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Redeeming Confession in Reformed Worship – Poppen-Young Lecture 2022-2023

April 19, 2023 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Click here to download the resources document prepared by Rev. Mel Van Hattem.

This year’s Poppen-Young Lecture Looks at Confession, Assurance, and Law

The RCA Directory for Worship tells us that “Worship is the acknowledgment of God’s superior worth: God is righteous, we are unrighteous; God is sinless, we are sinners.” And 1 John 1:8 says: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The corporate prayer of confession in worship is meant to allow us to leave the burden of our sins at God’s feet; the Assurance of God’s Pardon intends to remind us that we go forth free and forgiven; and the Law of God is meant to be our thankful response: we can live a better way, so that we don’t fall into the same traps.

Yet not all congregations find the grace and mercy of God in this liturgy. As our 2022-2023 Poppen-Young fellow, Mel Van Hattem, has observed, “The Prayer of Confession time in worship services feels uneasy in some church settings and welcoming in other churches.” Many congregations feel that this makes people feel guilty, that the Law is negative to our twenty-first-century ears, and so they minimize this portion of worship or leave it out altogether. But there may be better ways to approach this.

On Wednesday, April 19th, at 11:00 am Eastern Time, our 2022-2023 Poppen Young Lecture in Reformed Worship explored Redeeming Confession in Reformed Worship. We will take a new look at the theology behind confession and assurance and at ways different Reformed pastors are trying to make this a more redeeming time for modern worshipers.

Mel Van Hattem, our 2022-2023 Poppen-Young Fellow, is an RCA pastor with degrees from Hope College, Western Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Over six decades, he served a variety of parishes in Northern New Jersey, and brings those experiences to his current work with liturgy.

Liz Testa, coordinator for RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership, minister in New York Classis, and DMin candidate in Transformational Preaching at NBTS, will give a response to Mel’s presentation, and then everyone will be invited to join in the discussion.

The Alvin J. Poppen-John R. Young Fellowship provides a modest stipend of and the possibility of a two-week residency at New Brunswick Theological Seminary to support in Reformed Worship, particularly as it pertains to the Reformed Church in America (RCA). It was established by gifts from friends of Alvin J. Poppen and the late John R. Young, long-time members of the RCA denominational staff. The resources of the Seminary, as well as the wide variety of worship resources and experiences in the New York metropolitan area, are at the Fellow’s disposal. Each Poppen-Young Fellow provides an experience of the results of the work, through a lecture, a convocation on the theme chosen, or some other public expression shared with the Seminary community.


April 19, 2023
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Event Category:


James Hart Brumm, Director, The Reformed Church Center


NJ Campus
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ 08901 United States
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