October 19, 2017

The Evangelical Liturgy 5: The Prelude

vioIn most Protestant and evangelical worship services there is some kind of a transition from non-worship time to worship time. Though this is among the least essential elements of worship, this “prelude” serves a number of helpful functions.

Protestants have an uneven record on treating a worship space/time as a time of focused, prayerful response to God. The more Catholic side of the aisle tends to respect and honor the practice of reverent silence, while evangelicals often not only eschew it, but to occasionally oppose it by encouraging worshipers to socialize and talk to one another.

I’ll never forget an Episcopal friend’s reaction, more than 30 years ago, to the decorum in our Baptist church on Sunday evening. He was horrified at what he interpreted as a complete lack of respect for the idea of worship. I was puzzled as to why anyone wouldn’t see the value of “fellowship” between Christians before the worship service began.

The “prelude” is the signal for a more focused response to worship to begin. The congregation should be instructed to consider the prelude the first movement of worship, with an accompanying change in behavior and mindset.

The prelude, when done well, should be a prompt to recognize and begin responding to the presence of God and the purposes of gathered worship.

There are several options for the prelude that are common in the various strains of evangelicalism. The prelude may be an instrumental performance or the playing of recorded music. Many evangelical churches have incorporated various kinds of video into the prelude.

For churches with modest worship space and instrumentation, this may be a simple piano or guitar meditation.

Some preludes may be designed to move the worshiping emotions in the direction of the tone desired for that particular worship service, particularly a mood of praise.

I watched a service at a seeker-oriented contemporary church tonight. The sermon series was on “Losing My Religion” and the “prelude” was a band playing Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You.” This was followed by a welcome that oriented non-Christians to the subject of the service and transitioned to more traditional Praise choruses.

The prelude is not the call to worship, but they can easily function together.

There may be some issues with the possibility of the prelude becoming a detached musical performance with little reference to the worship service.

Comments

  1. Nowadays in Orthodox worship the Orthros (Morning Prayer) often functions as a prelude for the vast majority of Orthodox worshipers. Walking into a church where morning prayer is being celebrated means that one does not walk in and simply starts talking but rather that one walks into an atmosphere in which there is already the Spirit of God made present. This helps the worshiper to enter into the worship of God.

  2. When I can make it to the tiny daily Mass, the few people I know and myself sometimes would talk together (not in full voice) before the priest came in. The man who was helping out the priest (what we used to call altar boys, but I know there is another name but I don’t know what it is) told some of the people that it was not being properly respectful. So they came up with a way of knowing it was time to be silent. When the guy lit the two candles, we are supposed to be quiet. So that works like your Prelude, I would say, Michael. In the larger Mass I sometimes attend, people do talk very quietly until the priest comes in.

    • I’ve noticed that people do seem to be talking more before Mass. It was very evident in one church I went to; loud buzz of conversation up until the entrance procession.

      Maybe Catholics are becoming less revently silent, and Protestants are becoming more? 🙂

  3. I learned what Father Ernesto is referring to on a flight back from Eastern Europe a few years ago. I had a very good conversation for 9 hours with a Russian Orthodox woman who had also been living in the States for a few years. As we talked about our faith practices, she said one of the hardest things she experiences when periodically attending protestant churches was what she felt was the lack of respect and awe we seem to have when entering the sanctuary where the Spirit of God was already present and waiting for us to attend to him. I feebly attempted to explain that the Spirit is always present and there is real value in fellowshipping with other believers, something she had no problem with either before or after leaving the sanctuary. Bottom line, I knew she was right and had to agree with her.

  4. Jenny Bluett says:

    Drives me crazy, God love my priest ( I do) but he comes in and has what I refer to as “the game show” prior to the beginning of mass.

    “Any visitors, any guests? Any birthdays, anniversaries?” and if not now he borrows from our fellow Wisconsinite, Michael Feldman, and offers “So, whatdya know?”. I love that darn variety show but I’m not about to echo a rely “Not much, and you?” at mass! Just please get your booty back to the entrance for the procession father, God love you!

    • *Shudder*

      I’m grimacing just reading that, Jenny!

      Does it bother anyone else in your parish? Has anyone ever said anything to your priest about it (God love him)? 🙂

  5. The prelude is a practice that our church has definitely taken up recently. However, it is a real “blended” prelude. We started doin it because I was sick of having people talking all the way through the first song or two. So we do all instrumental hymns, but rock style. This morning, for example, I wrote us out a cute little medley of “Standing on the Promises” and “Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus” and we just rocked it out. Sometimes I’ll shred it on the electric guitar, or we’ll get high schoolers from the youth group to cary melody on a trumpet or something. It really has turned out to be a lot of fun and I feel that it really does help “get people’s attention” for worship. Instrumental music in churches, however, is something I feel people avoid because of the “performance” aspect of it. Funny though, because people who talk in those terms tend to have much more performance oriented “worship” time.

