Monday, 31 October 2016

Pastor Installation Services for Baptist Churches

The Pastor Installation Service is a worship service that formalizes a pastor's call in the sight of God and many witnesses. It is in some respects like a wedding service; a minister gives an exhortational charge to the the congregation and to the pastor, and then the two parties exchange mutual vows. Elements are added to the ceremony to solemnify the occasion; celebrative elements are included, too. The service may range from less to more formal, from simple to complex.

Practically speaking, the installation service serves as a launching point for the pastor's new ministry. It conveys to the congregation and to those in the shadow of its ministry that an era is closing, and a new era is beginning. This can be important for churches dealing with conflict from a previous pastorate. The celebrative atmosphere and the required cooperation necessary to put on an installation service should energize the church membership so that they feel good about gathering together for worship in the coming services.

Here are some ideas.

  • Much advance promotional work is needed. The whole church membership should receive special invitations. This especially includes wayward or absentee members. An invitation list should be developed and expanded as widely as possible. The church may well take out advertizing in the local newspaper and radio stations. In some communities, flyers might be handed out door-to-door.
  • Baptists participate in processions as an act of worship, but not often. An installation service may invite a processional, since there are usually visiting ministers in attendance. I like to include children and youth into these acts of worship, and so I usually invite a child to lead the processional, carrying an appropriate size cross to represent Christ at the head of the processional. I might even add a child to carry in the altar Bible. 
  • Because of their tendency to erode distinctions between clergy and laity, Baptists are not typically fond of vestments. The installation service, however, might be a time when clerical robes might serve to solemnify the occasion; women don't normally wear bridal gowns and veils, but do so for the one special occasion.
  • Installation services call for all kinds of special music, and the church may well invite special musicians. Music tending toward the classical is especially appropriate for the processional, if there is a processional.
  • The installation service is a good time to emphasize the community relationships of the church with its affiliated and neighboring civic organizations. Leaders of these organizations may well be invited to bring short (2 minute) greetings and well-wishes to the congregation on behalf of their organizations. These would include representatives from the local church association, the state convention, other denominational representatives, local colleges and universities, and city and state such as the mayor or congressperson. Invited guests who cannot come may send written greetings and well-wishes which might be read to the congregation.
  • The new pastor should include people who have a deep connection with him or her into various parts of the service. In particular, the guest speaker to preach the installation sermon should be a significant mentor. Likewise, someone near and dear to the new pastor should render the installation prayer, and a vocalist who is a long friend to the new pastor might sing a meaningful song.
  • Participation in the installation, then, is determined by practicality and intimacy. That is, there is a dignitary class of participants (representatives from affiliated organizations and from the civic arena) and a class of participants who participate simply because they are dearly loved by the new pastor.
  • The installation service normally culminates in the installation prayer, which is usually done in the context of laying on of hands. Laying on of hands is an ancient biblical custom in which church leaders surround the individual and pray over him or her, with hand on the individual's head or shoulder. The person delegated to render the installation prayer should be someone who can pray with fervor and knows what it means to cry mightily to God.
  • The installation service usually involves food and fellowship afterward. New pastors may also help people get to know them by setting up a display of personal memorabilia which showcase the pastor's life, ministry, and various projects and achievements. In some cases, the pastor may wish to give a short presentation on a much loved project.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Program Notes for Six Hymns

For special occasions (in my case, pastoral installation), it is appropriate for a worship leader to include program notes for the hymns to be sung in a given service. The well trained church musician should be able to say some thoughtful words about both the hymn tune and its text. The model followed here is somewhat akin to that found in the program notes of a classical concert, although other models might be followed (background information, testimonial, etc.).

Regents of Our Lord and Savior. The majestic hymn melody soars to heights, befitting the praise of the one who is the king of heaven. Stressed notes of equal proportion lead to climatic final declarations to conclude each verse. The tune is sometimes sung to other more familiar texts. The text REGENTS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR is the text selected for our service, and is especially meaningful to the Leonard’s since it is the alma mater of Regent College’s (Vancouver) where Pastor Jim received his Master’s.

