How it is, and how it should be: some notes on worship within the Roborough Team Ministry

I am hugely grateful for the input, support and contribution made by some many people within our parishes; without which we simply would not be able to gather in worship of Almighty God. It is so difficult to remember what I have said to individuals that I felt it would be right to document my wishes and desires for the conduct of worship in the Benefice. It is, however, not a document set in stone, for worship and liturgy changes dynamically to suit the needs of each congregation, the charisms and desire of each community and our own response to God in Worship. I hope that this, at least, becomes a platform upon which we can build our worship together.

Preparation for the Mass

I like the all the elements and vessels for Holy Communion to be prepared on a tray, including the Paten, Chalice, Purificator, Pall and Corporal as well as the Lavabo items.


I do like heavily starched linens, with the Corporal almost cardboard like. It folds into NINE (you can see the creases above) but unlike this one, I prefer to have it fold inwards from here. If we starch and iron them in a way that it unfolds into this form, then I will be blissfully happy. If the corporal has a seam around the edge, I prefer this to be underneath.

The elements can be on the side and the server can then hand the Chalice with the Paten, Purificator, Pall and Corporal to the Deacon[1/Priest for them to lay it all out. If there is a second chalice, this can then be handed over or placed on the altar next.

It is hugely appreciated if on the legillium there is a hymn list, and especially when there are omitted verses this is noted. If we fail to announce this, please pipe up and remind the congregation! We don’t have the ego to be threatened by this. If there is more than one hymn on the printed sheet, then it is hugely useful to have them marked as to which one is which. As I announce the offertory usually half-way through the Peace, please be prepared to remind me what it is.

It would be really useful if a little card was available to go on the hymn board which said “OMIT *

Administration of Communion

I always prefer to have a server. If there is no server, and you are a Chalice Assistant, I would be grateful if you would come and serve at the altar. Although there are slight differences for each church, these general principles hold for each of our churches.

If there is a server, please come up into the Sanctuary at the beginning of the Agnus Dei. You will receive holy communion immediately after fellow concelebrants and clergy. After receiving the chalice it will be placed back onto the Corporal on the altar and not left in your hands. This minimises the risk of spillage of the Precious Blood of Our Lord. At the end, please place the chalice back onto the Corporal. We then bow together to the remaining elements and the priest will bow to you to thank you. Please return to your seat unless there is no-one else to help the lavabo at the end of communion.

Serving the Altar

If you are serving, take the vessels to the altar in the following order:

  • Chalice with Corporal
  • Other Chalice
  • Ciborium

The Deacon/Priest will then lay these out. Bring the decanter of wine and the water. If there are insufficient wafers, you might have to bring those over before the wine.

Hold the decanter in your right hand and the water in the left. As you pass the decanter, swop the water into your right and receive the decanter into your left, swap again to receive the water into your left hand. BY CIRCULATING THERE IS NO CONFUSION – give with the right hand, receive with the left.

Take back the decanter and water to the table. Put down the wine and pick up the bowl and the lavabo towel.  Put the towel over the arm you are holding the bowl in. Go back to the priest and pour some water over their fingers into the bowl. The priest will then dry their hands on the lavabo and put it back on your arm. Return to the table and if they have not already been given to someone else, please pick up the bells.

Bells at the Eucharist

When there are young people present, you can encourage them to ring the bells. They are never too young to start. At the end of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord…) ring the bell once before the start of the Eucharistic Prayer.

As the priest elevates the paten, ring the bell three times  and again three times as they raise the chalice.

When the priest drinks from the chalice, ring the bells once.

Put down the bells and remain in the sanctuary to receive Holy Communion.


The Priest and Chalice Assistants will return the Sacrament to the altar and bow. Take the water to the priest and pour a little water into whatever you are proffered, often two chalices and a ciborium. Return the water jug.

As you come back to the altar, the priest will have cleaned some of the vessels and put them on the edge of the altar. Pick them up and return them to the table. The last item will be a chalice, purificator, pall, paten and corporal. This is usually handed directly to you: place a hand on the top to steady it as you carry it back.

