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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Rhythms of Worship" (Michael Waschevski and John G. Stevens)

TITLE: Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy
AUTHOR: Michael Waschevski and John G. Stevens
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, (96 pages).

What are the rhythms of worship? How do we plan a good and well-rounded weekly service? Instead of re-inventing the wheel, is there some kind of a model to follow or to adapt? In this little book, we learn about the purpose and the planning behind worship services. With simple description and steps, pastors John G. Stevens
and Michael Waschevski share a number of ways in which we can incorporate various rhythms of worship in our churches. Beginning with the general outline of worship, they note that most mainline denominations follow a four-fold structure for worship, what I would call an “order” rhythm.
  1. Gathering in response to the love and invitation of God
  2. Hearing and responding to God’s Word
  3. Sharing the meal and giving thanks
  4. Departing to serve God in the world
One can summarize the four steps into an easy to remember 4Ws. At the start, the people are welcomed as they gather, for each time the people of God come together, there is the Church. Next is the reading of the Word with participation in mind. The congregation is given a chance to respond to the worship leaders. The sermon is then preached and congregations are encouraged to interact where possible. With the Holy Communion as a common meal for the people, members participate with the warmth of fellowship in remembrance of Christ’s death as well as celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Finally, the people can go forth into the world to be conscious toward good works where possible.

There is the rhythm of music selections where congregations are encouraged not to be distracted by the traditional vs contemporary songs divide, but to learn to have an openness for greater repertoire of old and new songs. The authors suggest that congregations begin and end with familiar songs. If there are any new songs to be introduced, let them be proportioned no more than one-third of the total number of songs. In terms of technology, while powerpoint projectors are ok, it is beneficial to have printed hymnbooks or songs in the event of some technical hiccups.

The rhythm of seasons is like the Church calendar. Special days include Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost, and other significant days of the Christian calendar. The authors provide Scripture references and support to guide readers through the planning. They teach us the historical background of each special day. They suggest creative programs as well as sensitivity to the emotional needs of various groups. For example, when celebrating Christmas, be aware that it may evoke memories of some members who are lonely or had lost loved ones recently.

One can also plan personal spiritual rhythms to coincide with the rhythms through the year. For example, the season of Lent can be a time to fast while the Christmastide can be a time to celebrate and to feast. The days following Easter can be filled with celebrative moments leading to the Pentecost where one observes the teachings of the Holy Spirit more, and perhaps a spiritual revival.

The last chapter of the book comes back one full circle to ponder on the meaning and reason for worship. Worship is about “being the church” that God has called. It is not simply an idea or concept. It is a living organism in Christ. Worship is community life in action. It is a holy community set apart for God. This book on worship is important simply because worship is important.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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