The Lector is expected to join in the congregation’s practice of preparing for worship by reading and meditating on the texts for the upcoming Sunday during the week prior. Texts for each Sunday in the year are included in the Salt of the Earth Christian Seasons Calendar. We do not always read all four texts provided by the Revised Ecumenical Common Lectionary. Be in contact with our office during the week to determine which texts you are to prepare for public reading. You are welcome to borrow a copy of Voices United during the week in order to prepare to lead the responsive Psalm.
It is our practice to read from the Pulpit Bible so that it does not become a prop but is, in fact, the book we read each Sunday. It is helpful to make use of the ribbons provided in the Bible to mark the passages you are to read. The biblical translation that we have chosen to use in worship is the New Revised Standard Version. If you do not own a copy of the NRSV you are welcome to borrow a paperback copy from the Chapel in order to prepare prior to Sunday morning. If you feel that reading from another version is appropriate please discuss this with the Preacher early in the week.
You will want to read the passages aloud during the week (at least three or four times). If you are uncertain about the intention of a passage (and, therefore, what inflection to use) and/or if you need assistance in pronouncing unfamiliar words do not hesitate to be in contact with the Preacher.
On Sunday Morning arrive by 10:00 am in order to have a microphone check. Ask the Worship Service Coordinator or the Presider to help you with this. You will also want to be sure that the lections for the day are marked in the Pulpit Bible. Go over the readings in the Pulpit Bible in order to become accustomed to the large type face.
At the beginning of the Liturgy the lector is asked to process the Bible with an accompanying person who carries the candle-lighter and lights the candles (this occurs after the Greeting time, Announcements and Choral Introit. The Worship Service Coordinator will give the cue to process). This is an important procession. Walk with dignity, reflecting the awe that you are bringing Holy Scripture into our midst. Place the Bible on the pulpit and open it at the first passage to be read. In order to protect the binding of the Bible, when putting it on the Pulpit place it spine down, then open both covers with care.
At the same time the Lector’s assistant lights the candles. Matches and candle lighter will be at the entrance to the sanctuary (the Worship Coordinator will assist). In lighting the candles take care so that wax is not spilled. You will need to ask someone to assist you in lighting the candles (if you are unsure of who might be able to help, ask the Worship Service Coordinator for assistance). If possible we hope you can include a child, as it is one of the ways we involve children in providing leadership in the Liturgy. You may wish to practice lighting the candles prior to the service (note that the candles can be lifted off of the stands, making the lighting of the candles easier). After lighting candles place the candle-lighter on the floor beside the Table and move to your seat in the Chapel. The entry and exit of the Bible and the flame are dramatic moments in the Liturgy. We encourage you to move with dignity and reverence.
Sit in a location near the Table, on an aisle so that you are prepared to come forward to read Scripture without introduction following the Preparation for the Word (a time of musical preparation after the youngest children move to class). Announce the passage simply, for instance, “Reading from the book of ..., chapter ..., beginning at verse ...”. If you wish, you can provide some introductory comments that set the text in context, but any comments should be brief.
Check that the switch on the top of the mike is on (pulled towards you). If you need to adjust the mike so that it is opposite your mouth please do so when the mike is turned off. The mike is uni-directional - you need to speak directly towards it, not from one side or the other. Do not lean into the mike - it will pick up your words from a distance of twelve inches. If you suspect that the mike is not working properly simply continue to read in as loud and clear a voice as you can manage. The worship service Coordinator will be responsible for dealing with any problems with the Sound System.
Read slowly, more slowly than you think is necessary. Sound bounces around the room. Reading too quickly makes the syllables tumble over one another and become garbled. Read clearly - this comes from reading slowly. Give each word care and attention. Help us to host the text with love and respect, as we would host an honoured guest. Give the reading meaning - lift it off of the page - which simply means to invest it with your interpretation. Bring yourself to the passage and tell us the story as best you can.
After reading each passage, announce one of the following declarations. Try not to mumble or whisper the declaration. Say it boldly as this reminds the community that we dare to trust that in hosting these texts the church is opened to the living Word of God.