Bible Readings in Church

Almost anyone could do the readings. Almost anyone could do them badly and/or carelessly. But, with a little effort, most people could do them well. A little thought and a little planning can make all the difference.

The Mass is comprised of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament. In a Mass, both are equally important, as we cannot feed properly from the Blessed Sacrament unless we have been first fed by God’s word. The word is God is also incomplete until we have partaken in God’s Holy Sacraments; so you are undertaking a vital role in the life and worship of this Church. If you haven’t worked at it, don’t expect, miraculously, to do it well. God provides miracles when a problem is beyond human solution. This is not one of those.

First Things First: Spadework

Clearly, you can’t just roll up on Sunday morning, stride to the front and begin reading. So to prepare: You get out your Bible, turn up the first passage and begin reading. Wrong! The first thing you should do is pray. At this stage, pray that you will understand the passages. You cannot read anything well if you do not understand it. When you have prayed, read the other passages, including the Gospel. The three year Common Worship Lectionary chooses readings that are thematically linked to the season and ensure that the Liturgy of the Word is based on a common theme. The CW lectionary can be obtained from any Christian bookshop, and the readings for each day can be downloaded from the internet into your Computer (see  The readings are distributed to you at least a few weeks in advance before the service. Understanding how your reading fits into the whole will guide you as to how to play this reading.


No one expects an Oscar-winning performance from you, but the most thrilling and momentous passages will seem deadly dull if they are read in a flat monotone. Pray about this, too. The word of God is lively and active, and your reading should aim to give life to the text. Look for any direct speech and work out how it might be said. Is it a question? a command? Should it be said in an angry tone? or a comforting one? Is there a point at which a slight pause would be appropriate, perhaps to let some great truth sink in? If there is no speech you can try to convey the general mood of the passage. Does it record a happy event? or a sad one? Read through again, putting in these effects in your head. Try any difficult words out loud, to make sure you can get your tongue round them. More on this later

Sunday Morning

By now the passages should seem like old friends. Read them through again, either at home or, having arrived at church sufficiently early, sitting quietly in a pew. (Of course, there is a greater danger that you will be interrupted, if you choose the latter.) This reading should also be accompanied by prayer. Pray that you will recall all the mental notes you have made and give thanks that you don’t have to do any of this in your own strength. God will calm your nerves too. I once had a friend, a gifted speaker, who told me that she was always very nervous before she began. ‘If I stopped being nervous I should stop accepting invitations to speak,’ she said, ‘because then, I would know that I was doing it in my own strength and not depending on God.


Except for when you are actually reading, you should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sit at the end of a pew so that you don’t have to disturb other people, and in a place where you don’t have to walk across the front of the church to get out to the lectern. Unless you have been told otherwise, the readings will be from the Jerusalem Bible, and are printed on the weekly service sheet.

Anticipate. Don’t sit in your place until there is a long silence. By the time the priest has finished the Collect you should be standing at the lectern, ready to begin, and by the end of each reading, the next person should be ready to take over almost without a pause.  Being ready and in position will give you time for one last ‘arrow’ prayer for support. Don’t worry about the microphone. You don’t have to do anything to it. That is not your responsibility. If there is a problem, someone will step in to assist you (or make adjustments at the mixing desk). All you need to do is speak clearly and loudly, as the microphone is there to support your voice, not replace it. You don’t need to lean towards the microphone or touch it. At the front of Church people will be listening primarily to you and not the speakers. You need to speak loudly enough to be clearly heard over half the Church.

This is It

The service sheet indicates how the reading should be introduced in italics at the top. It usually takes the form “A reading from the Book of X or “A reading from the letter of Paul to Y”. You should not read out the reference which sounds disjointed: the reading is in front of everyone so there is no scrabbling for it in a pew bible.

There should be a slight pause before beginning the text. Give expression to your reading and make use of full stops, commas and speech marks to make the reading varied and interesting. Although there is no place for silly voices in a Scriptural Reading, one should be able to differentiate in texture between the narrative of the text and the spoken word. Remember that sometimes a dramatic pause can make all the difference to a reading, particularly after a key phrase.

At the end of the reading, again make a slight pause and say, ‘This is the word of the Lord’. The congregation will respond, ‘Thanks be to God’.

