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An agenda for Sunday Meetings

Regulars here will know how enamoured I am with Sydney Anglican liturgy. Thanks to Rev. Joshua Bovis for his recent comment for drawing attention to the wonderful new resource by Sydney Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth. The good bishop writes:

Here’s a Contemporary Sunday liturgy that has not been included in Common Prayer: Resources for gospel-shaped gatherings.

It is only in draft form and I am sure can be improved. I would welcome suggestions.

A Contemporary Sunday Service outline (aka An Agenda for Sunday Meetings)


1. Begin late with chatty longwinded opening. It’s best to mention current affairs, the latest cricket results or football, anything to take people’s minds away from any focus on God and particularly if anyone had been praying beforehand.

2. Various songs can now be sung here or anywhere else for that matter. Make sure that each song is introduced with a lengthy introduction explaining why it’s appropriate to sing. Songs should be chosen with tunes that are not easy to recognise and where the words preferably range over unrelated ideas and images. If theology is to be included, it must only be about the penal substitutionary atonement.

3. At the conclusion of any song: the congregation should be thanked, or comment made about how well or poorly they have sung.

4. Comments during the meeting: opportunity should be taken whenever possible to explain what’s going on or give edifying talks. It’s important that there be no sense in which people have any time to reflect themselves. Ambiguity should always be avoided at all costs. Assume that the members of your congregation know absolutely nothing and you will be safe.

5. Prayers are now prayed, if at all. The best way to do this would be to take the contents of weekly bulletin and pray everything in them. It’s best not to pray for things outside of church concerns.

6. Bible reading can be had, though it is advisable to keep it limited just to the text for the sermon, which then follows.

7. Post sermon comments. The service leader ought to make some comments about the sermon, particularly if there is anything which the service leader thinks needs further development or even correction.

8. Announcements: These should be long and detailed. If other elements of the meeting (like sermon) have gone on too long then prayers etc should be shortened to leave plenty of time. To maintain the tone of chatty friendliness for the outsider, announcements should only ever include first names of people as in, for example, “to register, please see Jim after the service.”This is the one point in the meeting where visitors will appreciate being treated as if they actually know something.

9. If what were once called sacraments are to be at all, they are to be brief and should be apologised for. Baptism is begun with the exhortation that “this is just ordinary tap water. “ It’s very important that the congregation not think that anything is happening at either sacrament.

10. The people are dismissed by telling them not to leave, but that now the formal part is over they are to stay for coffee.

End of service/ meeting

Rev. Joshua Bovis adds some other helpful points:

Supplemental 1:If there is going to be prayer of confession,use the Prayer of the Just (i.e “We just prayer that…” “We just wanna pray…” Avoid rote prayers at all times especially from the BCP/AAPB/APBA. After all we don’t want people to fall into the trap of mindless praying. Actually it is better to not confess sin together at all.
Supplemental 2: Don’t have the greeting of peace. Don’t give people the opportunity to reconcile with others (after all, Christians never hurt each other). Have ‘Say G’day’ instead, which gives people the opportunity for people to chat about trivial things with people they already know well, make outsiders just feel that wee bit more on the outer and those grudges & hurts within the congregation can stay buried.
Supplemental 3: Don’t have a time of reflection/silence/self-examination (esp before Holy Communion).
Supplemental 4:Speaking of Holy Commmunion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist. Don’t use these terms. Use some hokey term (eg.’Meal-share’; ‘Table Fellowship’). And provide the four options: a. Wine from chalice b. Wine from separate cups c. Juice from chalice d. Juiice from separate cups Turn HC into a complete circus!
Supplemental 5: Before you begin make sure that there is as much noise as possible, especially from the music team (make sure they are playing secular songs too) (see Supp 3)
Supplemental 6: Use this valuable ministry training video

Many of you will have seen this – I myself have contributed in this manner – I hope this continues to be useful for many of you in preparing the Liturgy of the Notices (cf section 8, above).

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12 Responses to An agenda for Sunday Meetings

  1. I am sure there is a concerted effort to link the themes of the notices with the variety of sung advertising jingles used throughout the liturgy. Most service leaders are media savvy, and put great thought into creating an emerging theme, developed at systematic intervals based in length on the known limits in concentration span of the congregated.

  2. Well done. I would only add that during HC loudly chanting ‘more wine’ after each has a turn will also contribute to the jovial circus type atmosphere.

  3. Bosco,

    Perhaps the Grumpy Old Bishop is pointing out what happens (in a satirical way)when we do the thinking for non-Christians for them and assume that if they experience, see, feel, or hear anything that they
    1. don’t like
    2. don’t understand
    3. don’t agree with
    4. don’t find funny/entertaining
    5. don’t find cool

    when we gather in Word and sacrament then they will be innoculated against the Gospel.

    So the baby is thrown out with the bathwater when it comes Anglican distinctives (which differentiate the Anglican Church from other denominations) in the name of contextualisation. This is butressed by the unspoken fear that we must not give unbelievers the impression that our faith is over 40 years old and anything Ancient is either Roman Catholic or uncool or both (ie. Ash Wednesday; Lent; Greeting of peace, Holy Communion more than once a month)

    So we end up with a bland generic evangelicalism where the crown jewels from men like Cranmer are not even missed anymore as younger Anglicans don’t even know who Cranmer is.

    Perhaps the Bishop is referrring not to the lack of training of leaders(though I am sure this comes into it) but to the lack of Anglican identity?

    • Thanks, Joshua. I would press even further. What you are saying is not uniquely Anglican – this is a shared heritage of Christianity until very relatively recently – going back to Jesus and through Jesus on into our Jewish roots, a Jewish life that continues to this day. Blessings.

  4. I must admit that I had never thought about Jewish roots.

    Though I am mindful that we are as the Apostle Paul says about Gentiles being grafted in (Romans 1).

    As for a Jewish life that continues to this day, I am not sure what you mean – I am aware that worship AD is different from worship BC, that there is discontinuity (which the writer of the Hebrews makes clear)and a continuity between the old and new covenants. Is this what you mean?

    • Some examples that spring quickly to mind (you may have seen I’ve got a particular personal focus on the psalms this Lent) is that the Psalms were (“formal”) prayers of Judaism, deeply known and used by Jesus, and his earliest followers. The church has always held the psalms central to our spiritual life – as community prayer as well. Alongside this, the Jewish community continues also in this great tradition of public, “formal” praying of the psalms. The principles and discipline of a lectionary we have inherited from our Jewish roots – and Jews continue to this day. Many of our great feasts. The structure of our great prayers (blessing water, eucharistic prayers) follow the Jewish pattern. Our faith and worship is not de novo, ex nihilo; we are indebted at every turn to our Jewish roots – and they continue that life also. Blessings.

  5. Thank you. This made my Monday morning. And this Lutheran can safely confirm that this is not a uniquely Anglican problem.

    Now someone ought to write an alternative order of service for those types that do retain the liturgy, but try to do all of the above in it, to make sure that absolutely everyone knows exactly what it is that we are about to do/doing/have just done. You know, “And now, if you would like to stand again, we are going to sing the Gloria in excelsis, which is Latin for … “.

  6. As a Lutheran I would advise anyone who is responsible for the announcements to make sure, that they’re at least equally long as the sermon. And pleeeeease, do not only mention whom to see after the service but also read out his/her phone number (quickly of course) in case someone is to shy to meet that person face to face.

    And please, do never, ever use notes for the songs or hymns. If people do not know the tune they should rely on their fellow worshipper’s singing skills and listen properly to the music instead of poking their nose into something as old fashioned as song- or hymnbooks.

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