“What will the main orders of service look like in the new hymnal?”
For the last several months, the Hymnal Project’s Rites Committee has focused on that question. We’d like to share some of our thoughts with you.
We are proposing that there be one basic structure for all the Communion services in the new hymnal. Please let me explain what we mean by that.
One thing that worshipers and worship leaders quickly noticed about Christian Worship’s Common Service and Service of Word and Sacrament was that things were in a different order in each service. In one service the Creed came after the Gospel; in another it came after the sermon. The Kyrie (“Lord, Have Mercy”) was in a different place in each, and actually seemed to have a different function in each service. A couple of other examples may come to mind.
On the one hand, such variety can be good. When parts of the service are in different places from Sunday to Sunday, it can make us give more thought to them. Additionally, most pastors and worship planners likely “change things up” a bit throughout the year, especially for festival services. Such variety is already a natural part of the way many of us typically worship throughout the year.
On the other hand, variety in the order of things can be a little confusing. Some of the confusion is practical. An example: remembering if there’s a Gospel acclamation (“Glory be to you, O Lord!” and “Praise be to you, O Christ!”) before and after the reading (as in the Common Service) or only after (as in Service of Word and Sacrament) can be a challenge for organists and—I can say from experience—for pastors! Other confusion can result when trying to understand and explain the function of different parts of the service. For instance, is “Lord, Have Mercy” primarily a prayer of confession (as in the Common Service), or is it a prayer humbly asking for many blessings from the Lord (as in Service of Word and Sacrament, Divine Service II, and Evening Prayer)?
Back to the Rites Committee’s proposal: We are proposing that settings of the main Communion service have the same basic progression. This means that if there were two main Communion services in the front of the new hymnal (this hasn’t been decided yet, but we mention it for the sake of an example), they would both have the same parts of the service in the same order.
But wait a minute. Won’t this result in a stultifying sameness?
We don’t believe so. Even with a consistent order of service, we envision many opportunities for some healthy variety:
There will be different musical settings of the canticles and other parts of the service. “Holy, Holy, Holy” would appear in all the services, but each would have its own tune and setting.
We plan on offering different wording in each service setting for things like the Confession of Sins and the prayers throughout the service.
Options for variety will be offered in the italicized rubrics throughout the service. As one example, under the heading for “Glory to God in the Highest” it would read, “‘This Is the Feast of Victory’ may be sung during the Easter season.”
We are exploring the possibility of a new preaching service, in the same vein as the Service of the Word. A service like this would offer an alternative order for congregations who would find it helpful.
We should also note that we don’t mean to say that it’s wrong to move parts of the service around occasionally. Nor do we intend to say that there’s only one “authorized” order for the parts of the service. Worship planners will still have the discretion to do that as they deem it beneficial for their flocks and their guests.
All in all, we believe that one basic framework for the main service will be beneficial. It will offer a solid skeleton that can be fleshed out in beautiful and different ways.
We look forward to introducing this basic framework for the main service during our field testing effort in 2016 and hearing your feedback. In the meantime, we welcome your initial reaction to the direction we’re heading.
Pastor Jon Micheel
Chairman, Rites Committee