Understanding the Presbyterian and Reformed Order of Worship

by Daniel L. Sonnenberg

Reformed Forum’s audio discussion: The Order of Worship.

Glen Clary walks through a Reformed order of worship, explaining the Biblical precedent and rationale for elements such as the call to worship, invocation, different types of prayer, and the benediction along with the administration of Word and sacrament. Rev. Clary is pastor of Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX.

Introduction begins at 0:00. Explanation begins at 4:45.

8 Steps to Preparing a Conductor’s Score for Worship Band, Orchestra and Choir

Modern worship music often includes not only the parts for the worship band (guitars, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals), but also parts for four-part (or more) choir singers and full orchestra. The score that contains all these parts is often called a “conductor’s score” or more simply called “the score” since it contains all the parts of a given musical work in one score.

In order to help all the musicians stay together throughout such a composition, the modern church music or worship director must learn to read, interpret and conduct from such a score. I have seen some directors who ignore the score and attempt to direct without it by using their gifted “ear,” memory, or some other intuitive sense, but it usually results in frustration of the instrumentalists or singers because the director does not know exactly what they should be doing at any given moment and cannot answer their questions.

What is a conductor’s score?

  • A score that contains all the parts for the instruments and vocals of a particular musical work
  • Sometimes, it is a reproduction of the original score as written by the composer
  • Often, it is a reproduction of the score as arranged and orchestrated by the arranger or orchestrator
  • Finally, it is the master score from which all the individual parts are extracted to create individual scores from which the musicians play and sing

What does the conductor’s score do?

  • It tells the director/conductor of a musical work what each instrumentalist and vocalist should be doing at any given moment in the music

Why is it important for the director to “prepare the score” or “mark” the score ahead of time?

  • By marking the score, ahead of time, in larger handwritten notes, the director can see at a glance what individual parts and whole groups of musicians should be doing in the music
  • Often, conductor’s scores are in very small print to get all the parts on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper that fits on a standard music stand
  • And often, when directing a large group, the conductor’s eyes are well above the score which is placed on a music stand at about waist level
  • Thus, while conducting, the director cannot see the detail of every part from such a distance
  • Therefore, by making larger handwritten notes, the director can see which groups of singers or instrumentalists should be playing or singing, and can cue them at the precise moments of entrance or release

A method for marking the conductor’s/director’s score:

  • There are many ways to mark the score. Following is a method I was taught and have adapted and used for many years:
  • Use the following tools to do the marking:
  • 1. Use highlighting multi-colored markers, like those used to highlight textbooks for marking things you want to notice but not cover up.
  • 2. Use colored pencils for writing words on the score. If not colored pencils, use something that stands out from the other words written on the score. If the words already on the score are typed, handwritten notes, even with a pen, work fine because they are usually not as neat as those that are typed, and they are usually larger.

1. HIGHLIGHT THE REPEATS: I use orange highlighter for this. Run the highligher from the top to the bottom of the score at the beginning and end of a repeated section. I also add brackets at the top and bottom to indicate which direction (right or left) the repeat is headed.
2. HIGHLIGHT THE KEY CHANGES: I use green highlighter for this because green means “go” to me, and a key change often is used to give the song a boost. Run the highlighter from top to bottom of the score since all the parts usually change key together.
3. HIGHLIGHT THE TIME SIGNATURE CHANGES: I use blue highlighter for this. Run the highlighter from top to bottom of the score over the new time signature. Often, the time signature will change back to the original shortly, so mark each change.
4. HIGHLIGHT THE VOLUME CHANGES: I use pink highlighter for this. Mark the crescendos and decrescendos that appear in the score. Often, these will be found on several lines of the score. I mark one of the lines about 1/3 of the way down from the top where it’s easy to see.
5. HIGLIGHT THE TEMPO CHANGES: I use yellow highlighter for this. Highlight the intial tempo marking (e.g., 80 bmp, allegro, etc) and later tempo changes (e.g., ritardando, a tempo, etc.). Usually, these appear at the top of the score.
6. MARK THE ENTRANCES: I use colored pencils or a pen to mark these. Everytime an instrumental or vocal part enters (e.g., Violin, Timpani, Horn), write the name of the part just to the left of it, so you’ll notice it and can cue the entrance with a hand gesture or a look in their direction. If it’s a whole section or group entering (e.g., all brass, all voices, all strings), I draw a left bracket connecting the scores of all those parts (e.g., all brass might include separate parts for 1,2 trumpets, 3 trumpet, 1,2 trombone and 3 trombone, tuba). After bracketing all the individual scores, write “Brass” to the left of the brackett. I use a shorthand notation for many of the parts (Violin is Vln, Brass is Brs, Timpani is Tmp, Woodwinds is WW, etc.) because there’s not a lot of room on the page. Sometimes, an entrance comes just after the page turn on the score. I mark the entrance at the appropriate place at the far right side on the previous page, before the page turn, so I’ll know an entrance is coming up immediately after the page turn.
7. REWRITE IMPORTANT WORDS ON THE SCORE: Sometimes the Rhythm line of the score has notations (words in very small print) for multiple parts (acoustic and electric guitars, drum set, electric bass and keyboards). For example, one notation from a score in front of me has “E.G. distort riff, busy HH + BD quarters” in very small print below the Rhythm line. I wrote this out by hand in larger print so I’d know what the electric guitar, high hat and bass drum should be doing at that point.
8. ADD NOTATIONS FOR OTHER PARTS NOT INCLUDED ON THE SCORE. Sometimes, the band is playing from a chord chart that is not included on the conductor’s score. It may not have the same rehearsal numbers or measure numbers as the other parts extracted from the conductor’s score. The director must ADD notes to the score to indicate what they are seeing on their score (e.g., Intro, Verse 1, Verse 2, PreChorus, Chorus, Bridge, Instrumental Interlude, Tag, Ending, Outro). In so doing, the director knows what everyone is seeing on their score and can call out simultaneous cues for multiple groups as needed (e.g., “Rehearsal #2 and Chorus” or “Measure 37 and Bridge”).
By using these methods and other adaptations, the director can rehearse and direct large and diverse groups of musicians simultaneously, seeing at a glance where the music is going and cueing entrances for individuals and whole sections of the ensemble to provide a satisfying musical experience for everyone involved. Enjoy, and to God be the glory!