  6. Often the prelude seems to be a signal for some people that they need to talk louder so as to be heard over the music.

    • Does anyone “in charge” explain any of this to the congregation or are the supposed to figure out something they’ve never been a part of before?

    • Teaching the liturgy and the “rubrics” of the various parts of liturgy is an important part of growing a congregation in worship. I can’t think of much more appropriate for a Christian ed option than instruction in liturgy.

  7. This was one of the tough ones in the evangelical churches I served. Our musicians would work very hard on their pieces for the prelude, only to find the situation Dave N. refers to repeated week after week. I even tried having us sing during the prelude, but it was worse than a nightclub! Some churches I know moved their announcements to the beginning of the service and had a welcome and announcement time, then a call to worship and a prelude to help people get ready for worship. However, this wasn’t really suitable for musicians to do anything more than play a verse of a hymn or chorus. Others combine video projection of Scripture verses or worship reminders along with the music, but I’ve seen them ignored as well. From a pastor’s perspective, I was always conflicted about this, because it was one time when I had the chance to move around the gathered congregation and greet folks and take the pulse of what was going on. Where we attend now, that happens primarily in the cafe area outside the sanctuary, and once we go through the sanctuary doors, everyone knows it’s time to worship. Many still don’t listen to the prelude music much, though, and attention is not fully captured until the pastor processes. Never have figured this one out…

  8. would you consider powerpoint slides containing announcements a prelude?

    i guess what i’m asking is, what “counts” as the prelude?

    • Probably not. A lot of churches will run PPT announcements on a rotational crawl up to 15 minutes before the service; that tells you the service is someone close but not leading you into worship. My old church in Lexington would have an animated clock count down the time to the start of the service, but that’s really not a prelude, either.

    • IggyAntiochus says:

      A prelude helps us prepare for worship. So, PPT announcements probably do not help us in that respect. They may remind us about the mid-week Bible study, or they may help us get our kids to Friday’s youth activity, but they do not help us prepare for worship.

      However, if the PPT slides coincide with pre-service music, such as artwork or the text of the song that is being played, then they can count as an element of the prelude.

      Personally, I find that the announcement slides detract from my worship preparation, as they generally have nothing to do with the worship that is about to take place.

      IggyAntiochus

    • Yeah that’s a “kind” of prelude but one that’s not attempting to do the same thing as a more liturgically intentional one. I mean “whatever comes before” is prelude, but announcements are basically a decision to put information out there. In megas, I know that’s often important. But if we are thinking liturgical purpose and not pragmatism – info on nursery and parking, etc.- then it’s a “non worship related” prelude in many instances.

      • A number of different churches I have attended (but certainly not the majority) put announcements at the beginning so as to not have them disrupt the flow of the service later. It also gives everyone a chance to settle down at the beginning of the service.

  9. In the evangelical tradition, is the prelude before the actual start time of the service or a part of it? In other words, if your service is at 10:00, does the prelude begin at 10:00 or at 9:45?

    And if it’s 9:45, do people get quiet and expectant at 9:59? Just curious – thanks.

  10. On of the things that gets to me at my church is the clock count down with very annoying music and people talking loudly over this. Then we begin with a sort of a prelude which is a choir special that starts to get people calmed down for worship. One song of Congregational participation which is a lively praise song or a updated hymn. Then it is fellowship time/welcoming the guests time and it starts all over again with people moving all over the place. After that there is some semblance of worship. It makes me want to go become RC or Episcopal. I think I could more easily overlook the things I disagree with doctrinally than the complete lack of reverence in my own church.

  11. At the end of Mass where I attend, at the very end the priest asks any guests to stand up and tell us who they are and where they are from. It’s kind of neat to find out who is visiting the area. The bulletin is used to announce things that are happening during the week so there is no need to announce them, though sometimes before the visitors speak up, the priest may say one thing about something happening during the upcoming week. I think it’s good to have this stuff happening at the end instead of at the beginning.

  12. I am a Methodist minister in small/medium rural (ish) churches in North Yorkshire, England.

    I love the chatter beforehand- it reduces stiffness and English formaility and reminds me that God is found in the ordinary everyday and that our faith is incarnational. It really helps me in leading worship. I do use silence, reflective music etc much more than I used to, but this comes in the middle or towards the end (I can’t cope with high octane all through worship).

