Sservice 11



Recently published liturgies have placed the sermon either before or after the creed.  In either case, the creed has a sense of being a response: I have heard God’s Word, and I now express my belief in it.  Recent Lutheran practice has been to say the Apostles Creed on non-communion Sundays, while the communion service has maintained the traditional use of the Nicene Creed.  Since the Creed, as one of the five pieces in the ordinary, was meant to be sung, that gives us precedent to sing it sometimes as a change of pace instead of to say it.  Chant and choral settings are available; many of the folk settings are easily singable by congregations.  The Lutheran Hymnal provides three hymn settings of the Creed.


There are a number of choral settings and contemporary versions of Psalm 51:5, Create in me a Clean Heart, which is often sung as the Offertory.  The music at the offering was originally a variable Psalm, and so we are free to select other Psalms.  Going further and selecting other appropriate hymns or readings that fill the function of presenting ourselves to the Lord will be acceptable to many: the Lutheran Book of Worship provides a new song, “Let the Vineyards be Fruitful Lord”.


Intercessory prayer is one of the prime privileges and responsibilities of Christians when they are gathered together.  Paul writes in First Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgivings be offered to God for all people, for kings and all others who are in authority.”

There are so many ways to involve the congregation in the work of intercessory prayer that it could be done differently every Sunday.  Here are a few; some of these need to be done first in less formal settings, until the congregation is used to them:

1.  The pastor reads a prepared prayer, either published or that he’s written.

2.  Laymen read a prepared prayer, either published or that they’ve written.

3.  The congregation joins in responsive prayer, with both leader and group reading from prepared materials.

4.  A litany-style prayer can be used.  The petitions are spoken by the leader , and the group says simple responses such as “Lord have mercy” or “Hear our prayer”.

5.  A bidding prayer can be used.  One leader announces a topic, one or more others say a prayer about that topic, and everyone says a short response.

6.  Extemporaneous prayers are offered, by pastor, other leaders, or at will from people in the congregation. Is it going outside the bounds of western worship tradition to pray extemporaneously?  There is a precedent in this quote from a third century document:

Let the bishop give thanks in the manner we indicated earlier.  It is not necessary, however , that he repeat the same words we provided, as though he had to try to say them from memory in his thanksgiving to God.  Let each one pray according to his ability.  If he is capable of praying at length and offering a solemn prayer, well and good.  But it he prays differently and pronounces a shorter and simpler prayer, he is not to be prevented, provided his prayer be sound and orthodox.1

7.  Prayer requests are written on slips of paper and brought to the front at some point, and become the basis for prayer .

8.  The congregations huddles in small groups to pray.



The decision about whether to use or to avoid a communion prayer will undoubtedly rest with the pastor, not the worship committee.  In either case, the worship committee can put a lot of thought and effort into other parts of the communion ceremony that are subject to variety. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei can receive the same treatment as other parts of the ordinary: reading, responsive reading, choral settings, and hymn settings.  The Lord’s Prayer and the Song of Simeon can also be  done in all these different ways.  Moreover, we have the precedent of Luther’s paraphrasing the Lord’s Prayer as another chance for variety.


The close of the service provides the opportunity to vary the final collect to fit the theme for the day.  The benediction of course already exists in two forms, Aaron’s from Numbers and Pauls’s from Second Corinthians.  After the spoken benediction, a choral version or hymn can be added to repeat the idea.


Providing variety in the church service does have its difficulties.  Many people prefer the security of the familiar.  But when dissatisfaction with the status quo and the burning desire to worship with more meaning reach a hig enough level, these suggestions can point the way to some reachable solutions.  These suggestions are not meant to be done all at once.  The author’s view is that any change must, be explained, introduced carefully, practiced, and reviewed, In a given Sunday, only one change might be done.  The purpose is never variety for variety’s sake, but always to make the given text more meaningful and the basic structure more clear.  New music can be introduced over a period of ‘time, by having the choir sing it for a period of weeks before the congregation tries it, and by practicing before the service and during other congregational events.

It is hoped that worship committee members will take up at least these four challenges:

1.  Help people learn to understand and sing the Psalms.

2.  Find new music for the traditional words.

3.  Use the extra music (hymns and anthems) to bring
out the meaning of the ordinary and propers, not to compete
with it.

4. Provide an opportunity for poets, writers, and musicians to share their talents.

A check-list for planning a worship service is found below.


1. Quoted in Deiss op. cit. p. 135, from The Apostolic Tradition

On to chapter 12                               Go to Worship Book menu

Service Planning Step by Step

DEVELOP A THEME BASED ON THE READINGS Will you used the readings provided for the day or freely choose other readings? If using the readings for the day, will you use all three, or which ones? Is a theme evident from the readings? Will the sermon be on the same theme? Is it  possible to select a theme for this Sunday?

