By Robin G. Jordan
I. Factors to Consider in Planning a Service
Your ministry target group
- What is its culture?
- What are its tastes and preferences in music?
- What are its other distinguishing characteristics?
- What is its demographic makeup?
- What is its culture?
- Does it have any subcultures? What are they?
- What are its tastes and preferences in music?
- What are its other distinguishing characteristics?
The size of your congregation
The composition of your congregation
- Does it have a lot of young children and/or adults with limited reading skills
- Does it have a lot of senior adults, teenagers, young adults, married couples, singles, mixed families, etc.?
- Does it have a lot of people who have not participated in a church for six months, have no Christian background; and/or are unused to liturgical forms of worship?
The setting in which your church worships
- What kind of setting is it?
- What size is it?
- How are the acoustics?
- What is the noise level when the room is empty?
- What kind of sound system, if any, does your congregation have? Multimedia projection system?
- What kind of seating do you have?
- How flexible is the space?
- How is the lighting? Air conditioning? Heating?
The music resources of your congregation
The availability of clergy
The season of the Church Year
The time of year (spring, summer, fall, winter)
- How might the younger children be involved in the service?
- How might the congregation’s youth be involved in the service?
Community service projects
Evangelistic outreach projects
Vacation Bible School
Decide what elements will be used in the service and the order in which they will be used.
Plan the format of the service for several months at a time or even for an entire year.
Keep the format fairly simple. When the congregation is small, worships in a non-traditional setting, and/or has a large number of young children and/or adults who have limited reading skills, select the shorter confessions, the Apostles’ Creed, the forms for the Prayers of the People with the easily memorized congregational responses, and the shorter post-communion thanksgivings. Use the simpler music settings of the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the Great Amen as well as hymns and songs with refrains and repetitions. The refrains and repetitions enable young children and adults with limited reading skillsto participate in the congregational singing.
Don’t change the elements that are used in the service and the order in which they are used every Sunday or every time your congregation gathers for worship. This can create a state of disequilibrium in your congregation. One of the outcomes can be the loss of church members and regular attendees. It is also very disconcerting and confusing to guests returning for a second or third visit.
One of the reasons that Church of England parishes are not attracting and keeping more new members is their practice of having a traditional service on one Sunday, a contemporary service on the next Sunday, and a family service once a month. In attempting to satisfy the preferences of the different groups in the congregation, churches which adopt this practice are creating a barrier to returning visitors. They come back to the church expecting to find one thing but find something else. They may be attracted by the traditional service and put off by the contemporary one and vice versa. This practice encourages spotty attendance in the regular attendees. They show up on the Sundays when the format of the service is the one that is most to their liking.
What works best is to adopt a fairly simple format and use the same variable options over a long enough period of time for the younger children and the adults with limited reading skills to learn the confession, congregational responses, and post-communion thanksgiving by heart. This also gives the other members of the congregation time to "own" them.
Introduce new variable options only one or two at a time, for example, introduce a new form for the Prayers of the People. Most of the forms for the Prayers of the People are litanies with a fixed congregational response after each petition. The response is easy to memorize. Two of the forms are suffrages—a series of versicles and responses. The shorter of these two forms, the Prayers of the People, Form D, is found in An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) as well as Rite II of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. While it has varying responses, they are not difficult to memorize. It also provides opportunity for individuals to add their own petitions. It has proven its usefulness in worship over the past 40 years.
IV. Special Features
A Service of the Holy Communion for the North American Mission Field has a number of special features. One of these features is that worship planners can restore what Byron Stuhlman describes in Prayer Book Rubrics Expanded as the “clean lines” of the ancient entrance rite that was used in the Western Church. This entrance rite consists of an entrance song, a greeting, and prayer. This particular feature is a very useful one for worship planners making plans for a contemporary worship service. For example, they might plan for the priest to greet the people in his own words and then invite them to worship God. They might plan for a worship set consisting of a medley of three songs, beginning with a fast-paced song of praise and ending with a slower song of adoration to follow the priest's greeting and invitation to worship, followed by a time of spontaneous praise and adoration and then a period of silence. This sequence would conclude with the Prayer of the Day. (For collects that may be used with A Service of Holy Communion for the North American Mission Field, see An American Prayer Book (2009): Collects and Readings at Holy Communion.
This feature is also a useful one for worship planners planning worship services for the summer or for a small congregation. Rather using an entrance song and a Gloria or some other song of praise, the entrance song may be sung before the greeting and the Prayer of the Day. In the summer a congregation has less voices because people are on vacation and the omission of the entrance song or the song of praise places less musical demands on the congregation.