Be Thou My Vision. The Celtic text is ancient (Rop tú mo Baile) and is attributed to the Irish monk Dallán Forgaill (c. 530-598). The tune is an Irish folk tune, not published until the early 20th century, but now interlocked with the English translation of the ancient Celtic text. This familiar hymn emphasizes Christ as the object of passionate affection and devotion, and as a guiding light that consumes all else. Pastor Jim claims this as his life hymn.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Full of allusions to biblical texts, this favorite hymn borrows the theme of God’s great promise of his enduring faithfulness and mercy from Jeremiah’s great lament over Jerusalem’s destruction. The repeated text “Great is Thy faithfulness” is a refrain that the members of First Baptist Church Grand Blanc may claim as their own, given the Lord’s goodness and provision through 184 years of ministry, whether through seasons of celebration or seasons of difficulty and lament. The hymn promises God’s continued faithfulness in the coming years of ministry.

When He Shall Come. Full of chordal sequences that convey mystery and ecstasy, the hymn text itself touches several scenes in the book of Revelation, including the parade of “blood-washed overcomers” who welcome the Lord’s return and who will “walk with him in white.” The Revelator writes, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear...” (Rev 19:6-8). The climactic phrase in the third line is breathtaking both musically and textually: “O may I know the joy at his appearing...” Although the hymn gained popularity in the mid-20th century, newer hymnals are not retaining it, and it is likely to be soon forgotten, to the great loss of future congregations. The hymn is sung today in honor of those who founded First Baptist Church Grand Blanc nearly 200 years ago, and to those who have sustained its ministry ever since. We long for that day when we shall join those overcomers and walk with the Lord in white.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. The hymn and hymn tune both derive from Wales and have been closely associated with the Welsh revivals of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The tune itself was composed during a Baptist worship service. The lyricist composed many hymn texts and was known as the “(Isaac) Watts of Wales.” The text is heavily laden with biblical allusions and is well informed by a sound biblical theology. The Christian life has as its model Israel’s pilgrimage out of Egypt to the Promised Land, with a strong emphasis on God’s leadership and provision. Specific to our situation, First Baptist Church may sing this hymn confident of God’s divine guidance into this new era of ministry.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus. Given its demanding bass melody and four-part harmonization, this famous hymn may not be regularly sung on any given Sunday. Nonetheless, its robust musical lines, paired with memorable text, and celebrative feel make it a most favored hymn for special occasions, especially with a full house of singing congregants. The chorus begins with the male voices making general pronouncements about the grace of God, with the women echoing in like manner. The rolling and cascading melody climaxes with a powerful doxological cadence: O magnify the precious name of Jesus. Praise his name!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Hymn of Invitation--Worship Appropriate for Those who Profess to Worship Christ

The Hymn of Invitation typical follows a sermon in Baptist churches. Because of their commitment to a “believers’ church,” Baptists emphasize personal conversion and public profession of faith. They preach persuasively to this end, and have an expectation that their hearers will respond accordingly. During the invitation, Baptists are committed to praying fervently, asking God’s Spirit to speak to non-believers or wayward members, and that anyone under such conviction would come forward for public profession of faith or for prayer.

The hymn of invitation is designed to facilitate all of this. Baptist worship leaders will take care to choose hymns that might feature an invitational aspect (Billy Graham’s go-to hymn of invitation was “JUST AS I AM,” but there are many others, such as JESUS CALLS US). Worship leaders, however, may well opt to choose a hymn that underscores an aspect of the message of the sermon.

In any case, the hymn tune should normally reflect the somber significance of this portion of worship. All God’s people sing the hymn of invitation with great sobriety, while fervently praying for unbelievers in their midst, or for their wayward brothers and sisters in the congregation, all the while as sinners struggle under the Spirit’s convicting power. The hymn of invitation need not (and should not) be laden with manipulative affects, nor should exhibit a sense of excessive celebration.