Worship Planning: Balancing All the Elements

Service planning involves achieving a balance of all the elements that make up a given service. I’m currently planning a service with some unusual elements and would like to analyze the process out loud for the benefit of any readers who might be attempting something similar.
This service has at least two, maybe three, unusual elements: it’s what we call a “combined service;” it includes some new musical forces; and it includes communion.

1. Combined service. We normally hold two services in our sanctuary on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and 11:00. From time to time we combine the people in one service in the gymnasium to promote a spirit of unity within the congregation. The people in the early service are used to music that’s a little quieter and not as modern as in the late service.
2. New musical forces. We are currently in the process of adding choir singers and orchestra players to our current bands. Bands require only chord charts and/or lead sheets, while the choir and orchestra require three-four part vocal scores and orchestrations with individual parts for each instrument.
3. Communion. This service includes communion. We are currently experimenting with a form of communion in which the participants come forward to tables holding the communion elements serve one another in turn.
Given these elements, following are some of the choices I made for the service:

1. Song selection. I chose songs that are modern, songs that are well-known and songs that include portions of popular arrangements of traditional hymns for several reasons.

  • Modern songs appeal especially to the late service people
  • Songs that are well-known appeal to the early service people
  • Modern songs appeal especially to the band
  • Songs that are well-known are easier to learn by the choir and orchestra in a relatively short period of time (two rehearsals)
  • Songs with remade versions of traditional hymns connect us to the present by using popular musical styles while connecting us to our past
  • So I chose “Holy is the Lord,” “How Great is Our God,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),”Jesus Messiah” and “Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin, “Revelation Song” by Jennie Riddle, and “In Christ Alone (with The Solid Rock / Medley)” by Stuart Townend, Keith Getty, William Bradbury and Edward Mote, arr. Travis Cottrell.

2. Song Arrangements.

  • Congregational songs. I chose Praise Charts arrangements from PraiseCharts.com for all the congregational songs. These arrangements are made from popular recordings by the original artists, so they appeal to the band. But they also include three- to four-part vocals for the choir singers and full orchestrations for the orchestra players.
  • Offertory. I chose a pull-out from a musical that we’re preparing for the fall, “Revelation Song” from the Glorious Day musical by Travis Cottrell.
  • Communion. I chose “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) and “In Christ Alone (with The Solid Rock / Medley” because they have elements that are both new and old which people can sing without watching the screen while they are serving one another.

3. Staging.

  • Band. The band is the core of the worship team so they will be more centrally located and more toward the front of the platform.
  • Choir. The choir has historically been located on the side of the chancel (front) in the sanctuary. In that location, their voices sound weak because they are singing toward the other side of the room. For this service, we are placing the choir on risers facing straight forward so that their voices can be more easily heard and their faces more easily seen as they lead worship.
  • Orchestra. The orchestra will be in front of the choir with some standing and some seated. Likely the brass and some woodwinds will stand and the strings will be seated as needed. I want some of them to stand so that their presence is clearly seen and heard since this is their first time to participate along with the band and the choir.

