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What Does CRC Worship Look Like?

March 9, 2022
Photo: Worship Ministries

Worship Ministries has launched a new hashtag and related programming that they hope will help to inspire and unify churches around worship in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Katie Roelofs, resource and communications coordinator for Worship Ministries, said staff developed the project #ThisIsCRCWorship with the goal of helping churches to see unity in the diversity present within the denomination.

Roelofs noted that Worship Ministries staff were brainstorming about how best to respond to some of the division in both society and the church. And during the discussion, they realized, “Every single congregation has one thing in common, and it’s that they worship,” said Roelofs. “They are vastly different in how they do it, but every single congregation is a worshiping congregation.”

On Feb. 2, Worship Ministries posted a simple video to share the idea with churches in the CRCNA. They are currently working with a videography company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., to create four professional videos to further develop the message.

Roelofs has been gathering content for the first video, an overview of worship in CRC churches, by searching archived videos from the past few years. So far, she has clips from over 75 churches throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s been a powerful experience to see,” said Roelofs. "What does  a Korean dawn prayer service look like? At Tapestry Church in downtown Oakland, Calif., a big-city style church? At Spirit and Truth Fellowship in Philadelphia? At the Edmonton [Alta.] churches?” Just looking through the churches’ online services has been inspiring, said Roelofs. “We’re hoping that will be reflective for everybody else too.”

The theme for the second video will focus on prayer, said Roelofs, with plans for the third one to be on the Word, and the fourth to be on the sacraments. Worship Ministries staff hope to have all four videos ready by Synod 2022 in mid-June.

Another element of the tagline project is to help worship coordinators in various classes and regions set up networks for mutual support and encouragement. Worship Ministries staff have organized online roundtable conversations for worship leaders in several classes, and they hope to include discussions throughout the rest of the denomination this year, planting seeds in each region for further connection and coordination.

Roelofs noted, “It’s an opportunity for worship leaders to gather [online] and meet each other, because a lot have never met each other before. Just to hear about where God is moving in congregations far removed from your own is a really interesting and powerful thing. All of that kind of work is funneling into #ThisIsCRCWorship.”

Churches are invited to use the tagline as well, sharing moments of worship on social media. To create momentum for sharing, Roelofs said she has been inviting churches to share about specific elements of worship, tagging it with #ThisIsCRCWorship.

For example, she explained, “Last week, I took a picture of our communion elements and said, ‘We’re celebrating communion! Who’s celebrating communion with us?’” Other ideas include inviting people to check in about where they are worshiping, or to snap a photo of the first or second song in a worship service. Roelofs added, “It’s just to get people thinking along these lines – that ‘our worship’ is part of CRC worship, and CRC worship is broad and diverse.”

Response to the project so far has been positive, said Roelofs. And she hopes to see more active engagement as the project becomes more widely known in the denomination. The banner logo for the tagline itself came from a CRC member; the design was created by Nick Rosas, lead pastor at Oak Harbor (Wash.) CRC. Even if some churches don’t participate in sharing on social media, Roelofs said, she hopes they will see something of their church reflected in the project as a whole.

In addition to the diversity of worship styles and gathering places, Roelofs said she has seen diversity in the role of worship coordinator. She noted that some churches have full-time ordained worship pastors and others have part-time worship planners or volunteers, while in many other churches the pastors coordinate worship themselves for the congregation. Roelofs said she hopes that this project offers all churches a touchpoint with Worship Ministries – and support at the level each church needs.

Another element of #ThisIsCRCWorship is a series of sermon and service packages being provided to churches as a way to worship together across the denomination while also offering a “Sunday off” to pastors when needed. One package was shared with churches for use on Jan. 2, to provide a break after the busy Christmas season.

Two more sermon and service packages will be shared for use on the Sundays around Synod 2022, said Roelofs, recognizing that many churches will “lose” their pastor as church leaders gather in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the next decision-making meeting of the CRCNA. And “even if they don’t physically ‘lose’ their pastors for a week, they’re probably going to mentally and emotionally ‘lose’ their pastors for a week,” said Roelofs. The sermons and services will be provided by The Tapestry in the Vancouver (B.C.) area, led by Albert Chu, and by Calvin CRC in Grand Rapids, led by Rebecca Jordan Heys.

Roelofs said she also encourages individuals to participate by looking up churches geographically or politically far from their own and by watching a service online – now widely available because of changes necessitated by the pandemic.

As they watch, said Roelofs, people can ask, “What is it that we can learn of each other through the act of worship? What is God revealing to me through the way this congregation worships? How is God being glorified in this congregation’s worship each week, and how can I give thanks to God for that?” She further suggests that people “spend a moment – even if it’s an uncomfortable moment – recognizing that we are called to unity in the body of Christ. I’m not saying that that’s easy work, but it’s work that we’re called to, and it’s work that’s worthwhile.”