The Community with a Story of Faithfulness - Celebrating a Congregational Anniversary - Psalm 78

A sample church anniversary service based on Psalm 78. The service includes a rehearsal of the story, a recollection and reminder of God's guidance, expressions of thanks and praise, and a commitment to continue faithfully into the future.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

From time to time congregations mark their anniversary. These can be times of celebration in the life of the congregation. Each congregation has its own story, and that story needs to be told to the next generation. Anniversaries are ideal times to do so. The story of each congregation is built around both the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of the generations that preceded us. Therefore, the focus of an anniversary service should include a rehearsal of the story, a recollection and reminder of God's guidance, expressions of thanks and praise, and a commitment to continue faithfully into the future.

The service included here is adapted from the fiftieth anniversary service of the Hillcrest Christian Reformed Church of Hudsonville, MI, held on May 21, 2006. You will find other suggestions for planning your anniversary in "Take Time to Celebrate," an article in Reformed Worship 26 by Cynthia de Jong about the 75th anniversary of the Neland Ave. CRC in Grand Rapids, MI.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Built on the Rock" [see music notes]
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"

The Call to Worship [see liturgy notes]

*Song: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" PH 482:1-3, PsH 253:1-4, RL 145:1, 3-4, RN 57:1-4, TH 53:1-3, TWC 77:1-4, UMH 139:1-3[see music notes]

*God's Greeting:
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

*Professing God's Faithfulness: [see liturgy notes]
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all the generations. (Psalm 90:1)
You, O Lord, have been a dwelling place for us and our children.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)
You, O Lord, have been with us for these fifty years!
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
You, O Lord, have been our refuge and our strength!
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7, 11)
You, O Lord, are the eternal One and we have trusted you.
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22, 23)
You, O Lord, have been our faithful One!
Jesus said, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)
You, O Lord, have built your church in this place and we have been blessed.

*Song: "How Firm a Foundation" PH 361, PsH 500, RL 172, TH 94, TWC 612, UMH 529 [see music notes]


WE ARE RENEWED IN GOD'S GRACE

Time of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon

*Song of Response: "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound" PH 280:1-2, 4, PsH 462:1-3, RL 456:1-2, 4, RN 189:1-3, SFL 209:1-3, TH 460: 1-2, 4, TWC 502:1-3, UMH 378:1-2, 4

God's Will for Grateful Living


WE BRING OUR PRAISES, PRAYERS AND GIFTS

A Time of Reflection on God's Blessings [see liturgy notes]

Anthem: "O How Amiable," Vaughan Williams [see music notes]

A Litany of Thanks:
O Lord our God, for the vision of those who planned for this congregation,
and for the commitment and dedication of all who served together at the time of origin,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who have served so faithfully in leadership positions
as Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and Staff Members,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who have willingly given of their efforts to teach, encourage, counsel and sponsor,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For those who have been such a part of our fellowship for so many years,
and now serve you in the church triumphant in heaven,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For the ways in which we have been able to care for one another,
support one another on the journey of life, and give strength to one another,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For baptisms we've celebrated, professions of faith we have heard,
and answers to prayer that we have experienced,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For a congregation that has always desired to worship you faithfully and vibrantly,
hearing your Word, singing your praise, and seeking your strength,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For a commitment to remain true to your Word in a world of confusing and conflicting voices,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For generosity that has enabled us to reach far beyond this community
with the word and witness of the Gospel,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
For hundreds of children and youth who have been here
as they were trained in the ways of the Lord and now serve him around the world,
We give you thanks, O Lord.
And for a free and prospered land that has given us opportunity
to thrive and worship and serve for the sake of your Kingdom,
We give you thanks, O Lord.

*Song: "Now Thank We All Our God" PH 555:1-3, PsH 454:1-3, RL 61:1-3, SFL 33:1-3, SNC 228:1-3, TH 98:1-3, TWC 374:1-3, UMH 102:1-3 [see music notes]

The Anniversary Prayer

The Offertory:
The Offering of Music: "Now Thank We All Our God" [see music notes]
The Offering of our Gifts

*Song: "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" PH 220, RL 120, SFL 10, TH 1, TWC 317, UMH 75


GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:6-11 and Psalm 78:1-8
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Community with a Story of Faithfulness

Prayer of Application [see liturgy notes]
Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised.
Praise be to you, O Lord, for you have given us rest.
Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.
Praise be to you, O Lord, for your faithfulness.
May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave or forsake us.
May you, O Lord our God, be with us always.
May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways
and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our ancestors.
May you, O Lord our God, turn our hearts to you.
And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord,
be near to the Lord our God day and night,
that he may uphold the cause of his servant
and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need,
May you, O Lord our God, always uphold our cause.
So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.
You, O Lord, are God and there is no other! Amen! (from the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:56-60)


