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larger love of communion with the whole Church of God throughout the world. Now all the sacrifices and devotion of their past call upon them to do all that in them lies to bring in the new era of international Christianity. In loyalty to the best spirit of our history as Congregationalists we would gladly follow where others may lead, and humbly lead where others may follow, in the achievement of this greater work of faith which we have Christ's promise shall be done, and which the wars and woes of the nations require his disciples now to do in His name.
REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON
THE National Council in Kansas City in 1913 appointed the Committee on the Order of Worship to continue the work of the previous committees, with authority to print the collated result, if thought expedient, for the assistance of such pastors and churches as might wish to use it.
The Committee has not been able to carry out this plan in full. It has waited for some expression from our ministers and people as to the value and helpfulness of the suggested forms previously presented. A few have written in cordial appreciation of them. Some pastors have availed themselves of certain orders of service for special occasions. Others have studied them with interest, and have been stimulated and assisted by them in preparing their own forms.
While there is no disposition in our churches to relinquish the freedom of worship which they so highly prize, there is an increasing desire in many of them to modify the old forms to such an extent as to relieve the services of barrenness and dullness. They seek to secure, without loss of simplicity, such exercises as will enlist the whole congregation in the act of worship. Without binding themselves in liturgical fetters which are compulsory, they wish to exercise their freedom to use any material from the garnered treasure of the church universal which may have proved itself useful, because of its beauty, fitness and spiritual effectiveness. The felicitous phrases of the prayers of the ages, the expressions of devout aspiration from the earnest hearts of the saints of the past, made familiar by the usage of multitudes of worshipping congregations for decades and centuries, are not inappropriate in our Congregational services of worship. They belong to no one time, but to all time; to no one denomination, but to the whole world-wide body of Christian disciples. Many of our pastors like to use them. Many of our churches find their services enriched and dignified by them. We hope that the orders of worship presented by this Committee and previous Committees may be of service to pastors and people by bringing within their reach in convenient form some of this treasure of the past.
To complete the orders of service for various occasions your Committee has deemed it wise to add to the forms already presented to the Council, and approved by it, three others for special occasions. They therefore propose the following additional forms, which they hope may be found useful:
An Order for a Children's Day Service.
While presenting these additional services for the approval of the Council, the Committee desires to add a few suggestions as to the character and conduct of worship.
First, it should be sincere. It should be the genuine expression of the real feeling of the heart. “God is a spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Lip-service is a travesty, unless it be the outpouring of heartfelt longing and earnest purpose. Mere formality in worship is a pretence and a sham. The repetition of pious phrases is futile, unless we pour into them the ardent feeling of our own souls which they voice. Pastor and people need to be constantly on their guard against the peril of insincerity in worship. They must attune their souls to God, and lift up their hearts as well as their voices when they greet him in his holy temple.
Second, it should be spontaneous. It should be the outpouring of our immediate feeling in prayer and praise. It should be the glowing sacrifice of the present hour laid on the altar of devotion. We should pray because under the stress of the soul's passionate desire for the grace and help of God, we cannot help praying. We should praise, because catching some glimpse of his glory, our hearts spontaneously offer him our homage. What we think and feel in the present hour must give impulse to our worship in the sanctuary. It must not be yesterday's devotions warmed over; it must be to-day's deep sense of need, of trust, of joy in the redemptive grace of God. Both pastor and people must be free to voice this spontaneous worship in their own words. But if other forms of prayer, first used by those who had a genius for expression, truly interpret the present feeling of these worshipers they are free to use them. We use without question the hymns of the ages in our praise; why may we not use the prayers of the ages to voice our penitence and petition if only they truly express the present longing of our souls?
Third, it should be interesting. It is a common fallacy that people ought to go to church and try to enjoy the services, no matter how dull and dreary they are. Ministers sometimes think they must be interesting when they get to the sermon, while the rest of the service is allowed to be rambling, desultory and tedious. Every minute of the service of worship ought to be alive with interest. It should be made so attractive and enjoyable that tired men and women will eagerly go to it as to a refreshing feast. They ought not to be compelled to go under the scourge of a sense of duty to sit through a dry routine of observances which kindle no delight. If as much time and effort were spent upon this part of the service as upon the sermon, it would transform the hour of worship in many a church, and make attendance a joy.
The order, fitness, and proper proportion of each part of the service should be carefully considered. One event should lead up to another in logical order, till after we have saluted the King and craved his blessing, the climax is reached as his message is delivered to us by the preacher. The offering of praise, the Scripture lesson, the prayers of the people, the worship of God by the offerings of the people, and the message of the minister are each of peculiar importance and deserve careful study. Each of these features may contribute great interest and inspiration to the service if properly exercised.
In the offering of praise the aim should be to give expression to the worship of the entire congregation. All the people should participate in it to the utmost possible extent. “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.” In many of our English churches the whole congregation joins in singing the anthems and chants as well as the hymns. Anthem books are in every pew.
There are ministers in this country who have trained their congregations to chant very effectively and enjoyable the “Te Deum," the “Venite," and the other great humns of the early church. It can be done without difficulty if people are willing to take pains enough. If this is too much to expect of all our churches, every congregation can unite all voices in the hymns and such simple chants which may be easily learned. But if this is to be continuously interesting, the hymns should be the very best, and the tunes sung should be mélodious, spirited and of the finest musical excellence. The timidity of some pastors, who distrust the musical capabilities of their people is unfortunate, for too often it has left the congregation to drone wearily through a few old hymns and tunes worn threadbare by too constant repetition, instead of courageously and persistently training the people to a knowledge and use of the splendid new material available, to be sung in alternation with the old. Experience shows that there is nothing in our modern hymnals which may not be learned and loved by whole congregations under competent leadership.
The most effective leadership for such congregational praise is undoubtedly a strong chorus choir, with a center of well trained singers. Our larger churches are recognizing this and providing for it. Broadway Tabernacle, New York, has a choir of twenty-five; Central, Brooklyn, one of sixty; the two churches in Oberlin have great chorus choirs, giving to the service of song extraordinary interest; New First Church, Chicago, has several chorus choirs, which it uses singly or combined, with fine effect; First Church, Madison, Wis., has an adult choir of one hundred, and plans for a Young People's choir of a hundred, and a children's chorus besides, with a musical director in charge of all. Not all churches can command the talent for such work; but in every community good voices can be found among adults, young people and children, with some person of special musical skill who can organize, drill and lead them. Such persons should be asked to dedicate their gifts to the service of the church.