Which of these ways will you use to make the theme evident: Opening reference by pastor? Reference by pastor during the sermon? During readers’ introductions to the readings? By a drama or responsive reading associated with one of the readings? Reference in the Prayer of the Day (collect)? Through hymn selections? Reference in church bulletin? Banner?

SELECT HYMNS AND CHOIR OFFERINGS RELATED TO THE THEME Place 3 to 4 hymns or choir pieces according to the following options: With or replacing the opening Psalm (this is, an opening hymn)? With or replacing the Psalm between readings? As a response after one of the readings? (Using a hymn after the gradual has been practiced in Lutheran churches since the reformation; this is sometimes called “the hymn of the day” because it relates to theme, readings, and sermon). During the opening praise section? During the response time after the sermon? During the prayer time? During THE offering? During communion? At the close of the service?

PRESENTATION OF THE GIVEN PARTS OF THE SERVICE It is suggested that in a given Sunday, only one or two of the following options be used as variations from the congregation’s accustomed practice. These options help the congregation to understand the distinctiveness and function of the elements in the printed order of service.

DETERMINE PRESENTATION OF PSALMS. For the opening Psalm, and for the Psalm between reading, select from the following options: Using the provided texts (Introit and Gradual): Read by leader? Read by congregation? Chanted by choir? Chanted by congregation? (Your hymnal may include chant melodies for Psalms, and may include 4-part chants – known as Anglican chant – for some Psalms).  The Introit includes the “Gloria Patri;” it should be in the same style as the Psalm verses (if the introit is sung, the Gloria Patri should be sung; if the introit is read, the Gloria Patri should be read, so it is evident that they belong together).

Using the Psalms from which the provided texts are taken, or using other Psalms that fit the theme for the day. For using Psalms selections, select one of the following options: Read by Pastor? Read by Congregation? (In both cases, it is customary to end by reading the words of the Gloria Patri). Chanted by one person? Chanted by choir? Chanted by congregation? (Chanting allows a prose translation to be set to music.) Sung to a hymn tune (use hymnal index to find hymns that are based on certain Psalms. The Reformed Church in America still publishes a Psalter that provides hymn versions of all 150 Psalms.) Have a soloist sing a setting of the Psalm? Have the choir sing a setting of the Psalm? Have choir or congregation sing a metric chant (examples are those by Gelineau).

Using other materials at the Psalm locations. Hymn? (Using an opening hymn instead of the introit as already common in many churches). Use a Responsive reading? Use a solo song? Use a choir song?

DETERMINE PRESENTATION OF THE ORDINARY (the parts that are the same every Sunday). These variations help the congregation to focus on the meanings of the words. Using more than one variation in a given week could cause confusion. It helps to make an explanation of the variation either verbally or in the bulletin.  General options for all parts of the ordinary: Read parts that are usually sung, or sing parts that are usually read (example: for the Lord’s Prayer, use Luther’s hymn based on the Lord’s Prayer). Use the hymn versions of the traditional texts (for example, use the Lutheran Hymn “All Glory Be to God Alone” at the time of the Gloria). Have the choir sing a version of the traditional text. Substitute a hymn with the same general meaning as the traditional text. Additonal options for each of the parts follows:

KYRIE. Use just the words “Lord have mercy,” or use them in conjunction with prayer sentences (that would then be a “litany”)? Use printed prayer sentences (in peace let us pray to the Lord) or write prayer sentences appropriate for the theme of the day or for the season of the year? Use Luther’s hymn based on the Kyrie (Kyrie, God Father in heaven Above; it is based on a medieval custom called “troping,” in which meaningful texts were applied to the long sequence of notes after the word Kyrie)? Use a “leisen hymn” (look for hymns that end with the phrase Lord have Mercy).

GLORIA. Use the historic Gloria (glory be to God on high) or the 20thcentury text “this is the feast?”

CREED. Since it is usually read, try a hymn or song version.

AFTER OFFERING: There are already many options in the printed hymnals. On this precedent, use other offering hymns or prepare a responsive reading.

AFTER COMMUNION: The use of Simeon’s song “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” is a Lutheran contribution to the traditional service, according to Tim Maschke in There are already many options in the printed hymnals. On this precedent, use other offering hymns or prepare a responsive reading.

AFTER THE BENEDICTION: Choir or congregation could sing a piece with complementary words.


I have not included ideas for the communion prayer or for the general prayer because I suspect those decisions would generally be made by the pastor, not the worship committee.