A Service of the Word
II INTRODUCTION, NOTES AND EXPLANATIONS
A Service of the Word is the result of careful thinking
about a new approach to Sunday worship.
Sunday is the weekly festival of the Resurrection of Christ. It is
the day when the people of God meet to celebrate the presence of the
Risen Jesus who promised to be "where two or three are gathered
together" in his Name.
It has become widely recognized that there are occasions when the
prescribed services of Morning and Evening Prayer or Holy Communion
may not meet the needs of a particular congregation. There have been
experiments with less formal orders of service variously called
"family" or "all-age" services and in some places "evangelistic"
services to which members of congregations invite friends who may
have little Christian commitment.
This booklet contains:
- A basic structure for all such services.
- Four examples of working out that structure which may be used
on their own, entitled Forms A,
B, C and
D. These may be reproduced for
congregational use as they stand by photocopying or other methods.
- A selection of Resource material which may be used to work out
other forms based on the Structure.
THE STRUCTURE has four sections:
- THE PREPARATION: A Greeting, an Invitation to worship, a hymn
of praise to God, an Act of penitence (but this may on occasion be
more appropriate in the section called the Response) and an
The Collect of the Day is the climax of the Preparation and leads
in to the Ministry of the Word.
- THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD: The Reading and exposition of Holy
Scripture is the central part of the service. The use of the
Psalms whether sung in metrical versions, or chanted or recited in
"prayer book" versions, enables the congregation to interact with
the Readings. Periods of silence also help this interaction. The
use of Scripture Songs ("canticles") is recommended.
- THE RESPONSE: Normally an Affirmation of Faith is followed by
prayers for the Church and for the World. Sometimes penitence is
also appropriate if not used in the Preparation. After a General
Collect the climax of this section comes as the congregation says
together the Lord's Prayer. In this section the Offering may come
before or after the Prayers.
- The service ends with THE DISMISSAL. Either a Dismissal Prayer
or a Blessing can be followed by a final salutation.
It will be seen that A Service of the Word represents a
different approach to Sunday worship from Morning or Evening Prayer.
There are similarities to those services in that the Reading of
Scripture and its exposition are central. A Service of the
Word is designed for worship when a wide spectrum of ages is
expected to be represented in the congregation. However, it is not a
"children's" service. Even the simplest working of the structure must
allow and encourage adults to worship. The pattern of
Form C is perhaps the most "child-friendly"
while the pattern of Form B can easily be led
by a Reader or by a Deacon. Form D is a
further alternative for evening worship on a Sunday or at a
With the permission of the Ordinary the Preparation and the
Ministry of the Word (provided a Gospel Reading is included) with
suitable intercessions might also be used to take the place of all
that precedes the Peace in the Alternative Prayer Book Order for Holy
- It is important to have a firm beginning to the service. It is
not recommended that a service based on this Structure begin with
a processional hymn but rather that the congregation, ministers
and the choir should come to their places and then the service
begin with a GREETING / INTRODUCTION. There may be occasions when
a hymn may be a suitable Introduction. It cannot be emphasised too
strongly that the choice of hymns in this section is critical.
- PENITENCE will normally be expressed in the Preparation.
Several approaches to penitence are included. Among these are the
Morning Prayer confession from Alternative Prayer Book, an
American responsive confession, and a newly-composed prayer, which
is believed to be realistically child-friendly.
- The ACCLAMATION is more significant than the "O Lord, open our
lips...." of Morning and Evening Prayer. In
Form A it is a development of the notes of
God's majesty and love that derives from the GREETING and
INTRODUCTION. In Form B it is a way of
receiving the assurance of forgiveness. It is a section where
traditional elements like the Sursum Corda and
Sanctus, as well as Canticles such as Gloria in
Excelsis might be included.
- The COLLECT OF THE DAY is given a special position, similar to
its use in the Communion Service: the climax of the Preparation.
It is the "link" with all the other worship of the Church on the
day. It should be introduced with a "one-line" bidding, deriving
from the central thrust of the prayer. For example: the Minister
says, "As we prepare to use the Collect of this Sunday, let us in
silence pray for God's guidance." (or for spiritual strength or
whatever is the central point of the particular collect.) After
twenty seconds or so of silent prayer the Collect is then recited.
