A New Song

God put a new song in my mouth. Psalm 40:3
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. Psalm 96
Praise God with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with clanging cymbals. Psalm 150

Dear Friends at National,
How wonderful to welcome many of you back in person to worship this past Sunday – our last “Covid and Summer Schedule Sunday.”  This coming Sunday, September 12, we begin the Fall schedule – with two services and Sunday School for all ages in between.

  • 8:45 – 9:45: Contemporary Worship (with 20-minute program for children during the sermon)
  • 9:55-10:45: Sunday School for all ages
  • 11:00–12:00: Traditional Worship (with 20-minute program for children during the sermon)

Let me say a word about the new dedicated time for Sunday School. This new schedule with a focus on dedicated time for Sunday School for children and adults has been part of a Session discussion from almost the moment of my arrival at NPC ten years ago, and it became a long-term objective in the 2014 Strategic Plan. We realize that for many families, attending both worship and Sunday School in addition to travel time to Nebraska is a significant commitment (thank you!). However . . . as our society has become more secular, we also realize that the underpinnings of Christian faith in society (that previously were hardly noticed, but day-by-day reinforced the Sunday messages) have all but disappeared. As society has changed, maybe it’s time for “a new song”: maybe devoting more time to grow in faith, for ourselves and our children, is more important than ever? In a busy world, especially with children, this may not be easy, but I know it will be a commitment that God will bless.

Let me say a word about the new time, location, and style of “Contemporary Worship.” In creating the new fall schedule, Session was aware of a probable drop of in-person attendance following Covid – making it likely that three morning services were no longer sustainable. Session was aware, as well, of another objective in the 2014 Strategic Plan yet to be fulfilled. Let me quote from the plan:

Commit to and invest in contemporary worship, while continuing to invest in our traditional worship. Our commitment to traditional worship will not be diminished. However, contemporary worship must no longer be seen as an innovation or a passing trend. It is an opportunity for us to encounter God, minister to the worship preferences of a diverse congregation, and draw in others. Investment in the contemporary service will be an important growth platform for the ministry of our church.

So this spring, the decision was made to adjust the schedule this fall, cut back to two services, and retain the variety of both “flavors” of worship.

Contemporary worship means different things to different people. If you have never attended a contemporary service at NPC, then here’s the comparison:

  • Our liturgical format is almost identical at both services.
  • Instrumentation will be different. The lead instrument is the piano, played by Joanna Zorack-Greene, who also arranges the music for various other instruments, including (from time to time) flute, violin, guitar and drums (as in Psalm 150!).
  • Choice of hymns and songs will be different. At the new service, we’ll take Psalms 40 and 96 literally and focus on more recent Christian songs. From time to time, though, we’ll return to older hymns which sometimes can sound remarkably contemporary even with the same melody played with different instrumentation and rhythm.

I know that for some, the new schedule is what you have been waiting for, for a long time. For others, the new schedule may feel disruptive – but my prayer is that if something is lost in the change, then God will prove something else that is gained. I know that some of us strongly love one style of worship rather than the other, and that’s normal: the opportunities to share in the worship style we love are still there! I also know that many of you, like me, enjoy all kinds of worship music at different times and seasons. . . Never been to “the other”? You can try out BOTH ONLINE!

No matter what the times or seasons or changes, may the Lord always keep us singing a new song.

So glad to be your pastor,