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A RELEVANT LITURGY? 

What happens when the church listens to the young people and revises its liturgy to suit their desires? Dr. N. Wolterstorff suggested in an article in the Reformed Journal that if we wanted to keep the young people in the church we had better listen to them when they criticize the liturgical practices of the church. If they offer suggestions for improvement we ought to adapt the liturgical form of the worship services to these suggestions. They have something worthwhile to say. They know how to make the liturgy relevant to our times. 

Dr. Wolterstorff practices what he preaches. He helped put the suggestions of the young people to whom he listened into practice. The result was a “Young Adults Worship Service” held at the LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church on Sunday, November 24. A description of this service was given in the “Newsletter” of the Association of Christian Reformed Laymen from which we quote.

At 5:00 P.M. on Sunday, November 24, 1968, a disgraceful event took place at the LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. Although billed as a “Young Adults Worship Service” it was anything but worship. A curious crowd, including dungaree-clad hippie types and mini-skirted females assembled in the church lounge. Here a young man in charge gave directions for marching silently downstairs to the Fellowship Hall following lighted candles, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. 

Upon entering the dimly lit Fellowship Hall two Calvin Students were twanging a noisy prelude on their guitars. After the reading of a brief preface, the “Electric Prunes” rendered a noisy selection via a recording. This was followed by a short period of silence.

Next a young man recited some lines which constituted “God’s Welcome.” He concluded his remarks by saying, “God says welcome to this handle for this event—it defies a more intelligent label. 

Following this, a young woman led the group in a “dialogue response” recitation of the Nicene Creed; i.e., she read a portion, which was then repeated by the audience. The two-man rock-and-roll group then came forward to provide noisy accompaniment for the singing of “Clap Your Hands.” And clap their hands they did. 

The printed program listed the scripture reading as “God’s Word to Worshippers,” as opposed to the minister’s talk which was listed as “God’s Word for Worshippers.” (Emphasis not ours.) We simply call this to your attention, and do not profess to know the fine distinctions apparently intended here. 

The scripture passage, read by a young woman, was taken from

Isaiah 1:10-20

(please read this). This was a shallow mockery, as it was obviously intended as scriptural justification for this “happening.” It is just another glaring example of the theologizing of many of our leaders, whereby they decide what they want to teach or do, and then try to bless that idea or action with a scripture portion. This is also known as using scripture “supportively.” 

The prayer, prayed in unison, is here reprinted in full. 

“We are hypocrites when it comes to worship services, O God. We just move our lips, and make the right motions at the right time, and attentively appear to listen to sermons. But we aren’t in it. We are thinking about our blue-books, our clothes, our problems, our dates . . . We put on a good front, but are not really as holy and reverent as we pretend to be. Forgive us. Do not judge us. “We are disgusted when it comes to worship services, O God. 

“We are disgusted about: 

“Hymns we don’t know or don’t care about. 

“People we don’t like or don’t know. 

“Pews that are not comfortable or conducive to worship. 

“All kinds of chattering before the service, and all kinds of gossiping after the service.

“Sermons that often leave us cold, and music that makes us hot under the collar. 

“We do not like this situation, O God; we’d like to see a change. We want to worship You, and we don’t know how, or we are hung up over what we don’t like. 

“Tell us, Lord, give us some hints, some clues, some advice about what we should do, what we should be, and what we should change, so that when we worship, we really worship and do not just fool around. 

“We know You have answered the needs of many with your Son, Jesus. Answer our need now, with Him. 

“We pray to you because we love Him. Amen.” 

Rev. Wayne Gritter, the Assistant Pastor at LaGrave Avenue gave a very brief talk. It was a complete perversion of Scripture and the gospel. 

His “Text” was taken from

John 4

(The context being the Samaritan Woman at the well), especially vs. 24: “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” He said it was difficult to define worship because you can’t stop it long enough to analyze it, and if you stopped it you could no longer analyze it. Not being able to define worship, Rev. Gritter gave examples of worship. He said, “If a boy or girl says ‘I love you’ and the other responds with love—that’s worship.” 

He emphasized that Jesus told the Samaritan woman that “. . . Ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father”, and concluded that there is “not a place for worship.” Next he emphasized that there is “not a set time for worship.” Then he said, “There are no special songs, no special liturgy, no special dress for worship.” All of which must have been sweet music to the ears of many of these young people, who will now feel justified in their manner of dress and actions, etc., having heard it blessed by a clergyman. . . . 

A recorded, ear-splitting, orchestral “Amen” ended his talk. The next song by the audience was entitled “Thank you,” again accompanied by the guitars and hand-clapping. . . . 

The young woman announcing “God’s farewell” concluded by saying, “God says it’s a pleasure to serve you. God says ‘come again.'” And that too is indicative of the thinking of today—God serving man, rather than man serving God. 

Now lest we assume that our Young People are to be blamed for all this, let it be known that they were directed or counseled by adults. Dr. Wolterstorff and Dr. Orlebeke of Calvin College staff were very much in evidence at this meeting. Undoubtedly they were carrying out the plans which they helped formulate for the “Toward Christian Nurture” blueprint published over two years ago, which calls for “developing a sensitivity in the choice of appropriate and worthy vehicles and acts of worship.”

And there was more. 

It is difficult to imagine how anyone who has any acquaintance with the Scriptures could possibly call this worship of God. The lofty Psalms of Israel’s poets point in precisely the opposite direction from this stuff. The soaring passages of Isaiah’s prophecies (“Who then is like unto me? and with whom shall I be equal? saith the Lord of hosts.”) speak an entirely different language. How could anyone who has read the overwhelming vision of Isaiah in chapter 6 come with words such as the above contains without choking? It is blasphemous. To make religion and liturgy relevant and appealing to a younger generation is to destroy it and to substitute a confused, tedious, and idolatrous innovation in the place of the true worship of Jehovah of Hosts. 

God will tell us how He must be served and worshipped. We had better listen to Him. If we do not, the results are catastrophic. The true worship of God centers in the preaching of the Word of the gospel. It is in this preaching that God speaks to His people and brings them, through the wonder and power of the preached Word, the knowledge of Himself, Whom to know is eternal life. 

BRIEF ITEMS OF INTEREST 

The Church of England has decided, according to theRES Newsletter to cease asking her clergy to pledge acceptance of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion. While this creed dates back to the time of the Reformation in England, clergymen had often refused to subscribe to it claiming that the confession is badly outdated. The confession itself was retained as a creed of the Church. But it no longer has binding force upon the clergy. The decision must still be submitted to Parliament to make the change law.


Somehow James Pike manages to stay in the news. He first attained some sort of national recognition by helping to author the “Blake-Pike Plan” of church union which developed into the present COCU talks. Later he was charged by his own Church with heresy. Although reprimanded, he remained in the Church. In 1966 he resigned his see in the Episcopal Church and became a fellow in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California. His boldest grab for headlines was made when he claimed to speak to his son who had committed suicide. This was done through the agency of a medium. A short time ago he married for the third time. Now he has announced, in a lengthy article in Lookmagazine, that he is leaving the instituted church altogether. This is probably the wisest thing he has done in his life with the Church.


The National Council of Churches (NCC) is becoming more ecumenical all the time. The latest efforts towards ecumenicity were made in the direction of including the Roman Catholic Church in this organization. A committee is at present studying the possibility after preliminary meetings between leaders of the NCC and the Romish Church. It is being suggested that perhaps the time has come for the NCC to be abandoned altogether to be superceded by a new organization which would include Roman Catholics. This would not be a great loss. In spite of claims to the contrary, the NCC has never even come close to representing the Church of Jesus Christ.