Leading Worship in the Shadow of Tragedy

After the bombing in Boston, a worship leader in Boston wrote on a FB group:

What suggestions do you have for leading congregations through these horrible events? I go to psalm 10, and Townend’s “how long?”, but after that I’m lost…

Here are suggestions, feel free to add your own in the comments section below.

1. ‘Leading worship in the shadow of tragedy’

2. ‘Worship in the wake of Aurora’ [mass shooting]

3. Brian Moss’s prayerbook of sung Psalms

4.  I once sang “This is My Father’s World” at a funeral - and just to be reminded that in the end he is in control and he is sovereign was very powerful.

5. I’m reminded of a conversation Piper had with a couple who visited his church after their child had just tragically died. He was preaching on Isaiah 6. Here’s what they said to him after his sermon (paraphrased):

"In the midst of this pain, we didn’t need five steps to overcoming grief; what we needed was a big view of God and that’s precisely what you gave us."

My encouragement to you is to provide just that… what we need is a big view of God. Perhaps lead them through just that (Isaiah 6:1-8), because as we grow in our awareness of God’s holiness and in the awareness of our own sinfulness, it puts a magnifying glass on the majesty and the wonder and the beauty of the saving work of Christ.

What we need is a big view of God, and where else but at the cross & empty tomb do we see the fullest splendor of all that He is?

6. Our church sings 10,000 reasons, faithful by tomlin, blessed be your name, psalm 23 by townend. Great is thy faithfulness

7. City Hymns’ “How Long, O Lord” is also one that we use often

8. Jonathan Gilley’s arrangement of “Be Still My Soul”

9. ‘How Long?’ by Stuart Townend

"He stretched out his hands in suffering,
to release from suffering 
those who place their trust in you, 
and so won for you a holy people.
He freely gave himself over to death,
in order to destroy death,
and to shatter the chains of the evil one.”
(from the Eucharistic Prayer of the Apostolic Tradition)

 [see below for more suggestions…]


The Calvin Institute for Christian Worship suggests a number of helpful resources and ways to think about including lament in church services. Here are the ones I find most helpful:

1. The journal Reformed Worship has over 90 articles on including lament. See this page and the article titles at the bottom:

2. Bringing Our Pain to God: Michael Card and Calvin Seerveld on biblical lament in worship

3. The Psalm with a Painful Lament - Psalm 13

4. Psalm 42 and 43 - A Psalm of Lament

5. Songs of Comfort and Trust in Times of Tragedy

6. Worship Service: A Faith that Sighs and Sings - Habakkuk 3

7. My Refuge and Strength - Psalm 46

8. Lament Psalms and Children

9. A Time to Weep: Liturgical lament in times of crisis

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