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Free Church Liturgese

Or, words that those of us who grew up in free churches probably know, have forgotten, and occasionally confuse other people with.

This came to mind from following a thread on Glen's blog, where he alluded to a 'scriptural call to worship' an example of free church language that I understood (and use) but is completely opaque to many within, never mind outwith, the church.  It made me start thinking about some of the words/phrases and even elements of services that we have - or used to have - and realising what a lot of insider language we employ.  Casting my mind back over 30+ years of URC, Methodist and Baptist experience I came up with these examples, some now rarely used, and wonder what people would choose to add?

Introit - a song or verse sung (by the choir if there is one) before any other word is spoken

Moment of silence - does what it says on the tin!  Stop chatting to your neighbour or reading the notice sheet, the service is about to start

Call to worship - some words of scripture or liturgy used at the start of the service to help people to focus Godwards

Lesson - I still hear this in some older congregations - the Bible reading(s) for the day

Children's address/talk - the bit aimed at making those under 12 feel like they are part of proceedings and may be followed by...

Children's song/chorus - usually chosen by adults and meant to be something younger children can enjoy and engage with.

Anthem - so far as I can tell this means a piece of SATB choral music that would sound wonderful in a cathedral but, alas, is often beyond the capability of the chapel choir who attempt it.  Comes between the reading(s) and sermon in my (limited) experience, and I guess is aimed at helping one to prepare for that.

Notices/announcements - classic interruption to many services, though often now precedes the call to worship, where dates of upcoming events are listed.  Is it part of worship or not - answers on a post card, opinions vary!

Offertory/Collection - money gathering exercise; nowadays often resulting in visitors fumbling embarrassedly for loose change while regular members smuggly pass the plate/bag on because they use direct debit...

Vesper - a song sung at the end of the service, usually the evening service in my experience, to mark its ending.  May be instead of or as well as ...

Doxology - a blessing, sung or spoken.  Often either 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow' sung to 'Old Hundredth' or 'May God's Blessing Surround You Each Day' from Mission Praise.  Elsewhere this is replaced by...

The Grace - a recitation of 2 Corinthians 13:14 which may take place with eyes tightly closed or with everyone looking around trying to catch (or not) the eyes of other people as they do so.  And or...

The Blessing - a prayer spoken by the preacher that may sum up something of the sermon and seek God's protection 'until we meet again


So, any revisions to definitions or obvious omissions (apart from things like 'sermon' that are common across most traditions)...


PS I realise SATB is another kind of insider language - sorry.   It means four part harmonisation for a choir of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices.


  • If there's an introit, I always wondered as child why there wasn't an outroit.

  • Are the notices part of the worship? Of course they are when they're cleverly merged into the prayers.

    "Dear Lord, we ask you to bless the ladies' meeting that will take place on Thursday morning at 10 o'clock in Mrs Miggins' house..." and so on.

  • Andy - indeed. Alas, where I grew up, 'outroit' was local pronunciation of 'outright,' and tended only to be used in the phrase 'that's an outroit lie' so never found its way into church on a Sunday.

    Trevor - you were in that service too...?! The most 'outroit' example I ever heard was 'we pray for the family of Mrs Goggins whose funeral takes place here at 2 pm on Friday followed by committal at 3pm at Nexttown crematorium.' Priceless!

  • Wow ... I've been hanging around free churches for 25 years .... it's obviously not long enough.

    Which reminds me I must go and get on preparing for the active response to our alt.worship exploration of communion with a missional edge!

  • What about the instruction to "let the elements pass you by" if you don't want to partake in Communion? [the verb is almost always 'partake' in this context]
    I confess to using terms like 'call to worship' and 'intercessory prayer' etc on my NOTES for the order of service - but I try not to actually use the terms whilst I am leading worship.
    I struggle with people who pray "Lord, as we have read in the paper this week..." and find myself wondering who actually drops a copy of the Leicester Mercury outside the Pearly Gates.
    And as for those who are "laid aside on a bed of sickness" eugh! and that strange quirk of the Leicester Accent, where added and dropped aitches means we implore that they may be visited by Hans of Ealing [a strange German living in North London, I think]

  • 'Intercessions' or 'Petitions' - praying for ourselves and others

    (I remember someone praying "for those who are sick of our fellowship")

    'Confession' - I have someone who complains to me that I include prayers of confession in our church services ("We don't need confession at every service, do we, David?"), and I sometimes allow a time for quiet reflection for people to bring their own personal confession to God. Some people in our church must be very holy and close to God, and they feel they have nothing to confess.

    Climbs onto soapbox - My personal bugbear is the mumbled or half-hearted 'Amen' that comes back from the congregation at the end of a prayer, what is that all about? I'm preaching on 'Amen' this Sunday morning, at the end of a series I've been doing on the Lord's Prayer. Oh for a congregation which 'repeats the loud Amen' - Climbs off soapbox

    The Children's Address has now become the All-age Talk

    Communion - Where we 'gather around the table', but we actually don't do any gathering, 'to share in broken bread' which is actually cut into neat cubes, 'and poured out wine' which could well be Ribena. I've even noticed now that we get brown bread and white bread cubes on the same plate ("just to give people the choice"), so that we can't even say that the bread is from the one loaf.

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