Jerry Godwin of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Church Music in the cassette, Joyful Noise – Teaching Music in Small Churches: A Walk Through the Eucharist Musically (1984) recommends that small congregation adopt this practice since it is less musically demanding than singing an entrance song and a Gloria or some other song of praise.
It is possible to simplify the entrance rite in this way in Holy Communion All Times and Places Setting 6 in With One Voice: A Lutheran Resource for Worship (1995) since with the exception of the greeting and the Prayer of the Day, the other elements in the entrance rite are optional as they are in A Service of Holy Communion for the North American Mission Field. It also possible to simplify the entrance rite in the same way to a large extent in Rite II of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
However, it impossible to simplify the entrance rite of Holy Eucharist: Standard Anglican Text and Holy Eucharist: Renewed Ancient Text of The Book of Common Prayer 2019. The entrance rite of the two forms has a number of fixed elements—a seasonal greeting, the Summary of the Law or the Ten Commandments, and the Kyries or Trisagion as well as an optional entrance song and optional Gloria or other song of praise. It is modeled upon the entrance rite of the 1549 Prayer Book, the 1928 Prayer Book, the Anglican Missal, and Rite I of the 1979 Prayer Book and reflects the influence of the late Medieval entrance rite used in the Western Church. Interestingly the first three service books are recommended by the Anglo-Catholic traditionalist organization Forward in Faith North America for use of its members.
The use of the Renewed Ancient Eucharistic Prayer with this entrance rite is incongruous as is the showing of the consecrated elements to the congregation with the words “Behold the Lamb of God….,” which comes from the Anglican Missal and the Missal of Paul VI. One would have expected the Renewed Ancient Eucharistic Text to have its own entrance rite, liturgy of the Word, Prayers of the People, communion rite, and closing rite, which, like the Renewed Ancient Eucharistic Prayer, are modeled upon those of ancient liturgies, not those of late medieval, nineteenth, and twentieth century liturgies.
The only way that the entrance rite may be simplified in these two forms for a contemporary worship service, a summer worship service, or small congregation’s weekly worship gathering is to disregard the rubrics and make unauthorized changes in the entrance rite. The need to disregard the rubrics and to make unauthorized changes in a rite or service of a prayer book is a good indicator that the prayer book in question is not meeting the needs of those using the book and is in need of revision.
Among the other special features of A Service of Holy Communion for the North American Mission Field are that priest has the option of greeting the people in his own words or using the versicle and response that is provided in the additional notes. The confession may be said at the beginning of the service or after the Prayers of the People. The congregation may sit throughout all three readings. The Gloria Tibi may be omitted before the Gospel reading and the congregational response may be omitted after each reading. The Apostles’ Creed may be said instead of the Nicene Creed. In addition to the form provided in the order of service, six other forms for Prayers of the People may be used with the service. One of two endings may be used after the Prayers of the People. The second ending concludes with the Lord’s Prayer. When there is no communion, a deacon or authorized lay person may read the priest’s parts of the service through the Prayers of the People. The priest may introduce the Greeting of the Peace with the versicle and response provided in the order of service or other suitable words. When there is no communion, the Greeting of Peace may be used at the conclusion of the service. The deacon or authorized person reading the priest’s parts of the service may introduce the Greeting of Peace. A deacon or one or more members of the congregation may prepare the Lord’s Table. An alternative prayer may be used in place of the eucharistic prayer provided in the order of service. A number of additional eucharistic prayers may found at Alternative Forms of Service (2009): The Holy Communion: First Order, Alternative Forms of Service (2009): Second Order, Alternative Forms of Service: Third Order, and A Modern Version of the 1874 Communion Service of the Reformed Episcopal Church. If the Lord’s Prayer has not been used earlier in the service, it may be said after the eucharistic prayer or after the distribution of communion. The bread at the fraction must be broken in the sight of all.
A Service of Holy Communion for the North American Mission Field is a much more flexible and adaptable eucharistic rite than The Book of Common Prayer 2019’s Holy Eucharist: Standard Anglican Text and Holy Eucharist: Renewed Ancient Text and is far more suited for the twenty-first century North American mission field. A major defect of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 is that it was designed to satisfy the preferences of an older generation and for use in a North America that no longer exists. The proposed BCP 2019 needs to be replaced as quickly as possible by a more practical service book designed for the twenty-first century church and not the church of several generations ago. Otherwise the proposed book will be a serious liability to congregations using it, hindering them from reaching and engaging the unchurched and fulfilling the Great Commission.
As I have noted elsewhere, The Book of Common Prayer 2019 attempts to force the churches of the Anglican Church in North America into the same doctrinal and worship mold. It offers very little latitude to develop liturgies that are local in character and targeted at particular unchurched segments of a community. Despite what Archbishop Foley Beach may claim, the proposed BCP 2019 is not a mission-shaped service book.