WE GO OUT TO SERVE

*Song: "Holy God, We Praise Your Name" PH 460:1-4, PsH 504:1-4, RL 619:1-4, TH 103:1-4, TWC 3:1-4, UMH 79:1-4

*Our Closing Intercessions:
And now, O Lord, we pray for the children and youth here today
that they may be grounded in your truth and learn to love you with a whole heart,
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And we pray for the children yet to be born who will sit in these pews in the years to come
that they may carry your kingdom to future generations,
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And we pray for the mothers and fathers here
that they may faithfully tell each new generation of your mercies and your salvation,
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And we pray for leaders, pastors, and staff members
that their leadership may always be true to your Word and faithful to your calling,
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And we desire, Lord, that you will use us to reach to many within our community
and throughout our world that in their need
they may know your love and in their sin may find your grace,
O Lord, hear our prayer.
To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen! (Romans 16:27)

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" [see music notes]

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

Anniversaries are good times for remembering. Sit back and muse about the people who were present when your congregation was organized. What were they like? What motivated them? Do you think they could have anticipated all the changes that have taken place in the community, the congregation, or society? Whatever you can add as anecdotes from members of the congregation will be very helpful to give those gathered a picture of the original congregation.

Psalm 78 gives us a glimpse of a community with people, a history, experiences of joy and pain that all work together to make them who they are. This community also has a story of faithfulness. The faithfulness of human beings is part of it, but even more we find the faithfulness of God is key. God's covenant faithfulness is displayed in the history of each Christian congregation, yet too often it is unrecognized.

Asaph, a liturgist in the Temple, wrote this Psalm as a "maskil," which means that it is intended to serve the purpose of instruction in godly living. Through this "maskil," Asaph points to five marks of a faithful community:

  • It has a clear identity given by God. He calls them "my people" (v.1). Their covenant relationship with him is more important than any factors of race, nationality or economic standing.
  • It is a community with the experience of grace. God does not remain distant but breaks into our lives as the supreme giver and performs glorious deeds and great wonders. (v.4)
  • It is an inclusive community. That is, all generations, the old and the young, are present and so in v.4-6 you are able to listen in on conversations and instructions that move from one generation to the next.
  • It is a community of careful teachers. Asaph expresses strong pleas as teacher that they will listen to him; but he also pleads that they be teachers who perpetuate the story of the community to others through its oral tradition (v.3-4).
  • It is a community with a fear of failure. In verse 8 their awareness of the failure of previous generations becomes clear. The remainder of the Psalm (note the pain of verses 11, 17, 32, 36 and 56, for example) rehearses their ancestors' failures. Asaph probably wrote these words after the years of David and Solomon (the glory days in the kingdom) while witnessing great faithlessness and idolatry. This generation was keenly aware of dangers that must not be repeated.

Remembering a congregation's history and examining it in light of these five marks could be helpful, but it is insufficient to merely look back. An anniversary is a time to look forward and make renewed commitments for the new circumstances of the future. Regardless of how many changes are in store, the five characteristics this Psalm cites are timeless. The circumstances may change, yet the nature and task of the Christian community remains the same. We mark an anniversary through remembering God's faithfulness, understanding our identity before God, and rededicating ourselves to his continuing work.

Music Notes
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude can be found in the following resources:

KIRKEN ["Built on the Rock"]

Organ:
Childs, Edwin T. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7564-9
[2003] (M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-757 [1994] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 10. Peters 6410 [1966] (M)

Handbells:
Helman, Michael. Built on a Rock. Alfred 19006 [2000] (3-5 octaves, level 3)

LOBE DEN HERREN ["Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"]

Organ:
Bach, J. S. Six Organ Chorals. (Schubler, ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1952] (M-D)
Behnke, John. A . Five Preludes of Praise, set 4. Concordia 97-7039 [2003] (E-M)
Bender, Jan. Festival Preludes on Six Chorales. Concordia 97-4608 [1963] (M-D)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 2. AMSI OR-3 [1981] (M)
Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Four Hymns of Rejoicing. Morningstar MSM-10-518 [1998] (E-M)
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style. H. W. Grey. GB632 [1974] (E)
Honore, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (could include solo
instrument; E)
Kerr, J. Wayne. Prelude and Toccata on Praise to the Lord Almighty. Flammer HH504 [1986]
(E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] adaptable for piano, (E)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 2. Concordia 97-4656 [1964] (M)
Rotermund, Melvin. Five Preludes. Augsburg 11-6040 [1990] (E-M)
Shaw, Martin. Processional. Cramer APS 487 [1940] (M)
Shoemaker-Lohmeyer, Lisa. Partita on Lobe den Herren. Concordia 97-6144 [1992] (M-D)
Visser, Larry. Four Chorale Preludes on Lobe den Herren. Wayne Leupold ed. WL600064
[1996] (M-D)
Webber, Walter. Trumpet Tune. Ashdown [1956] (M)

