There are many solemn occasions in a minister's experience which require careful planning, so that the members may receive the blessings which God has in store for them. Baptism, the Lord's supper, and the marriage ceremony are sacred, solemn occasions. A church dedicatory service is also a sacred occasion, and if properly planned and carried out, will inspire greater respect for the house of God.
Those who plan the service for the dedication should never forget that it is not just another program, but that with this program the congregation will dedicate their house of worship to God, and He will acknowledge this gift and fill His house with His presence. God's dwelling place on earth is to be regarded as just as holy as God's dwelling place in heaven. There is no value in dedicating a house to the Lord if His presence is not respected.
On the day of dedication we expect the Lord to fill this house with His glory just as He did the tabernacle of Israel. The words which God spoke to Israel are still binding today : "Let them make Me a sanctuary ; that I may dwell among them." We build a church for God, but by the dedication we give it to God. Then God's people will meet with Him in His own house of worship, which is holy not only on Sabbath morning, but every hour of the day, and every day of the week. A church should not be dedicated until it is free from debt. The tabernacle of Israel and the temple were unencumbered when they were dedicated. These are proper examples for us to follow today.
The program should be carefully planned well in advance of the dedicatory service. Each person should be informed of his part on the program and of the order of the service. On the day of dedication (preferably a Sabbath morning), a printed program should be placed in the hands of everyone present to avoid the necessity of announcing each person's part. Ushers should assist in welcoming the people on this occasion. It is appropriate to have several ministers present, and if possible, representatives from the union conference and the General Conference. This will add to the solemnity of the occasion. The following is a suggestive program for a dedicatory service:
2. Congregation rises as ministers approach the platform, and stand with bowed heads while ministers pray and then rise for doxology, followed by a short prayer.
5. Congregational song.
7. Choir selection.
8. Church history and financial statement.
9. Special music. lo. Dedicatory sermon. Dedicatory prayers
10. Presentation of deed to conference by elder of church.
11. Closing song.
13. Choral blessing by choir.
The entire program should leave a lasting impression of the sacredness of God's presence in His temple. We read in the Spirit of prophecy: "To the humble, believing soul, the house of God on earth is the gate of heaven. The song of praise, the prayer, the words spoken by Christ's representatives, are God's appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship into which there can enter nothing that defileth."—"Testimonies." Vol. V, p. 491.