Maintaining the Spiritual Glow
J. A. McMILLAN: President, South England Conference
This is an appeal on behalf of our long- suffering people. It happens from time to time that the pulpit on Sabbath mornings is occupied by a preacher who has just returned from an extensive trip around the world. Instead of the hour being devoted to worship and spiritual uplift, the members are treated to a travelog. This would not be so tiresome if it were exceptional, but in some of our headquarters churches it is likely to become habitual.
It is a pity that some who indulge in these Sabbath morning travelogs cannot hear the comments made by disheartened members. Here is a typical example: "I could travel the world too if the denomination paid my expenses." On another occasion, when many members had come in from a considerable distance to enjoy a spiritual feast and had been subjected to a running and flying commentary on a worldwide tour, some bright young men went around afterward saying, "Now, let me see, when did I meet you last? Was it in Moscow or Karachi? No? Well, perhaps we met in Bolivia!"
A notable exception to the above was a recent visit made by E. D. Dick to the Stanborough Park church at Watford. Elder Dick gave a brief and sobering review of the impressions made on his heart by the appalling needs of India; then, with this somber background as a setting, he preached a gospel address that will long be remembered.
To all brethren in the ministry I would appeal that we preserve the function of the Sab bath morning pulpit for the purpose of preaching the Word. If we do not have a message for the people, let us have the strength of character to decline the invitation to "occupy the hour." This, of course, is no stricture on the legitimate reporting of a missionary tour. For this we have apostolic precedent. (Acts 14:27.)
It seems to me that to publicize overmuch the places we visit and the expense we incur is to bring about the following consequences:
1. We prostitute the pulpit, which should be used for the ministry of the Word. Maybe here is one cause of apostasies that we have the power to cure. As Milton once said, "The hungry sheep looked up and were not fed."
2. We dry up the generous gifts and Ingathering zeal of our people. They think, "Why should I give up my hard-earned means merely to finance some globe-trotting adventure?"
We should ever be conscious of the fact that our people are facing stern tests and conditions. Our casualty lists remind us of the high mortality risks run by our members on the spiritual battlefield. How necessary it is for us to re member, as Sister White points out, that in our congregation may be some who will never hear another sermon. What a tragedy if that last link with heavenly things should be a flippant recital of places and countries visited at denomina tional expense! Our members have to endure much. Let us not inflict needless punishment upon them on the Sabbath day. Let us feed the flock with winnowed wheat, nourishing their faith, strengthening their desires to serve the cause of Christ. "Have your spirits aglow." Rom. 12:11, Weymouth.
Let our prayer as we mount the rostrum ever be, "Uphold Thy servant, that he may uplift Thy Son."
Music in the Communion Service
[EDITORIAL NOTE. In the July, 1951, MINISTRY we discussed the music of the communion service. This article has received favorable comment. Its suggestions have appealed to our workers generally; but suggestions of this nature do not immediately become a regulation in our midst, nor are we as a denomination inclined to adopt what may have impressed some. Questions of such importance are carefully and unitedly studied by an appointed committee before official action is taken. Though we are always desirous of improving our methods, as well as the order of the service, we are not innovators, ever ready to make some novel changes; we rather lean toward traditionalism and conservatism. Our brother here raises some very important questions on this topic of "Music in the Communion Service." We greatly appreciate the clarity of his expression in these paragraphs quoted from his letter to the Ministerial Association. We now solicit your ideas, and would enjoy hearing from you personally on this or any other topic you would care to discuss. The Forum column should be voicing the true thinking of our workers. B. G.]
DEAR BROTHER ANDERSON,
I read with much interest the article on "Music in the Communion Service" in the July number of THE MINISTRY.
Though I believe we should make the communion service as beautiful and impressive as possible and use music to this end, yet the music should be entirely subordinate to the purpose of the service. In the program suggested in this article it seems to me that the music part is much overdone. The communion service is basically solemn; I am using the word "solemn" not in the sense of mournful but in the sense of deep spiritual contemplation fitting for a commemoration service, which is to bring vividly before our minds our Saviour's infinite sacrifice. Anything that detracts from this central purpose, as much hymn singing does, is to be deprecated. When one thinks of the simplicity and informality of the pat tern service with its one hymn at its close, and compares it with the eight-hymn service advocated here, one feels that our brother's enthusiasm for hymn singing in divine services has overstepped the bounds of fitness. Many hymns beautifully rendered, as they should be in all our worship of God, captivate the senses and overshadow the real purpose of the service. The people go away saying what a beautiful service, but the service has been beautiful not because they have seen the Chiefest among ten thou sand, the altogether lovely One, but because the singing was so beautiful. In other words, the impression left in the mind of the worshiper was the beauty of the service, not the beauty of Christ's love as revealed in His humiliation and sacrifice.
Surely four hymns as the very limit are all that are needed in such a service, with complete quietness for meditation and prayer after distribution of the bread and the wine.
As I see it, simplicity should be our watch word in all our worship. Devices to engender a spirit of worship in our congregations are, of course, good if kept at the very minimum. True worship is in spirit, not in the senses, therefore, every aid to the true spirit of worship should appeal primarily to the heart, and to this end a well-read scripture, a vital prayer, and a reverent congregation contribute most. This is not to deprecate music as an aid to worship, but let us remember that its appeal to the senses often overshadows its appeal to the heart, from whence all true worship must spring.
Yours very sincerely,
(Signed) R. BOLTON,
District Leader, Norwich, England.