This is the Word of the LORD - Thanks be to God
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet - Thanks be to God
Herein is Wisdom - Thanks be to God
The Word of God - Thanks be to God
You also lead the reading of the Psalm (or introduce the singing of the Psalm, if it is to be sung rather than read). Invite the congregation to find the Psalm for the day in Voices United and ask the congregation to stand to join in reading responsively. You will need to be sure that there is a copy of Voices United on the shelf in the pulpit prior to coming forward. The responsive reading of the Psalm can vary. The lector can be a single voice with the congregation offering the responsive voice. Or the responses can be made by the women and the men, or the left side can be one voice and the right side in the Chapel another, or The Singers can speak and the congregation respond. You are welcome to choose the manner in which the Psalm will be read. Once the congregation is standing the Minister of Music will play the sung response one time, and then The Singers and congregation will sing the response once. The Psalm then begins, with the sung response being offered as indicated in Voices United with an “R”.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy, during the Postlude, come forward with an assistant. One of you closes, lifts and carries the Bible while the other extinguishes the candles (using the candle-lighter as snuffer). Be sure to light the candle lighter with the last candle’s flame and leave by reverently leading us into the world with the Bible and the flame. Hold the Bible as high as you are able when carrying it so that the congregation can see the Word both as it enters and exits the Chapel.
It is our custom at University Hill to refrain from making use of printed unison prayers in the published Order of Service. Our practice reflects a desire to invite the maximum participation of individuals in an act of corporate worship. While corporate song clearly benefits from unison voices (and harmonized ones, too) corporate prayer benefits from such unison voicing when the refrains are very familiar to all. Unfamiliar written texts often cause individuals to become self-conscious as, for instance, they strive to keep pace (children or foreign speakers) or disagree with the theology implied by the words that they are invited to speak. Instead, we ask an individual to undertake the discipline of attending to the scripture passages for the week while living in the world during that week so that she/he can offer prayers on behalf of the gathered congregation of God’s people on the Sabbath day. In hearing different voices offer prayers on each Sabbath day, the community overhears the diversity of faithfulness and of witness that is embodied in this particular congregational expression of the Body of Christ. The Worship Elder is invited to bring his or her own language of faith and to offer public prayers that are different in form from our daily disciplines of private, personal prayer. Of course, the Worship Elder may also decide to choose prayers to read, rather than to write prayers for the occasion. In either case, the crucial issue is to keep the life of the congregation and world in prayer before the God met in Jesus Christ.
The Prayer of Approach is directed to God (as are all of the prayers) and has God as the subject matter (not “we this, we that”, rather “You are, You promise, You give ...”). It focuses on the praise and adoration of God revealed in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Prayer of Approach is our response of awe, wonder and thanksgiving to God. As Worship Elders prepare by reading the texts for the day we ask them to look for the ‘Wow’ that the texts proclaim about God and to lift up something of this in the Prayer of Approach. In so doing, the Prayer of Approach can enable the congregation to move from preoccupation with itself into the holy presence of God.
The Prayer of Confession is an admission of the congregation’s need for God when faced with the truth about itself and the world. As public prayer in and for the church, this prayer (like the others) primarily offers the confession of the church (what we as a Christian community confess regarding the truth about us when standing in the presence of God). Since sin is centrally about breaking relationship with God the Prayer of Confession helpfully focuses on the temptations that cause the church to lose faith in God and, instead, to trust its life to idols that masquerade as gods. As a result, there is less need to emphasize only specific misdeeds of individuals (the symptoms of unfaithfulness in relationship with God). It is helpful when the Worship Elder names those temptations that distract the church as a people from living as a witness to the Kingdom of God.
Silence is a crucial element to incorporate in all public prayer. In particular, silence can open up a powerful space for personal prayers of confession to be offered. This can avoid the necessity of lengthy lists of the innumerable ways in which we, individuals, may have broken faith with God in Christ. We ask the Worship Elder to not be afraid to lead in prayer by hosting periods of silence. In fact, we encourage periods of silence when we gather for public prayer. Words can be helpful in focusing the mind of the congregation on God, but they can also fill the space in which God waits to speak.
The Worship Elder may choose to end both the Prayer of Approach and the Prayer of Confession with the customary “Amen” (Hebrew meaning “It is true”), indicating that these are two separate prayers or may move from Approach to Confession without stopping to say “Amen”. In either case, it is helpful to speak with the Minister of Music prior to the Liturgy to indicate when the Prayer of Confession will end (in order that the “Kyrie” can be sung at the proper time).
It is important that the Worship Elder remembers that children are present for the opening prayers in worship within University Hill Congregation. Children benefit from prayers that are written and spoken with care, brevity and clarity. Children hear prayers that are spoken from the heart. While accessible vocabulary is a gift for children - and adults who are new to English - we do not have to know the meaning of every word that is spoken in order to understand the deep intent of the prayer. We are aware that public prayer is more than words. Pausing in silence can invite the entire community - including children - into the mystery and wonder of communal prayer to God.
