Resources For The Service Of The Word

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The Service of the Word has always held a central place in worship. In the beginning of Christian worship, the Service of the Word was a dialogue that involved the entire congregation. Today's worship renewal, as outlined in this section, seeks to return the Word to the congregation so that the truth spoken remains in the heart and finds expression in the lifestyle.

What Does the Service of the Word Do?

The service of the word rehearses the story of God's redeeming actions and calls us to see God at work in our own histories.

The Shape Of The Service Of The Word

Broadly speaking, the form of the Service of the Word is similar in both traditional and contemporary churches: Scripture reading, sermon, and response to the Word.

Guidelines To Enlivening The Service Of The Word

As this article indicates, the liveliness of the Service of the Word depends on the full and conscious participation of every person in the dialogue of worship.

The Use Of The Arts In The Service Of The Word

The arts are intended to enhance the text, not dominate the worship. Their function is to highlight, festoon, illustrate, or express the Word.

The Place of Scripture In the Service of the Word

The reading and preaching of God's Word in worship is the central act of divine action.



The Public Reading Of The Scripture

Because Scripture is the living Word, it should be read with feeling, inflection, and conviction. Many renewing churches have established a lay readers group-people who have as their specific calling and ministry the reading of the Word in worship. This group will meet to rehearse and practice the reading of the Word so that its reading becomes an "event" in worship.

Forms for the Reading of Scripture

Traditional and contemporary ways of reading the Scriptures for public worship are explained in the following article.

The Responsorial Psalm

The responsorial psalm is sung as a response to the reading of the Old Testament lesson. The lesson is proclamation; the psalm, response.

The Gospel Acclamation

In liturgical worship an acclamation is sung after the Epistle reading and before the gospel reading.

A Liturgical Gospel Acclamation

Prayer Before The Sermon

In many traditions a brief prayer is said before the sermon. Generally, if the people have been standing for the gospel, the prayer is said with the people standing. After the prayer they are seated. This is sometimes called the "prayer of illumination. "

Creeds In Worship (traditional)

A creed is a summary of God's mighty acts of salvation. Saying or singing the creed in worship is a way of rehearsing the salvation story.

Creeds In Worship (contemporary)

In contemporary and in praise-and-worship traditions, the response of faith is becoming a common practice. Some churches are using historical or contemporary creeds, while others are encouraging people to sing or say their own acclamations of faith or to engage in a talk-back sermon as a way of responding in faith to the Scripture readings and the proclamation of the gospel.

The Prayers Of The People

In contemporary worship renewal, the prayers of the people are said after the confession of faith. These prayers are known as the litany (Latin,"to entreat"). In many churches, this practice is replacing the more traditional pastoral prayer.

Confession Of Sin

When a confession of sin is not used in the Entrance and will not be used as an examination of conscience (before the Table prayers), a confession may be used at the end of the prayers of the people.

The Passing Of The Peace

The kiss of peace concludes the response to the Word. The kiss of peace, a handshake, or a hug extended to other people in the congregation expresses the reconciliation Christ has made not only with God, but also on the horizontal level between people. This has become a joyful time, a time to greet each other with a Christian greeting and to express a feeling of love through a physical gesture.