Monday, April 7, 2008

The eucharistic hinge

All my comments on 'how to lead worship' are based on real experiences!
Following these directions WILL improve your worship leading ... unless it is already perfect!!

A tip or two on leading a communion or eucharistic service.

Think of this as the service with two parts, 'word' and 'sacrament'.
The think about how you and the congregation are going to move from one part to the other. What is the hinge on which the service will turn from 'word' to 'sacrament'?

If we follow the prayer book (in Aotearoa NZ Anglican churches, the 'Red book' or NZPB) we find The Peace is the hinge, including the practical actions of pausing to greet one another, and the taking up of the offertory. Normally in a service with hymns/songs, one will be sung at this point.

In a communion service loosely based on the prayer book ... in my experience this often means 'the peace-greetings' are at the beginning of the service and the offertory may be taken up at the conclusion of the service ... I suggest the bare minimum hinge between the two parts of the service is a song prior to the Great Thanksgiving.

Practically this serves two purposes. One it allows the presider at communion to discreetly set up the communion vessels. Two it gets the congregation on their feet and into a mode of praising God - remaining on their feet to praise God through the Great Thanksgiving is then just a matter of continuity. (The converse, people sit quietly in their seats watching vessels being sorted out on the table, involves a forced and instant change of mood at the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving).

While I am about it, a couple of further ideas.

Evaluate very carefully the possibility of having the responses to the Great Thanksgiving on a screen set to the side of the table. I had an experience recently where this was the case - as presider it was quite disconcerting to be in the centre of things but to see almost all the congregational eyes looking to the side of me. Its hard to feel the unity between congregation and presider during the prayer of "communion" ...


liturgy said...

These IMO are very good points, Peter.
There could be further reflection on the purpose of the Peace as embodying reconciliation rather than merely befriending, greeting, saying "hi" - an anticipation of the refreshments to follow.(cf. Mt 5:23ff)
You highlight the problem with a community not knowing the responses to greetings - this is a bit like people not knowing how to respond to "Good morning" - it has been aggravated by our Prayer Book being enthusiastic about "variety" to the point of having different responses to similar "cues"!
Your comment about eyes looking beside you will remind the people in the congregation how often we see a presider reading the Great Thanksgiving from a book on the left - appearing like someone cooking in a kitchen checking a recipe while they are mixing the ingredients in front of them!
It's not hard for the presider to have a photocopy of the prayer flat on the altar in front of them to remind them is it?

Christ is Risen!

Bosco Peters

Peter Carrell said...

You are correct, Bosco, about the Peace embodying reconciliation and thus we should be saying 'Peace be with you' rather than 'hi'!

As a man who likes to have his prayer book on a lectern and to his left I will certainly think about a piece of paper flat in front of me ... will probably have to get glasses first!!

An alternative is to maintain the book at the left but only use it as an aide - all words spoken being directed with eyes and lips towards the congregation.