Our main weekly service is at 10.30 am each Sunday. Usually this is the “Divine Service”, which includes a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Every church has its own way of doing things, and if you are visiting for the first time it can be difficult to follow what is going on. This guide is intended to give you some idea of what to expect when you visit. While you are with us, please feel free to ask someone if you are unsure of what is going on at any time.
Before the service
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the door and given a printed bulletin setting out details of that day’s service along with information about upcoming events, and a booklet containing the order of service. This will usually be called “Divine Service Setting One”, “Divine Service Setting Three” or “Divine Service Setting Four”, depending on which service we are using that week.
When you sit down in the church itself, you should find two books near you in the pew. One is the Bible, from which you can follow that day’s Bible readings. The other is the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), which contains the hymns we sing during the service. You may wish to prepare for the service using some of the “Prayers for Worship” on the inside front cover of the LSB, or by reading the Small Catechism on page 321.
The opening of the service
The service opens with the pastor entering the church and greeting the congregation. On most Sundays, he will then give a short talk to the children.
This is then followed by the opening hymn. Please note we normally sit for the hymns, other than the closing hymn at the end of the service.
At the end of the hymn, we stand for the first part of the service, as printed in the service booklet. The service begins with the words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. These are the words used in baptism, and remind us that we gather as those whom God has made his children in baptism. Some people may make the sign of the cross at this point, as a reminder to themselves of their own baptism.
We then proceed to confess our sins to God, and then the pastor declares God’s forgiveness to us. When the pastor says these words of absolution, he is speaking on behalf of Jesus, and we can be as sure of God’s forgiveness of us as surely as if Jesus were saying those words with his own lips.
The Service of the Word
The service then continues with “the service of the Word”. This starts with the pastor reciting or singing a psalm, before we sing the Kyrie (“Lord have mercy”) and then either the Gloria or the hymn “This is the Feast”, depending on which service we are using. The words and tune for these hymns are set out in the service booklet.
We then have an Old Testament and New Testament reading, before standing to sing the “Alleluia” (as printed in the service booklet) and then remaining standing for a reading from one of the four Gospels.
The Gospel reading is then followed by the hymn of the day, the reciting of the Nicene Creed (a summary of what we believe as Christians) and the sermon. The precise order of these varies, depending on which service we are using that day.
For Lutherans, the sermon is not the pastor telling us how to live our lives. Rather, the pastor’s job is to tell us about Jesus, so that we are reminded of God’s love for us as shown in sending Jesus to live a perfect life, die for our sins, and rise again from the dead so that we may live with him for ever. As the pastor proclaims this, we believe that Jesus himself is speaking through the pastor, and the Holy Spirit helps us to believe in Jesus’ promises for ourselves.
The final part of the service of the Word is the prayer of the church, when we pray for the needs of the church, members and friends of the congregation, and other people around the world. The words of the prayer, including the congregational response for each section (usually “hear our prayer” or “Lord have mercy”), are in the weekly bulletin.
The Service of the Sacrament
We then sing a hymn in preparation for Holy Communion, after which we sing or say the Preface (in the service booklet) and then follow the order set out in the booklet.
This culminates in the pastor saying the words of our Lord, as spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper. When the pastor says Jesus’ words “This is my body…” and “This cup is the new testament in my blood”, the bread and wine become Jesus’ body and blood, because Jesus’ words always accomplish what they say.
Eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus is not something to be done lightly. For that reason, we ask that if you are not already a member of our congregation or of another congregation in the ELCE, you should please talk to the pastor or one of the elders before receiving the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper. If you are not taking Communion, then please remain in your seat while others go forward.
End of the service, and after
After the distribution of the Supper, we sing a post-communion canticle, followed by a closing prayer and then a final hymn, for which we stand.
We then sit, and the pastor makes some announcements about upcoming events. At the end of this, the pastor leaves the church, and we follow him into the hall where you are very welcome to join us for a cup of tea or coffee.