For over five years, while Pastor of Worship & Liturgy at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver, CO, I weekly wrote "column notes" for our four-page order of worship. These brief notes would appear in a long, narrow strip on the right side of our bulletin, and their main function was to educate our worshipers about what we were doing in worship and to inspire a more whole-hearted understanding of and participation in worship.
Over those five years, I watched God use those worship notes to shape our doxological community. I watched liturgical skeptics become my best allies and supporters. I watched modern worship folks transform into lovers of tradition. I watched traditionalists develop more generous spirits toward elements and aspects of worship that seemed foreign, devoid of meaning, or overly ritualistic.
As a pastor, I received more feedback about the positive impact of those worship notes than I did about any other aspect of my pastoral ministry. These worship notes are over 80 pages worth of helpful summaries of various elements of worship. I almost found it a weekly discipline (sometimes a painful one) of distilling thought into short, understandable explanations.
It also became a way that I was able to help the congregation grow into a full-orbed theology of worship, as the worship notes began to span out beyond the scope of merely explaining the liturgy to explaining and articulating what worship was all about. The notes, therefore, became a place where we not only exegeted worship, but exegeted culture and our own hearts, as well.
Over the years, the worship notes doc has become a distillation of much of what I've read and attempted to appropriate for my local context. I kept it pretty organized, alphabetized by topic and then subsumed under larger categories. Some of my explanations are highly specific and contextual to my theological tradition (Reformed Presbyterian), denomination (Evangelical Presbyterian Church), or city (Denver), but the notes are generally transferrable to a lot of different contexts. Insofar as they're useful to my readership, I commend them to you.
To make the best use of the document, I'd suggest opening it and doing keyword searches to quickly navigate...things like "Call to Worship," "Advent," "Doxology," or "Drums." Here's just a snapshot of some of the content of the Worship Notes document:
- Explanation of the Call to Worship
- What does "Doxology" mean?
- Why do we recite the Apostles' Creed?
- Stories and explanations of hymns and modern worship songs
- What does "liturgy" mean?
- Why do we call it "Communion?"
- What is a litany?
- Why Responsive Readings link us with the worship of the ancient church
- Why repetition in worship is not a bad thing
- How singing hymns is like drinking theology
- Why do we pronounce a Benediction?
- Why preaching is important in a postmodern age
- Is it okay to raise hands during worship?
- How we participate in the baptism of others
- How listening to Scripture and Sermon is an act of worship
If you want an even more hands-on taste, check out this post on the Call to Worship. It's basically copied and pasted straight from all the worship notes on that subject I wrote over the years.
So, if the worship notes document is useful to your churches, I invite you to beg, borrow and steal. I only ask that, when certain resources have been quoted, you provide the necessary references.