Building Blocks of Biblical Worship

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship – Worship 101: The Building Blocks of a Biblical Approach to Worship: “Worship 101: The Building Blocks of a Biblical Approach to Worship
John D. Witvliet
Calvin Symposium on Worship 2008

This session explored some of the Bible’s most fundamental teaching about worship, with an aim to equipping participants to teach this material in their own worshiping communities. This session is especially ideal for first-time Symposium attendees, as well as veterans who want to energize their own teaching ministries.”

10 Core Convictions about Worship

I appreciate the work of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin Seminary in Michigan. They are part of what some call the liturgical renewal movement and have been in existence for ten years now. Below is a summary of their convictions about worship after ten years.

Ten Core Convictions About Christian Worship

1. a vivid awareness of the beauty, majesty, mystery, and holiness of the triune God
Worship cultivates our knowledge and imagination about who God is and what God has done. Worship gives us a profound awareness of the glory, beauty, and holiness of God. Each element of worship can be understood through a Trinitarian framework. Worship renewal is best sustained by attention to the triune God we worship.

2. the full, conscious, active participation of all worshipers, in the context of a fully intergenerational community
Worship is not just what ministers, musicians, and other leaders do; it is what all worshipers “do”—through the work of the Spirit in worship. In vital worship, all worshipers are involved in the actions, words, and meaning of worship. God’s covenant promises endure “from generation to generation.” Worship that arises out of an intentionally intergenerational community, in which people of all ages are welcomed as full participants, and whose participation enriches each other, reflects that worship breaks down barriers of age.

For more, click here: http://www.calvin.edu/worship/about/ten/

Related Link
Ten core convictions with related scripture, questions, and resources

Worship Is: Resting From Our Labors

This is the first in a series of “Worship is….” posts tracing worship through the Scriptures. So much has been written and spoken in recent days about worship. Sometimes I get the feeling some of what is being said is not necessarily Scriptural but can’t place my finger on it. So it’s a good thing to continually go back and see what the Scriptures say about anything in life and especially about something as important as worship in the life of the church.

Perhaps the earliest passage concerning worship is the account of God resting on the seventh day of creation.

Genesis 2:2-3 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

This tells us initially that:

1. God rested from his work on that day
2. God blessed and sanctified the day by resting in it

The word translated here “sanctified” means “to make something holy; to set something apart; to distinguish it.” Literally, the phrase means essentially that God made this day different. However, in the context of the Law, it means that the day belongs to God; it is for rest from ordinary labor for physical rest and to give more focused attention to God.

How does this inform our worship? Let’s look at the fourth commandment in Exodus.

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

This tells us because God rested, we rest. We observe the same pattern of work and rest that God observed. God worked, we work. God rested, we rest. “Keeping the sabbath holy” means keeping it “set apart,” separate, different, from other days as God established it. The day “belongs to” God and is set apart for him alone. Because six days were “enough” for God to do his work, they should be “enough” for us as well.

Reflections on General Assembly Worship

Worship is about the heart, but that includes the head, too. Christians worship in Spirit and truth – both – not one or the other. But, generally speaking, some of us lean more toward the Spirit – more feeling oriented, more intuitive and more artistic while others of us lean more toward the truth – Word oriented, results-oriented, bottom line and concrete. I believe that good worship planning takes both sides into account. For example, as we worshiped earlier today at the EPC General Assembly, during one of the instrumental interludes, the video guy put up a Scripture, allowing us to meditate on that while the instruments played. But this evening, there were several interludes during which they did not use Scripture on the screen, but rather focused the cameras on the soloist.

I suggest that the afternoon session engaged more of the congregation in worship during the interludes than the evening session. The combination of interlude and Scripture text appealed more to both groups. Those who are more intuitive and artistic would have joined in the “Spiritual moment” watching the soloist play to the glory of God, while those who are more Word-oriented would have found watching the soloist distracting from worship, but because they had a Scripture passage on which to meditate they could enter in to God’s presence at the same time but with a different focus! This is a priniciple we can utilize in our own worship at MG – making worship engaging for both groups at the same time.

The Worship Leading Choir

The worship leading choir is a bit of a new concept and is articulated by Dave Williamson at http://www.brentwoodbenson.com/wlc/ Dave is a long-time choral director and arranger for Word Music. Dave outlines what he considers the difference between a “performance or traditional choir” and a “worship leading choir.” See below.

Dave writes:
We all know what a choir is. And most of us know what worship leading is when we see it. But what do we mean by the term, “Worship Leading Choir?” Don’t all church choirs lead worship? The answer is, yes and no! Yes, in the sense that every “living sacrifice” offered by the believer is an act of worship, and every time any choir of believers sings about God in spirit and in truth it is an act of worship. But, No, in the sense that, until our hearts, minds and spirits are fully engaged in passionately glorifying Jesus in the congregation so that its members are drawn with us into an encounter with the living God, worship leading has not fully happened.
The worldwide form today’s choir is beginning to take on is a departure from much of the “traditional” aspects we have come to recognize.

