Q Why doesn’t Synod (or classis or ministers) do something about Sunday-night worship services? Also, why don’t our churches celebrate the New Year?
A Forty years ago when I was in seminary one of my classmates said, “The people in my community will come back for the evening service even if the devil’s in the pulpit.” Those days are gone. Many Christians no longer attend the evening service no matter who’s in the pulpit.
Synod last addressed the Sunday-evening service in 1995. Though some established churches no longer held a Sunday-evening service and some church plants had a mid-week service instead of a Sunday-evening service, Synod resisted any change to our historic custom of offering two preaching services each Sunday. Only because of the persistent effort of the advisory committee, which came back to the floor again after its initial recommendation was defeated, did Synod give permission for churches to have something other than a preaching service on Sunday evening. Article 51a now says that “congregations shall assemble for worship, ordinarily [emphasis mine] twice on the Lord’s Day.” The supplement to Article 51a guides councils that “are exploring alternatives to the second service.”
Unfortunately, in a number of places our Church Order codifies customs that served us well in the past but do not serve us well today. Synod, classes, and ministers are simply incapable of ensuring that members will attend a Sunday-evening service. In my opinion, Synod should drop its requirement “that the congregation shall assemble for worship, ordinarily twice on the Lord’s Day” and allow councils to do on Sunday evening what is best suited to their particular area: a traditional evening service, a combined evening service of nearby congregations, a service or visitation project, or no gathering at all but an acknowledgement that Christians may use Sunday evening as they see fit.
As to your second question, Article 51b of the Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church calls councils to hold worship services “ordinarily on Old and New Year’s Day,” but many church members and pastors don’t wish to have nine services in two weeks—six Sunday services and one each for Christmas, Old Year’s, and New Year’s.
—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church.
Q When we got married, my husband did not want children, and we can’t afford a child at this time, so we both use a form of birth control. I worry that taking hormones is trying to improve on God’s design. Is this wrong? Can it be considered similar to abortion? Should a married couple not be intimate until God lets us know it’s time to conceive?
A I would like to begin by focusing with you on the underlying issue of guilt, which your questions suggest you might be feeling. Letting go of guilt, and knowing God gives you and your husband the right as well as the responsibility to live a loving and joyful life, with or without children, is part of the heritage you received when you accepted Jesus as Lord. Guilt is a useful emotion only if you have purposely hurt someone or you need to help right a wrong against your neighbor.
The challenges of life facing each couple are influenced by many realities unique to them. There are no specific rules that dictate when, or whether, a couple should begin a family. It is not wrong to exercise your God-given responsibility to decide. And preventing conception is not the same as abortion, even with the use of hormones. Nor does God demand that you abstain sexually.
I am wondering if some of what prompted your questions might be related to your own ambivalence about having a child. If your worry relates to your own desire to conceive, it is time to have some frank discussions together about this. Try to dismiss any guilt or judgment, and talk about your hopes and fears with respect to raising a child. Remember that a low level of income does not by definition preclude having a stable and loving family life.
Whatever the outcome of your discussions, please know that God’s invitation to you does not change—God asks that you seek his kingdom of love, joy, and peace, with or without children. He invites you to dwell within his embrace, knowing yourselves to be his children.
—Judy CookJudy Cook is a family therapist living in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a member of Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster.
Q I appreciate people who work on environmental issues, but I don’t feel that is my calling. Is this wrong?
A There are many parts of the body of Christ, and creation care is definitely one of those areas that interest some people more than others. But I could argue that if you ate and drank something today, the environment must concern you because we are all connected to this earth and it is in our best interest to keep it, and therefore ourselves, healthy.
Some people may take a leadership and educational role in environmental concerns, but everyone has a role to play with their lifestyle choices.
There is, of course, another reason for caring for the environment outside of self preservation. Much environmental degradation is the result of human greed, covetousness, carelessness, and self-interest. And God has a lot to say in his Word about these issues. God loves what he has created, and we are to do the same.
—Cindy VerbeekCindy Verbeek is the church and community group liaison for A Rocha Canada—Christians in Conservation and a member of Houston Christian Reformed Church, British Columbia. For more ideas contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.