    I’m not knocking anyone else- this just seems to work around here.

  13. How common are bands and praise choruses? I have never been in a church with them (and I never want to). But the comments here make it appear that they are more common than not these days.

    • Among American evangelicals, it’s quickly becoming the majority report, esp in churches with less than liturgical roots and younger congregations.

      • I think a live band is a minimum requirement these days for church plants (of the evangelical type church plant, that is). The other requirement is a screen, powerpoint and no hymnals. And high quality coffee – no folgers, thank you very much

      • iMonk,

        Maybe you can elaborate on this if you will? It has been my experience, at least in my area, that the only liturgical baptist churches tend to be liberal. Now I’m using that as a derogatory word to start anything but you know what I mean coming from a SBC point of view, i.e. women in senior ministry.

        Does that corolation hold all over? Why does a “conservative” culture and the liturguy seem to be mutually exclusive of each other in baptist churches?

        Or is that just indicative of my area?

        I mean even the church you mentioned in Kentucky as introducing you to liturgy, and again its not a slam, would be described by liberal by many.

        • should have read “I’m NOT using that as a derogatory”

        • Among Baptists you are generally correct, but that’s evangelicalism’s problem of throwing everything overboard. I think the correlation is the education and social level of the leaders and the congregation.

          But this hasn’t always been so in Baptist history. Much of the evangelical liturgy was alive and well in the 1800s through the larger, more liturgical services at the “FBC” level churches I think there are many FBCs that remain friendly to the evangelical liturgy. I mean, this isn’t an Anglican service I am describing here, even though there is some overlap.

          Blame the seminaries. And we can turn this around the same way, but it will take some process and some time. I’m on board for the long run.

          Robert Webber’s books will convince anyone that situation you’ve described need not prevail.

          BTW Austin, when I was at Highland it was NOT liberal, but was happily slightly left of mainstream SBC, at least as much as any SBTS staffed church was in those days. Today it is quite politically liberal, I agree. But the commitment of that congregation to liturgy goes back far beyond my years there.

        • If I might interject a thought here. Conservatives in general tend to lean towards less Government, and more individual freedoms. I think it would follow that religious conservatives would look towards less structure, and thus less liturgy.

          Just an observation, I may be incorrect, but it seems to fit.

          • To the Pharisees, Jesus was quite liberal, wasn’t he? And to society today, He’s morally conservative. 😉

          • Northeasterner says:

            I don’t think you can generalize “conservative” in this way. Conservative theology has nothing to do with maximizing individual freedom. It has quite a lot to do with putting a high value on tradition. I think traditionalism and libertarianism are two different threads of political conservatism that are often at odds with each other.

          • Then why don’t we refer to these people as traditionists instead of conservatives?

        • This is a VERY interesting phenomenon. In the ECUSA and ELCA, the more liturgical churches tend to be the more liberal churches–although there are always exceptions–for example, most (though not all) Anglo-Catholic parishes tend toward the conservative end of the spectrum. And in Roman Catholicism it seems to be the opposite, the more conservative the parish, the more they are likely to be tied to the rubrics of the liturgy.

          So why is this? I don’t really have any good ideas except that maybe one “side” claims one thing and the opposite claims the other? Just to be in opposition?

          • This may sound cynical, but I suspect it has to more to do with conservatives being duped by the marketing of CCM etc. who’s sold them that this is what “real” Christians listen to than issues of freedom.

          • My (ex-?)ELCA church is quite conservative and quite liturgical.

          • OK, here’s maybe a better generalization then: most churches in the ELCA and ECUSA that downplay liturgy are conservative.

  14. If you want to see the ultimate prelude, Buckhead Church in Atlanta opened a sermon series called Illusions with their worship band playing Saliva’s “Ladies and Gentlemen”. You can search for it on YouTube (buckhead+saliva). The congregation seems shell-shocked, and the video ends with the pastor saying ” welcome to CHURCH!”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      That’s not a liturgical Prelude, that’s a Rock/Rap Concert!
      Or a Rave… All that’s missing are the Ecstasy dealers at the doors.

    • Todd Erickson says:

      If you start the service at a high energy level, you can capture attention and get people excited. Then, about halfway through your worship set, you move into more thoughtful/contritional music sets, and perhaps open the altars for prayer.

