newsletter Excerpt

Words in Worship

By Interim Worship Coordinator Alyssa Berkenpas

Do you ever wonder why we have so many words in a worship service? Most of the time, when people think “worship” they often think of music, or songs being sung. Words don’t get the attention that music does in a worship service but, “Language, like music, is an art to be received and cultivated as a gift from God.” At least that is how the CRC’s Worship Sourcebook understands it (for those of you who do not know, the Worship Sourcebook is a great resource where worship leaders can find prayers and readings beautifully crafted for services).

It struck me as I was reading that there may be many people in our congregation that don’t know why we say so many words throughout the service and what the meaning is behind these words. So why do we have so many words?

First of all, words help us to stay faithful to Scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need a balanced diet of biblical themes, for example, to speak of God as three-in-one, a mighty sovereign, or a tender father are all biblical. Staying biblical helps us to reflect that salvation in Christ is deeply personal, but it also extends to all of creation and culture. Scripture shapes our language about God. There is something so mysteriously powerful about words that are said during a service – each person can appropriate them as their own.

Another reason why we read readings or say prayers together is that wherever we find ourselves on a Sunday, there is, hopefully, an accessible and reverent way to come to the Lord and participate in worship.

Third, words express our experience and form us for a deeper experience. These words we say should become habits, and forming habits (good habits) are what reorient us and direct us towards God. James K. Smith writes, “the heart is like a compass… we need to regularly calibrate our hearts, tuning them to be directed to the Creator, our magnetic north.”

Where can we put all these words? How can we fit everything we want to say to God, together, in a service? There are so many thoughtful facets to a service that we have embraced to ensure there is a faithful arc that stays biblical and allows the Spirit to move in us in such a way that we, if we are willing, will be transformed each Sunday. Pastor Steve has shown us this chart before, but it’s such a good reminder.

The arrows beside each part of our liturgy indicate directions in which the conversation flows. From God to the people, from the people to God, and among the peoples. This is why language and words are so important to our community.

As you look at the different arrows, reflect on how you can prepare yourself for a worship service: Are you anticipating hearing from God? Speaking to God? Participating in elements of the service as a community? You are invited to consider each part of the service and how it is meant to draw us into this big story of God’s salvation – including the words we use in our worship.

— Interim Worship Coordinator, Alyssa Berkenpas