Psalms when read should introduce the response: “The response to the Psalm is…” followed by a short pause and then repeat the response itself, where the congregation will join in with you. You need to boldly repeat the response so that the congregation knows to follow with you. Sometimes they do not have the words in front of them so they are relying on you to lead them, and it might not sink in first time. Say the Psalm versicles in the same manner as a normal poetic reading, and repeat again boldly with the congregation the response to the Psalm.

At the end of each reading or Psalm there should be a momentary pause if you are continuing. If someone else is taking over from you, step away as the congregation makes their last response enabling the next reader to pick up with only a momentary pause. There should be a distinct gap between readings but not a long embarrassed silence. When you are back in your place don’t forget to thank God for His help. Now you can relax and enjoy the rest of the service.

Those Awful Hebrew Names

Most people don’t have a problem with New Testament names. It’s the unusual ones in the Old Testament which are difficult. Here are one or two pointers which may help. Since the Hebrew alphabet is totally different from ours, the letters are already transliterated so that the consonants can be treated just like English. These are not exactly right, but near enough. The problem with the vowels (a,e,i,o,u.) is that, in English, we make one letter represent a number of different sounds. The letter ‘a’ for example, can be interpreted in eight different ways. This doesn’t happen in other languages. Few of them have so many vocals and, in any case, the use of accents, or diacritics makes the pronunciation clear. Hebrew has very few vowel sounds. As a rule of thumb, except for familiar anglicised names, if you always pronounce a as in ‘pat’, e as in ‘egg’, i as in ‘chick’, o as in ‘note’ u as in ‘rule’ you’ll be about right. Double a as in ‘Baal’ is said as a long ‘a’ sound – ‘Baaaaal’. If you encounter a word which leaves you totally stuck, check with one of the Clergy.

The most important advice with difficult names or words is to do something and to do it with confidence. Even if the word is wrong to the ears of Hebrew scholars, we won’t notice unless you draw attention to it. So, when confronted with a difficult word, say it how you have worked it out and don’t look back. Never stop and apologise. God doesn’t mind and nor should we.


To help you remember all of this, here are five ‘P’s;

  • Pray First and last
  • Prepare Thoughtfully
  • Practice Thoroughly
  • Position In good time
  • Pronounce Clearly

I hope you will enjoy reading the Holy Scriptures in Church. Your contribution is appreciated and valued.

Leading Intercessions in Church

 Why ask lay people to lead intercessions?

Worship is something in which we are all engaged and involved. Lay people, taking a vocal, leadership role in services send out very positive messages to the rest of the congregation about the importance of every church member playing their part. Using a variety of people will hopefully bring a variety of approaches and insights to this part of our worship.


You can’t just arrive at the service, stand up and lead intercessions. You need to have an idea of the theme of the worship, so you need to have read the passages of Holy Scripture beforehand to link your prayers to the shape of the worship. You also need to be aware of events that are happening or breaking both locally, nationally and internationally, but use them to shape the theme of your prayers, not to be a re-reading of the News at Ten!

Most importantly, you need to PRAY. Pray that you understand the theme and that God will guide you to lead prayers effectively.

Be aware that leading prayer is not at all like praying privately or silently: it should not weave in and around themes, return to things previously mentioned, change tack abruptly as you think of something new. When we pray alone, this is the Spirit prompting us in new and exciting directions, but when we do this out loud, it just descends into an uncoordinated mess, as others will have difficulty following your stream of consciousness. For this reason, your intercessions should be:

  • Planned
  • Succinct
  • Short
  • Relevant


You do need to be aware of what is happening in the world, and sometimes it is appropriate to build these into your intercessions—a good example was the Tsunami or the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I always advise listening to the News before you come to Church, and being prepared to adapt if necessary in the light of events.

The prayer is collective and should always be “We pray…” When you lead intercessions in the first person (“I pray…”) , it is very exclusive.

The bidding prayer, often given by the Priest at the beginning gives you an opportunity to set the tone of the prayers as well as being a signal for those who wish to sit or kneel for prayer. One of the classic bidding prayers indicates the manner in which we pray:

“In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ Jesus, let us pray to the Father…”

Intercessions should always address the Father primarily. Phrases at the beginning of each petition can be:

  • Heavenly Father
  • Lord God
  • Loving Father        and so on

Once you have chosen one form of address for God, stick with it

Who/What should I pray for?