      Though it can be useful to step the mood back up again right before the sermon, or you get a congregation that doesn’t react, and may even be prone to sleeping. Energy levels are important.

  15. Steve Newell says:

    While we have yet to cover the Church Year, does the music selected in the Prelude reflect the time in the Church Year? For example, I would expect a different music for Advent or Lent be different that that of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter or Pentecost.

    BTW, how do “Praise Bands” do with music in minor keys or music that is slower in tempo and quieter in the level of volume? Or does a “Praise Band” only can play in the key of C at 4/4 time and forte or fortissimo.

    • As a guitar player, I don’t think variations in mood are a particular problem. And bands do have keyboards.

      • Steve Newell says:

        I find that some of the best music in worship is just a piano (not a key board) and an acoustic guitar.

        • I can go without the guitar-strumming personal anecdote of some praise/music leaders who seem to want to break down how they are feeling about God as a result of the song they just played or sung or whatever.

          As a pianist I felt (still do) that it’smore important to offer the music than personal opinions on stuff. Perhaps offer a reading by one of the members of my team. I never did the readings myself. Cuz it’s not about me.

    • How do praise bands do minor keys? Do you mean do they?
      I frequently enjoy using minor keys as mood setters, even with electric guitar and drums. One example of this was we recently did an instrumental prelude of “let all moral flesh keep silent”. I’ll admit that it is not common for people to deviate from C and 4/4, but if they would try it they would discover a whole new world of fun. Perhaps their musical vocabulary does not extend that far?

      • In our circles, minor key’s are almost ubiquitous, ‘cuz a lot of them come from the Messianic Jewish stuff from the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s (think Israel’s Hope or Lamb). While it seems like most praise bands all stick to a medium-fast or medium-slow tempo, our fast songs are VERY fast and our slow songs are VERY slow. The minor keys in the fast music definitely takes cues from Middle-Eastern and Klezmer dance music. In the slow music they add a very dramatic touch to it.

        Believe it or not, using more traditional hymns or even popular praise & worship music tends to be “innovative” for us.

        I’d like to note that different modes (not just minor keys) is VERY common in the folk music that seems to be popular in America Catholicism. You’ll often find songs that revolve around the IV chord or V chord rather than the I in those, in addition to plenty of minor music.

  16. at our parish before the 7pm Wednesday mass, there’s no music but from 6:30-6:45 Scripture is read, without comment, forming a prelude of sorts.

  17. I was wondering what an appropriate “call to worship” would be, other than a psalm?

  18. here’s why we fight against in our congregation. before the service starts people are drinking coffee, catching up with friends, hanging out in the narthex, etc. we have tried various approaches to create a “prelude” as you have described where there is music or an element that prepares us for worship. however, what we’ve found is that people are annoyed by our attempts! and sometimes i’m annoyed with our attempts! is it worth fighting against community building, or should we embrace their desire to be together as a different sort of prelude?

    is it possible that drinking coffee, chatting with friends, etc is a different sort of prelude? is community building and fellowship not a part of preparing for worship?

    suggestions?

    • If the biggest by far space is in the worship area then this is what will happen. If you want folks to socialize before “coming in” then there has to be a space? Most churches I’ve been in don’t have this other space. Or at least one of a size that accommodates such socializing.

    • At our church, there is a small simple sign on the door to the church, which says something to the effect of, please observe silence in the sanctuary. People sit and pray and the musicians play a sort of overture… not formal, but more like practicing what they might be playing during the service.

      People who want to catch up and socialize do that by the coffee in the fellowship area, which is another room. Some of them never make it into services, just socialize the whole time!

      • I’m good with that.

        Had my phone set on vibrate one time and a friend called me. I happen to know that he was going through a tough time as his Dad was leaving his Mom. I left the service. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. So, I spent time on the phone (through the rest of the service, actually) encouraging my friend’s heart. And seeing me in the fellowship hall on my phone, a few people asked if everything was okay. They knew I’d not be taking a “social call” during chuch, so SOMETHING had to be up.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          At St Boniface, before the Processional (the actual start of Mass, corresponding to the Prelude) we usually have an announcement to “Turn your cellphones off.”

          Five-ten years ago, we had a cellphone go off during mid-Consecration, just as the presiding Priest was elevating the Host. (To you Prots, that is the most sacred moment of the Mass.) He froze in mid-elevation, interrupting the Eucharistic Prayer with “TURN. THAT. CELLPHONE. OFF. NOW.”

          (At least whoever it was didn’t pull the phone out and start yakking on it like a Mars Attacks Martian, completely oblivio. I’ve heard of that happening, but have never actually seen it. I don’t want to see the priest’s reaction to that.)

