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Kevin Soodsma on Worshiping with the Christian Year

Kevin Soodsma describes why he recommends worshiping with the Christian Year.

Kevin Soodsma is director of worship arts and music at Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this edited email conversation from July 2013, he describes why he recommends worshiping with the Christian Year.

Where did you learn about the cycle of the Christian Year, also called the liturgical calendar?

I learned about the Christian Year in a church music class at Dordt College. My home church only observed the Advent/Christmas and Holy Week seasons of the liturgical year. Not until Calvin Seminary, where I took the "Doctrine of Christ" class with Howard Vanderwell, did I learn the meaning of each season. So I guess it was a two-fold education.

What made you interested in using the liturgical calendar to plan worship?

I immediately resonated with the idea that the Christian Year is a journey of Christ’s life on earth. It helps us celebrate Christ’s ministry, and journey with Christ throughout the year. It seemed fitting and appropriate to have “seasons” that would highlight portions of Christ’s life. Also, it helps worship planners select music, art and other liturgical worship elements, because it makes clear what should or should not be included in worship.

What first steps have you taken to introduce Beckwith Hills CRC to the Christian Year?

Beckwith Hills CRC was already observing the liturgical year in many ways. I was able to go further and deeper by teaching various “lesser” times during Ordinary Time, such as World Communion Sunday. Also, we now celebrate Christmas(tide) and Easter(tide) as seasons, not as single or holiday festivals.

What faith formation benefits have you experienced from using the liturgical calendar to plan worship?

Youth and young adults who have been brought up through Children and Worship programs have appreciated the continuity in worship. It has also become special for our congregation to celebrate liturgical holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Maundy Thursday on the actual day, even when it falls mid-week. Strengthening those mid-week special services gives us opportunity to build up our Sunday worship, as preparation for the mid-week services. 

Do you notice any other benefits?

I also believe the liturgical year helps our congregation stay focused on a particular season. We do this by planning sermon series on a particular set of scripture passages related to the liturgical season. Focusing on a liturgical theme helps us in our worship planning. We know to choose only elements that fit the season and selected scripture passages.

Download Howard Vanderwell’s “Worshiping with the Christian Year: A Primer.” Connect with Kevin Soodsma on the CRCNA Network worship blog.