Piano:
Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M-D)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns.Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (M)

Handbells:
McChesney, Kevin. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. Agape 1499 [1991] (2-3 octaves, E-M)
Morris, Hart. Let the Amen Sound. Alfred 17544 [1998] (3-5 octaves, level 4)
Sanders, Patricia. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. NMP HB-235 [1985] (3 octaves, M)
Shaw, Martin/Wood, Dale. Grand Processional on Lobe Den Herren. SMP S-HB62 [1990] (3-6
octaves with organ, M)
Wagner, Douglas E. Festival Prelude on "Lobe den Herren." Agape 1438 [1990] (3-5 octaves,
M)

Alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in:

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

Alternative harmonizations for "How Firm a Foundation" can be found in:

FOUNDATION ["How Firm a Foundation"]

Choral Resource:
Rutter, John. How Firm A Foundation. Hinshaw HMC-667 [1983] (SATB with organ; hymn
based; E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Wellman, Samuel. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The anthem "O How Amiable" by Ralph Vaughan Williams is scored for SATB voices and organ and is based on Psalms 84 and 90. It is published by Oxford 42.056 [1940] (M)

Alternative harmonizations and offertory suggestions on "Now Thank We All Our God" can be found in the following resources:

NUN DANKET ["Now Thank We All Our God"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Organ:
Albrecht, Timothy. Grace Notes X. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7561-4 [2002] (E-M)
Bach, J. S. Now Thank We All Our God(arr. Fox) H. W. Grey. 868 [1959] (M)
Bach, J. S. A Collection of Thanksgiving Music. H. W. Grey. [1938] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-754 [1991] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-755 [1993] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. Hymns Settings for Organ. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7498-7 [2002]
(E-M)
Johnson, David N. Now Thank We All Our God. Augsburg 11-9330 [1982] (E-M)
Karg-Elert, Sigfrid. A Collection of Thanksgiving Music. H. W. Grey. [1938] (M)
Karg-Elert, Sigfrid. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (M)
Mendelssohn, Felix. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (E-M)
Tauscher, A. W. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (M)
Thompson, Randall. Chorale Prelude on Nun Danket alle Gott. Schirmer 4495 [1990] (M)
Wold, Wayne. Harmonies of Liberty. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7575-4 [2003] (E-M)

Piano:
Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)

Handbells:
Dobrinski, Cynthia. Now Thank We All Our God. Agape 2155 [2000] (3-5 octaves, level 3)
Wiltse, Carl. Now Thank We All Our God. Stained Glass [1984] (3 octaves, E-M)

Postlude suggestions are as follows:

GENEVAN 134/OLD HUNDREDTH ["Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow"]

Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Psalm Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-511 [1997] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. Psalm of Praise. Concordia 97-6790 [1999] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles. Two Festive Organ Pieces. Morningstar MSM-10-761 [1999] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 8. AMSI SP-105 [1991] (M)
Ferguson, John. Three Psalm Preludes. Augsburg 11-10823 [1997] (M)
Purcell, Henry. A Collection of Thanksgiving Music. H. W. Grey [1938] (M)
Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 1. Peters 6011 [1956] (E-M)

Piano:
Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified. Word 301 0047 312 [1990] (M)

Handbells:
Kerkorian, Greg. Old Hundredth. Lake State HB00066 [2000] (3 octaves, M)

Liturgy Notes

1. The Call to Worship at an anniversary service needs a spirit of warmth and hospitality and should also include gratitude and a warm welcome to visitors who have come to worship for the occasion. The words of the leader should stir up a sense of time and the passage of time.

2. This service includes several responsive readings in which the congregation participates. An anniversary is not something we observe as a spectator, but an event in which we participate. So hearing the voices of all is an integral part of anniversary worship.

3. Personal reflections at the time of an anniversary celebration can be very meaningful when offered by a respected lay person or a former pastor who has experienced much of the history of the church. It is necessary, of course, to remember that the reflections within a worship service will be of a different character than those at a banquet or some other social observance.

4. The prayer of application is adapted from the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8. Solomon's prayer was presented at the dedication of the Temple. It was a time in which they looked back at God's leading as well as looked ahead and sensed their deep need for his care and leading. Worshipers will be better able to participate in this prayer if the context is explained before praying.

5. The Closing Intercessions are intended to be done with a spirit of anticipation and commitment. As we look at the road ahead that God is mapping out for us, we lift our hearts in a prayer for his leading. We encourage the inclusion of lay members in this prayer. It could be very meaningful if several who are involved in various ministries of the congregation share the petitions together, with the congregation responding to each.

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