Traditionally, we pray in this pattern for:

  • The Church
  • The World
  • The Community
  • The Sick
  • The Dying

However, you can pray in any form you want to, depending on the context in which you are leading prayers (clearly some of the suggestions below are impractical for Sunday morning, whereas some are…)

Other prayer ideas:

  • Spoken Intercessions
  • Visual Intercessions (Play music, show pictures)
  • Prayer Tree
  • Stone / Pebbles
  • Clay
  • Prayer Strings with Knots
  • Bubbles blown into the air
  • Ribbons placed on something
  • Candles placed in sand

Be creative!

If we pray for the Church, we MUST pray for our Bishops, all three by name. If we pray for any of the other churches, then we must pray for them all. A form of words which is appropriate is:

“We pray for Justin, Our Archbishop, Francis, the Pope, Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch, Michael, John and Nicholas, Bishops of this Diocese and the leaders of the Reformed Churches”

As your Vicar (and clergy team), We also greatly appreciate being prayed for by name at every opportunity.

Intercessions need not be a litany of the news, but should be directed more towards common themes of the week. When praying for something, DO NOT be tempted to ramble on about it: bring it before the people and let them pray about it in their own way:

“We pray for the situation in Syria and pray for the hand of peace to calm tensions there at present”

Everyone can then have their own private focus and God can sort it out how He wills. I recommend no more than 4 or 5 petitions, rounded off with a response. If you are introducing a new or slightly different response, begin your prayers with:

 “The response to ‘Let us pray to the Lord’ is ‘Lord have mercy’”

And then say the response so that the congregation can repeat it back to you.

However, I feel the standard response should be “Lord, hear us  Lord, graciously hear us

Be aware of the names of the people on our notice sheet who have requested prayers


You may know of people who are sick, dying, having a ‘hard time’. Some people will tell you their problems, but do not expect the whole of Plymouth to hear about them during the intercessions.

Rather than saying ‘We pray for N as she faces a hard time at the moment’ better say ‘We pray for all facing their own trials at this time’.

Use of the Hail Mary or the prayers for the faithful departed:

 “+Rest Eternal Grant unto them, O Lord

And let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace and rise in glory

are strongly encouraged.

At the end, either use one of the classic summations which the people can join in or close with a bidding to which the unequivocal response is “Amen”

       “Heavenly Father, trusting in your love and mercy, we lay these prayers before you, which we ask in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen.”

Please note that “Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ” is not (for reasons of space) on the Mass card and should therefore be avoided, as it excludes those who are new to Church.


Except for when you are leading the intercessions, you should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sit at the end of the pew so you don’t have to disturb other people. Anticipate. By the time we have finished the Creed, you should be in the place of prayer and ready to begin. I advise setting off at the line “we believe in the Holy Spirit”, for it is she who is sending you to lead prayers anyway! Being in position will give you plenty of time for one last ‘arrow prayer’ for support.

Don’t worry about the microphone, or switching it on, or moving the lectern after you have finished. As you return to your seat, give thanks to God privately that you have done His work in leading the people of God in prayer.


There are many printed resources on the bookshelves, and if you want to use them as a guide, please do. Your clergy team all have experience in leading prayer and are happy to help you. The internet is a resource, but be careful as there are some sites with strange ideas! The one resource we cannot do without is the Holy Spirit. As we keep re-iterating, the best and only way to intercede is to pray yourself first for the Holy Spirit to give you inspiration, and it will come.

If you make a mistake during your intercessions, do not worry: keep going. If you do not draw attention to yourself, no-one will notice. Never stop and apologise.


To help you remember all of this, here are five ‘P’s;

  • Pray First and last
  • Prepare Thoughtfully
  • Practice Thoroughly
  • Position In good time
  • Pronounce Clearly

I hope you will enjoy reading the Holy Scriptures in Church. Your contribution is appreciated and valued.

[1 It is the Deacon’s task to lay up the altar. Priests remain Deacons for ever.