          • Since we had some folks who were “on call” including a doctor, there was no “turn it off” policy. There was a “silence it” policy that was kept to. And I did.

    • Maybe you should have coffee after the service rather than before?

  19. Back when Protestant worship was an activity for grown-ups, I can remember being dragged to Sunday worship in the RCA (Reformed Church of America – Dutch roots) by my grandparents. The prelude was almost always a piece of classical sacred music; Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, or even Mozart or Faure.

    I heard a lot of great music I would likely never have been exposed to, music I still enjoy. That was one thing about the Seven Sisters of Mainline Protestantism – they took their role as guardians of western high culture very seriously. Too bad the evangelicals couldn’t be bothered to pick it up.

    • I think Western high culture makes a lot of people feel very excluded. That’s probably one reason why the Bach choral, etc., has fallen by the wayside.

      • Northeasterner says:

        Low pop culture makes a lot of people feel excluded too. I think we should select our music based on its doctrinal content and its beauty.

    • Todd Erickson says:

      There is very little expectation built into any of the Protestant services that I’ve ever been into of encountering awe in the service.

      I think that part of that mindset is that we come to church to meet Christ, the Loving Savior, rather than God the awesome and humbling deity.

      While this is likely a loss on the Protestant side, most Protestants would have a lot of difficulty understanding where to see the Loving Savior and His Bride, the church, in more liturgical services, which come across as very stiff and quiet.

      Which is to say, if you haven’t been doing something all of your life, you’re likely going to lack the language that that service is based on, and the assumptions that support it.

    • Classical sacred music? What is that? I never heard of it in my 30 years as a semi-formally trained musician.

      • Try “Spem In Alium” by Thomas Tallis, an English Reformation composer of the 16th Century. The first time I heard it, it was playing in the background, and I literally didn’t think it was human.

        I never experienced this with “Shine, Jesus, Shine”.

        • Thanks, Mule. I guess my point is that there didn’t used to be the delineation between secular and sacred. All music in the baroque and several following eras was sacred.

  20. At our church, the pastor calls the congregation to pray and ready themselves for worship about 5 minutes before the service actually starts…we spend this time mostly in silence, however the organ does play softly in the background.

    The problem with this is that we still have “fellowship” time *during* the service, after the call to worship! It’s tough to get everyone back to their seats and back in a reverent mood for the reading of Scripture.

    • I have heard Catholic liturgists, however, explain that we are SUPPOSED to greet our fellow community members before Mass — in order to put “before you approach the table, be reconciled to one another” in its proper place in the liturgy. That’s why the opening song is referred to as the “gathering song,” i.e. to gather the motley crowd together as a worshipping community.

      But that’s not how the folks creating the new Order of Worship after Vatican II arranged things, and I have never been in a Catholic church where they actually did it that way.

      Personally, I do value the opportunity to arrive and take my place in silence and awe, but I can see that it kind of goes against the grain of the Catholic experience, where worship is far more communal and less individual (at least in theory). Again, that’s a new emphasis since Vatican II, things were a lot more “just me ‘n’ my God” oriented before that. (I grew up Protestant, but interested in Catholicism, so I have something of an outsider’s perspective here.)

      Having the “reconciliation” in the middle of the Mass also follows the “before you approach the table” idea, of course — since it is, literally, before we approach the table — but as Nathan says, it’s hard to get people calmed down and back in their seats afterward. Fortunately in the Mass there is a handy “cue” to stop talking (and actually for the most part, people do) — when the choir starts singing “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…”

      On another note, in my historical studies, I’ve read a couple of 16th century English devotional manuals — most notably the “Monument of Matrons” (1582) the first such printed manual for women. It has a whole series of prayers for all the different parts of the day — not just grace before meals, but prayers for all times, including when you first open your eyes in the morning, when you sit up and put your feet on the floor, when you don your “innermost garment” and so forth. For Sundays, the sequence includes prayers for when you leave your house to go to church, for while you are walking to church, entering the door, taking your seat, and (the one that amuses me especially) a “prayer before praying!”

      • Ah – liturgists. The plagues of Egypt de nos jours 🙂

        I thought the exchange of the sign of peace was supposed to be the “reconciliation” part before approaching the altar? I’m very glad I’ve never seen a Mass where people were being encouraged to roam around and have little chats either before or in the middle.

        Though please remember, this is from someone who is amused/astounded by mentions of coffee before and after the service.