The Prayers of the People are the best example of liturgy (literally - “a public work undertaken by the few to benefit the many”). William Temple said: “the church is the one institution that exists primarily for its non-members”. It is in the Prayers of the People that the congregation most clearly intercedes for the world in its worship. The Prayers of the People are prayers of Intercession and Supplication. That is, in these prayers the community (1) asks for God’s redemptive presence in the church, world, community and individual lives and (2) offers its own life to God’s mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. Note that at University Hill Congregation it is our practice that the Presider for the day offers the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the Table at the time of Offering (and Communion). While thanksgiving may be appropriate as a part of the Prayers of the People, it is not the focal point of these prayers.
In crafting the Prayers of the People the Worship Elder may wish to follow the traditional sequence of petitions:
1. For the church universal
2. For the world
3. For the local community
4. For those in special need
Our goal is to keep the prayers broad in their scope. At the same time, it is helpful to include specific, concrete and current concerns in at least some of the petitions. There should be, so to speak, a connection between Saturday’s news and Sunday’s prayers. On the other hand, this is not an occasion to be explicitly political, or to moralize, editorialize, lecture or preach. Avoid ‘gabbiness’ in prayer. Petitions should be short and to the point. Now is not the time to share information. God already has it. If there is something that the congregation should know - like a special happening, a crisis, or a death - tell the congregation before the prayer begins, not during it. Five or six meaty but brief petitions should be enough. We cannot cover all the bases every Sunday. Total time of your prayer should not exceed five minutes.
To avoid a long monologue, the Worship Elder may choose to use a congregational response after each petition. This will keep the community listening and involved and will give it an opportunity to affirm what you are saying to God on its behalf. The congregation should be advised of this procedure before you begin the prayer. In order for the congregation to make a verbal response, it will need a consistent cue line. For example:
Leader: Lord (or O God) hear our prayer.
Response: And in your mercy (or, love) answer.
Leader: Lord, in your mercy.
Response: Hear our prayer.
An alternative to such responses is the observance of a period of silence between the petitions. It is our practice to include a time in the Prayers of the People for individuals in the community to give voice (aloud or in silent contemplation) to their prayers for others by naming individuals, households, peoples or issues of concern. The Worship Elder invites the community to do so and offers a clear signal when it is the appropriate time for these prayers to be spoken.
Since the Prayers of the People include a wide range of concerns it can be helpful to make use of repetitive phrases and/or structures in order to provide cohesion and unity. Poetic adaptations of phrases and/or images from the scripture passages and/or hymns of the day can help to evoke the deep memory of the community in these (and the other) corporate prayers. We encourage the Worship Elder to be in touch with our office by Thursday of the week in order to receive the scripture texts being read and the hymns being sung on Sunday.
It is good to end the Prayers of the People with a short concluding prayer that names the congregation’s trust and hope in God and that offers it to the purposes of God in the world. Our consensus about using gender-inclusive language in worship should be observed. While this does not preclude addressing God as Father, Worship Elders are encouraged to broaden the name and titles used for the Deity as reflected in the texts for the day or in other parts of scripture.
On a Sunday when the Eucharist is celebrated it is our practice to include the Prayers of the People within the Great Thanksgiving Prayer. On these occasions the Presider will lead the congregation through the recital of thanksgiving for God’s wonders and mighty deeds, culminating in Jesus Christ. The printed Eucharistic Prayer which is normally included in the Order of Service will include a heading for “Prayers of Intercession” (on Sundays when the full prayer is not included in the order of Worship the Presider will provide the Worship Elder with a copy of the Eucharistic Prayer). The Worship Elder moves to a designated mike just prior to this point in the Great Thanksgiving Prayer. Since the prayer begins prior to the Prayers of Intercession and concludes after them, we encourage the Worship Elder to carefully craft or select the four or five crucial, short intercessions that need voicing at the Table.
The Commissioning is a charge to the congregation (not a prayer to God) to live as faithful disciples of Jesus in the world. The Commissioning is not the Benediction, which is a blessing that declares the promise of the Triune God to be faithfully present in the lives of the disciples. It is our practice that the Worship Elder offers the Commissioning, while the Presider offers the Benediction. In the Commissioning the congregation is commissioned (co-missioned) as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world in the days ahead. The Commissioning says: “Go out for Christ”. The Benediction says: “May God bless you”. The Commissioning is greatly helped by clarity and brevity. It is not a sermon. The Commissioning is a simple, clear statement that the community is now authorized to live as the Body of Christ in the world and that it is time to go into the world that Christ loves. It is intended as an encouraging and hope-filled call to a life of joyful servanthood.
Normally the Worship Elder enters with The Singers and the Presider at 10:30 am, taking a seat next to the Presider on the south side of the Chapel, facing the musicians. At the conclusion of the service of worship the Worship Elder and the Presider wait for the conclusion of the Postlude. At this time they rise and walk to the Chapel entrance as a signal that the service is ended. The congregation greets the Worship Elder and Presider/Preacher as it leaves the Chapel.