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Sing the Catechism: The Power of Music for Faith Formation

The notion of using music to teach Scripture may seem difficult to pastors and worship leaders, especially those who lead small congregations. However Boyne City, Michigan, pastor Elizabeth Broschart says that “God can use whatever musical potential you and your church already have,” according to an article written by Joan Huyser-Honig for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, which is committed to worship renewal in Christian worship communities. Broschart notes that “many publishers feature choral music” that focus on, or have sections for, Scripture-based music ministry in churches with small choirs. Also, the Calvin Institute has helped prepare resources for small churches that feature peer learning. Two of the publications linked in the article offer special help for planning worship and music in small churches.

In a related interview with singer-songwriter Jeremy Zeyl, who is the director of worship at Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church in London, Ontario, and one-third of the internationally acclaimed folk trio “Isobelle Gunn,” Huyser-Honig notes that the Heidelberg Catechism is central to the Reformed Tradition, but that the orthodox theology contained within its question-and-answer teaching format is appropriate for all Christian traditions; they form appropriate conversation starting points, as well as guidance for sermons based on key passages or themes in Scripture.

The Heidelberg Catechism is “vast,” according to Zeyl, who spent nine months writing folk and praise songs based on its teachings. The Catechism’s writers “connect the physical to the spiritual,” he said. “They articulate language in a beautiful and poetic way that has deepened my understanding and faith.” As a result of prayerfully reflecting on the Heidelberg Catechism, Zeyl has produced a growing collection of songs that teach classic Christian theology, many of which are suitable for congregational singing. “The catechism has a depth and richness that needs to be brought to Christians beyond the Reformed tradition,” Zeyl said. “It was written over 450 years ago to bridge gaps, not to divide people,” and the power of music is that “texts get learned in a different way through singing. Music has an intrinsic power for faith formation.” For more resources on effective worship, see our article, “Best Resources on Worship.” You might also appreciate our feature article, “Tradition puts Spotlight on Gift of Music,” which explores the ways that music can transform a worship experience.

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