        We don’t even have toilets or “cry rooms”! Coffee and doughnuts in a special room afterwards? What kind of frippery is this? 😉

        • “We don’t even have toilets or “cry rooms”! Coffee and doughnuts in a special room afterwards? What kind of frippery is this?”

          So I guess the Starbucks cafe outside the worship center would be a bit of a shock. 😉

  21. nice to have one more reason to avoid the obligatory “find someone to say hello and shake their hand” time after singing and before the announcements.

    • I’m with you, Paul. I like having friends (I don’t have many here in town), but I don’t do “forced friendship” all that well.

  22. Christiane/L's says:

    Good grief. I just realized.
    One reason I try to get to Mass on time is to find a parking place on church grounds.
    Otherwise, I have to park across the street:
    . . . . at the cemetery . . .

    It does, at least, put me in mind of ‘the eternal’
    but I prefer a more gentle call to prayer for a prelude

    • One thing I like about many English parish churches is that you often walk through the graveyard to enter the church and people were buried in the older churches. You walk over their graves to get to the pews.

  23. there is plenty of socialization outside of the church space but i assume you don’t count that as “prelude” so i’ll start talking about what happens after you enter. i know that our church puts up advertisements before the service starts. i know that our music minister plays guitar softly in the background while people are coming in. after that i’m not sure what goes on because i take to a little silent prayer. then our music minister starts a song for all the congregation to join him singing. after that we typically have a time to “shake hands”. most people greet others that are around them if they have not before then. i take the opportunity to look around at people; to make myself aware of the people who i will be praying/singing/learning with that morning. then a couple more songs done on an acoustic guitar or piano (or both) with messages to make us think. you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink . similarly you can’t make people listen, you can only create an atmosphere conducive to it.. what that looks like will depend on the maturity of your attendees and your personal tastes

  24. As a pianist who has played in church for a number of years the talking during the prelude and offertory are two areas I’ve struggled with for years. I personally use those times to worship and pray as I play or as I listen. But it seems that many people in several churches I’ve attended use them to discuss whether they’ve put in their tomato plants or how their cat is doing. And it seems that those most at fault are those who’ve attended for many years. We’ve tried various methods of trying to get people to focus on worship, meditating and prayer, instead of conversing with their friends. We’ve even announced it from the front…which seems to work best. But we hate to resort to that. The worst was when I visited a church and people were talking (relatively loudly) while waiting in line for Communion.

    Perhaps what this indicates, as has been discussed before, is the need so many people have for building community. Perhaps more efforts could be focused on how the church can do that more effectively. A few minutes before or after service just doesn’t do it.

    My most positive experience was at an Episcopal Church which I attended for several years. Everyone seemed to come in and quietly sit or kneel to pray, meditate or whatever. It was refreshing for me after so many years of loud conversation and laughter in the sanctuary.

  25. Cpt. Steve says:

    I’ve never really liked announcements. Whenever I lead worship (rarely) I tend to have them first so the real worship can begin.
    Salvation Army meetings are generally always noisy at the start when everyone catches up with each other.
    Generally, the Brass band or rhythm band starting up is what calls our folk to worship.

    In days gone by, the officers used to process to the front at the beginning, but that doesn’t happen much these days.

  26. Northeasterner says:

    This is one reason why I think it is wise to ensure that the worship space is used only for worship and not as a multi-purpose space. People instinctively grasp that this is a place where one should be quiet and reverent, and this makes it easier to focus the congregation’s attention during the prelude.

    I think it is best to have a fellowship hall, gym or undercroft that is used as space for socializing, which I agree is important in the life of the church. That said, I realize that not every church has the luxury of that much space and will have to do some of these things in the sanctuary.

  27. I watched a service at a seeker-oriented contemporary church tonight. The sermon series was on “Losing My Religion” and the “prelude” was a band playing Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You.” This was followed by a welcome that oriented non-Christians to the subject of the service and transitioned to more traditional Praise choruses.

    Hey, that’s the church I attend! Choosing “secular”, yet relevant, songs is a fairly common practice at Northpoint. Granted, having the great sound system and talented band really helps. In some ways it borrows heavily from theater/concert environments which really does go a long way to bridge the gap between secular and sacred. It’s comfortable, non-threatening and, most importantly, inviting. Speaking from personal experience -I’m a former Catholic turned Atheist recent Christian convert- it’s nice to transition into worship without feeling like I’m being beaten over the head by “pomp & circumstance.” I realize it’s not for everyone but it really helps those of us who are new to or still questioning faith.

  28. