Gathering and Greeting
Stories from the four churches
While the large and lively mixed-age congregation arrive for
worship, the St Ann's music group plays a
selection of thematic hymns and choruses in order to focus people's
attention on worship and set the initial mood of the service.
The congregation join in the singing; the song numbers have been
printed on the service sheet.The music stops three or four minutes
before the ministers enter and take their places. The congregation
become quiet, attentive and prayerful - a sense of expectancy is in
the air.The minister rises to call the people to worship with the
God is spirit.
Let us worship him in spirit and truth.
Then, after the opening hymn of praise, the congregation sit for
an imaginative presentation of the notices, done by two people in a
'sharing the news' style. This is regarded as part of the worship,
both giving a sense of belonging and bringing all the church's
activities into the presence of God. The notices end with a
reminder of today's learning themes (for adults, children and young
people), some silence and the opening collect.
Other options which St Ann's has used for
Gathering and Greeting include:
* the giving of the Peace;
* a solo song or hymn;
* some verses from a psalm, sung as an
introit by the choir at the back of the church;
* a spoken verse of a song or hymn.
At St Bartholomew's the organist quietly plays
a simple voluntary based on a seasonal hymn melody on the small
village organ while the congregation arrive for worship.The
minister has hurried from another village and makes his way to the
vestry in order to robe and have a few moments of prayer before the
service begins. The churchwarden has taken care to ensure that
everything is prepared for worship before the minister arrives and
she announces the opening hymn. As the congregation sing, the
minister makes his way to his place from the back of the church. At
the end of the hymn, he greets the congregation with a seasonal
greeting and invites them to join with him in some moments of
silence before saying a prayer of preparation for worship.
At St Christopher's good quality taped music is
relayed gently through the amplification system as the
multi-cultural, mixed-age congregation take their seats. The choir
is already seated five minutes before the service is advertised to
begin.When the taped music ceases, the churchwarden gives out some
notices, announces the opening song of praise and invites people to
keep a time of silence before the organ plays the first line. As
the lights are turned full on, a well-ordered procession of
crucifer, acolytes and two ministers enters the church, the deacon
holding aloft the Book of the Gospels. As soon as the song is
finished, the president welcomes the people with a responsive
greeting, announces the theme of the service and invites the people
to make their confession.
It is Pentecost at St Dodo's and the clergy and
choir are hurrying to prepare for worship as the congregation
arrive. The organist starts to play a difficult voluntary with some
unexpected stops and starts five minutes before the service is
advertised to begin. Four minutes after the service should have
begun the minister appears at the front of the church, nods at the
organist to stop playing, welcomes everyone and realizes that the
amplification system is not working. High-pitched feedback jolts
everyone awake as the amplification comes to life. No one can hear
the announcement of the number of the opening processional hymn.
Choir and clergy process slowly in a ragged crocodile to their
seats.The minister turns and greets the people again- this time
with a liturgical greeting. He then tells everyone to be seated and
announces the notices for the week at some length, before inviting
the congregation to join him in a prayer of preparation for
Greetings and their meanings
The opening greeting establishes a relationship between the
minister and the rest of the congregation. In choosing what to
include, the minister will consider the options (including a formal
welcome, perhaps followed by more informal comments, a prayer, an
acclamation of praise, or a call to worship) and try to use a
greeting that is right for the context, and to remember that
greetings convey unspoken messages:
* 'Hello!' ('Good morning', 'Welcome,
everyone', etc.) is a reflection of shared human ordinariness that
links worship with the rest of life.
* 'The Lord be with you - and also with
you' speaks of mutual prayer for one another and an expectation of
* A sentence of Scripture as the first
utterance puts the emphasis firmly on God, but doesn't establish a
relationship between worshippers.
* 'I couldn't hear you singing'
establishes a (probably unhealthy) relationship of power.
The service should have a clear
beginning. The liturgical greeting may follow some introductory
singing, or a hymn or a sentence of Scripture, and may be followed
by a brief introduction or an opening prayer.
Note 1, A Service of
Each church has its own way of making clear that the service is
about to start, whether by the entrance of a procession, the start
of the first hymn, or the turning on of the overhead
projector.Whatever you do, make it clear. There is nothing wrong
with some silence before a service, or some music or worship songs
to help people prepare themselves, but everyone needs to know when
we have stopped being a collection of individuals and are being
summoned as a body of people to worship God together.
One of the functions of the opening stages of the service is to
allow people consciously to bring to God all that is going on in
the rest of their lives as they come to worship. The spoken texts
can help that; so can silence.The sharing of the Peace might also
be an appropriate part of the Gathering and Greeting. Care should
also be taken to ensure that the form of greeting or opening prayer
flows naturally into what is to follow. A greeting that works well
if followed by a hymn of praise might not fit if penitence is to
Notes to the resources
1 More examples of responses that may
be suitable for use at the beginning of the service can be found in
Resource Section G, 'Praise' (pages 223-233).
2 The resources provided below should
be adapted as necessary if the Peace is to be included.
3 'Alleluia' may be added to many of
the greetings, for example at Easter and Pentecost.
Texts for this section