As a highly compact form of speech capable of stimulating the imagination, poetry can be effectively used in almost any of the various dimensions or acts of public worship. This article catalogs a variety of ways that poetry can be used in worship and gives guidelines to worship planners for selecting poems and readers.
The most common use of poetry in worship is the singing of poems as hymns. Despite their common use, however, hymn texts are rarely thought of in terms of their poetic qualities. Yet hymn writers are among the finest wordsmiths the church has known. Appreciating their art enriches the experience of all who sing.
By far the most important of the fine arts in Israel and the early church was the field of literature. The Bible itself is the result of the sensitivity of literary artists to the Spirit of God. Each of the many forms of biblical literature contributes to our understanding of the philosophy of the worship arts.
The biblical conception of God as holy has profound significance for the philosophy of the worship arts. The biblical worshiper encounters the Lord as the Holy One. The basic connotation of holiness (Hebrew qodesh) is not the goodness or righteousness of Yahweh but the fact that he is encountered as one “set apart,” sacred or sacrosanct, unlike that which is experienced in the ordinary events of life.