The full ending (see Resources) may be
added. Additional dignity may be given to the Collect if it is
sung or intoned.
- PSALMS and what are entitled SCRIPTURE SONGS are vital
components of the Service. Metrical versions of some Psalms are to
be found in Irish Church Praise and in Church
Hymnal. Other sources of psalmody and different ways of using
it can be explored. A version of Psalm 98 (Cantate Domino) has
been included in Form D.
- In most workings out of the Structure there should be at least
two READINGS from the Bible. Normally the Sunday lectionary will
determine the selection. On occasion it is recognized that there
may be only one READING and that it might be presented in
dramatised form. The book "A Dramatised Bible", published
by the Bible Society, suggests possible ways in which this may be
done. A variety of ways of ending readings and suggestions of what
should immediately follow are given in the four Forms and in the
Resources. These include the use of silence, singing or a BIBLICAL
RESPONSORY. There is a note below about the way in which Biblical
Responsories can be constructed, as well as an indication of where
examples can be found.
- The use of the terminology, "THE SERMON", the legally
recognized word in the Church of Ireland, does not rule out a
variety of ways of proclaiming the message of the Gospel; these
may include drama, interviews and other techniques. Apart from the
legal consideration it was not considered that to describe this
section as "an address" or "a talk" was more satisfactory.
- When appropriate the SERMON may be followed by a hymn. An
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH is regarded as essential. As well as the
recognized creeds several other Affirmations of Faith have been
provided, including two examples of the use of scriptural "credal"
passages. On some occasions it might be deemed suitable for an act
of penitence to precede the AFFIRMATION OF FAITH in the
- Some alternative approaches to our giving of money are
suggested in the OFFERING section of the Response. Collections are
almost always taken up. Dialogues for use before the collection
begins and several prayers for use at the dedication of the gifts
are provided. It is recommended that the prayer, "Lord, yours is
the greatness ..." should be restricted to use at the
- A number of approaches to the PRAYERS of intercession and
thanksgiving is possible. The note,
"Resources" highlights this. Often it
may be appropriate for the congregation to stand for the
Intercessions and Thanksgivings.
- The section containing the PRAYERS should conclude with a
GENERAL COLLECT. It is hoped that these prayers may become
familiar and form part of people's personal praying.
- The climax of the PRAYERS, indeed of the whole Response, is
the LORD'S PRAYER, with an appropriate introduction. The
congregation should be encouraged to stand for this. It should not
be followed by the Grace.
- Just as it was necessary to have a firm beginning to the
service there has to be a clear ending or Dismissal. In the Forms
different ways of achieving this are suggested. In
Form A there is a congregational "leave
taking" prayer and the Blessing (note the response to each
petition of the Blessing). In Form B there
is an ascription, followed by a commendation and a final
salutation. There is also a Celtic dismissal based on St.
Patrick's Breastplate in Form C. The
service should end with the Dismissal. If a Recessional Hymn is
customary it is better for this to precede the Blessing and final
- In working out other forms of A Service of the Word in
addition to those provided here care should be taken to see that a
responsive confession and a litany of intercession/thanksgiving
are not used in the same Form.
- Periods of silence are important. Some indications of where
these are most suitable have been given. Care and instruction are
needed so that worshippers can learn how to use silence in
NOTE ON BIBLE RESPONSORIES
Construction is by one of two methods:
- A verse of scripture is read by the Minister.
This is repeated by the congregation.
The Minister says some complementary words of scripture.
The congregation repeats the first verse again.
There is a trinitarian ascription
Finally the congregation repeats the scripture verse a third time.
- A verse of scripture is read by the Minister.
A different but complementary verse is spoken by the Congregation.
Another verse is spoken by the Minister.
The congregation repeats its response.
The Gloria is spoken by the Minister.
The congregation again repeats its response.
Similar responsories will be found in the Canadian "Book of
Alternative Services" (1985), in the New Zealand Prayer
Book (1988), in "Promise of his Glory" (1990) and in
"Celebrating Common Prayer" (1992).