At St. Paul’s we blend both traditional and contemporary elements into our worship services. We follow a pattern of worship that has been used by Christians for centuries, using hymns and texts that are old and new. Read on to see what a “typical” worship experience looks like at St. Paul’s.
Before the Service
Worship takes place in the sanctuary in the southwest corner of the building. As you enter, greeters will hand you a worship folder. It includes an outline of the service, as well as a list of prayer requests, the list of people who are helping to lead worship that day, and a calendar of events in the life of the church. Feel free to take a seat wherever you would like. The dark red Worship book in the rack in front of you will include most of the texts and songs that will be used during worship. If we use alternate texts or songs, they will be printed in the worship folder.
Our service begins with one or more pieces of music played by our organist. For some people, this is a time for prayerful reflection in preparation for worship. Some take this time to catch up with other worshippers. Once the prelude is over, the worship leader (usually, but not always, the pastor) will highlight a few announcements for the good of the community. After the announcements, the service continues as we acknowledge in shared word and silent reflection that we are in need of God’s grace. The worship leader announces that in Christ we receive what we need: forgiveness and new life from God. We lift our voices in one or more songs, then continue with a prayer that prepares us for the Scripture readings appointed for that day’s service. The choir will often offer an anthem to honor God and (more than likely) to reinforce one or more of the themes that will be explored in the sermon or hymns.
At this point in the service a member of the community comes to the front and reads two passages of Scripture – usually one from the Hebrew Scriptures (often called the “Old Testament”) and one from one of the Christian Scriptures (often called the “New Testament”) letters. Following the second reading, a brief message or reflection is offered for the children of the congregation. Next, the preacher (usually, but not always, the pastor) reads from one of the four gospel accounts, then delivers a longer message (called the sermon) that is intended to interpret and explain one or more of the day’s texts and their relevance for the life of faith. The congregation responds to the sermon by singing another hymn. The Word portion of the service ends with the assisting minister leading the congregation in prayer for the world, the church, and specific individuals in need.
The church collects an offering each week that is intended to support the ministry of the congregation (and of the wider church). At this point in the service we pray that God will use those gifts for the good of the church and the world. The greeters will pass the offering plate down each row. You may give if you wish, but it is certainly not required; just pass the plate along. Once the offering is gathered, we pray that God will use those gifts for the good of the church and the world. On Communion Sundays, we continue with an ancient dialogue between pastor and congregation, the song “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and an extended prayer that recounts God’s saving action in history, recalls the words and actions of Jesus in the Last Supper, and asks for the Holy Spirit to be present to us in the meal. Bread and wine are distributed to all who believe that Christ is present in Holy Communion, and then we pray that God would strengthen us through that meal to serve others.
The service ends with a blessing, a final hymn, and the call to go out into the world ready to serve God and our neighbors.