• The emerging choir is not primarily about performance; it is primarily about worship.

• It’s not about being slick; it is about passion.
• It’s not about acquaintanceship; it is about family.
• It’s not about momentary emotion; it is about eternal significance.
• It’s not about competition; it is about servanthood.
• It doesn’t view talent as primary; it does view character and faithfulness as primary.

The Worship Leading Choir stands before a congregation as a well-schooled, unified battalion, locking arms to come both humbly and boldly into God’s presence, realizing that every word that enthrones Jesus dethrones the enemy. When it sings, it is not to impress, but to inspire. Its audience is not the congregation, but together with the congregation, their joint audience is God Himself. Its members may sing music that is traditional or contemporary, black or white (or somewhere in between). They may be young, old, or both. They may wear robes, suits, or jeans. They may offer musicals, cantatas, oratorios, or worship concerts. They understand their calling, and they are passionate about fulfilling it. They may be described as “ushers,” for their task is to usher people into an encounter with God.

More on the Worship Leading Choir another time….

What and Why Should We Worship?

Romans 1:23-25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen” (NIV).

The Romans passage above tells us in context that ungodly people do not worship the Creator, but rather the creation. Why is it wrong to worship the creation instead of God? It is because God is greater than his creation. The creation has no power greater than God’s power. Psalm 115:3 says “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” John 9 compares God and his creation to a potter and his pot, saying that the potter can do whatever he wishes with his creation making one a vessel of honor and another a vessel for common use. God as creator can do whatever he wishes with his creation and he can require whatever he wishes from us. He can also give to us whatever he wishes.

Not only is God greater than his creation, he is also separate from creation while still intimately involved with it. John Frame, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, borrows a concept from one of his former professors – I believe it was Dr. Van Til – to describe the relation between God and his creation. He draws a small circle on the black (or white) board to signify the creation, then draws another much larger circle nearby, but not intersecting with the first circle, to signify the Creator God. This diagram illustrates the concept that God and his creation are separate. It is not like some concepts of God or “god” as part of the creation. Some philosophies view God and creation as parts of a whole, i.e., God is creation, creation is God.

Rather, the Bible teaches that God is separate from his creation while remaining intimately involved with it as he chooses. It is somewhat like a dog and its human owner. The dog and the owner are separate beings, yet can be intimately involved with one another to the degree that the owner desires. The (wise) dog recognizes that the owner is the source of its physical (eg., food, water, medical care) and even emotional needs (eg., love, attention). The (loving) owner is aware of the dog’s needs and takes care of them and receives a measure of joy in playing with,talking with, and simply being with the dog. However, the two are separate beings and one is dependent on the other. The human is greater in that he is the provider. In this illustration, the human is not the creator of the dog, but is simply the provider for the dog. Certainly, some dogs “provide” for themselves by scavenging the neighborhoods or the like. Yet they rarely have a good relationship with people when they do so until a person chooses to adopt the dog and begins to provide for it in some fashion.

God is both creator and provider. The example of the potter and the pot illustrates the concept of creator and creation, but does not include the idea of “relationship” since one can hardly communicate with an inanimate pot in a meaningful way (except in the unusual manner in which Tom Hanks’ character related to a volleyball in the movie Castaway). Illustrating the relation of the Creator to his creation certainly requires multiple views to encompass all its aspects. Few illustrations are complete in themselves.

In summary, because the Creator is greater than his creation, he is the most worthy object of our worship. But not only is he greater in being and power, but also in character (e.g., love, patience, justice, etc.). More on this later. Therefore, we,  as part of his creation, owe him allegiance, loyalty, thanksgiving, even worship, for being our Creator and Provider as Psalm 19 and Romans 1 affirm, even before we take into account the fall of man and redemption through Jesus Christ.

One might object to the term “owe” above. But don’t we “owe” something to one who provides something for us? Certainly, we can choose, like the “wild” dog illustrated above, scavenge about while neglecting to give proper thanks to the true source of our sustenance, but that would be at best, ungrateful.

One might also object to the use of the phrase “object of worship” since it connotes a sense of the inanimate that is not intended. (I am thinking here, of “object” in the sense of the “object” of a sentence.) God is a spiritual living being who condescends to relate to his creation in ways we can understand somewhat like the owner and dog illustration above. He lovingly created us, provides for us and even communicates with us and provides the means for us to communicate with him. (In a later blog, I intend to write about the relation between worship and communication found in 1 Cor 12 and 14). Finally, God, not creation is worthy of our worship.

A Worship Primer

By Daniel L. Sonnenberg

This paper is adapted from an outline for a class I taught on worship for our local church. The purpose was to set forth a basic theology of worship that could be covered in one extended sitting of two or three hours. I intended to answer some basic questions from Scripture on the nature of worship: what it is, why we engage in it, and what results when we do.

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