Be a Better Liturgist

liturgy – NOUN (plural liturgies)

1 A form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted. 1.1 A religious service conducted according to a liturgy. 2(In ancient Athens) a public office or duty performed voluntarily by a rich Athenian.

Derivatives: liturgist – NOUN

Origin: Mid 16th century: via French or late Latin from Greek leitourgia ‘public service, worship of the gods’, from leitourgos ‘minister’, from lēitos ‘public’ + -ergos ‘working’.

Ten Ways to be a Better Liturgist

Two Important Changes for all Liturgists (before the 10) 

  • For the Invocation: Do NOT announce, “I am the one, you are the many.”  It’s described as such in the bulletin itself, so just begin with something like “Please stand as you are able and join me in the Invocation,” wait for people to stand and get organized, and begin.
  • For the Offertory Invitation: About ⅓ of our monthly giving is online.  We want to recognize those who’ve already given in this way.  So add to whatever else you said, something like: “Recognizing those who’ve already given on line, will the ushers please come forward.” Or if you want to do it earlier, “We are, of course grateful to those who’ve already given online.”   It’s not so much the exact words as the concept, so feel free to use your own words, just be sure to acknowledge those who give online.
  1. You are the Worship LEADER. People will FOLLOW you.  To LEAD you must be AHEAD of the congregation on the next  instruction:
    • “Stand as you are able, remain standing, please be seated. Please join me in the prayer of dedication.”
    • Before every unison reading: “Please join me in…”
    • Before every hymn (except prayer response): “Our (opening, responsive, etc) hymn is…”
  2. Practice speaking S-L-O-W-L-Y.  What you hear when you speak sounds slower to you than it really is.  It is almost impossible to speak too slowly, especially if attention is paid to emphasis.  Far more people speak too fast than too slow.
  3.  Read through the Order of Worship and HIGHLIGHT everything you’re responsible for. Note whether this is a “special” Sunday – either liturgically (Easter, Pentecost, etc.) or other (Martin Luther King, Pride, etc.).
  4. Select your scripture translation (the office will email you the Order of Worship on Wednesday)  Pew bibles are New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is a wonderful free source with over 150 different, searchable, translations..  Reading your scripture in several different translations (at least three) before you select the one you will use will add to your understanding.
  5. LEARN about your scripture from Bible Commentaries (in church library and Bible Gateway).  What significant happened before? After? It’s many times     very helpful if you can “set the stage” for a scripture, e.g. ‘This is after Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes”
  6. PRINT your scripture in a LARGE typeface (this is much easier than trying to find and read from an actual Bible.  (If you don’t have the capability I’ll be happy to do it for you)
  7. READ everything first – OUT LOUD, then do it AGAIN.Actors don’t deliver their lines without first practicing and neither should you. In almost every scripture there will be a word or name or phrase you don’t know or aren’t sure how to pronounce. Figure it out in advance.
  8. UNDERLINE (or italicize) the words or phrases you want to emphasize. “I love you, I love you, and I love you” have three different meanings.  Emphasizing different words changes the meaning of scripture and everything else you read. After you’ve underlined it, read it OUT LOUD again.  You are delivering the Word of God to the congregation. It is important, so act and sound like it. Just don’t pontificate.
  9. Look up the hymns. Check pronunciation of the hymn name.  (most are easy, but some…) This is also an excellent time to learn a little about the hymn itself. Decide if telling something about the hymn would add to the congregation’s understanding of it. Best to write it down in your script
  10. LAST MINUTE SUNDAY MORNING check with pastor:  Who’s doing the offering invitation?  Any special hymn directions (el.g., only sing verse one and two)

This is a very forgiving congregation, but liturgist mistakes are a distraction. That’s why “practice makes perfect” is best.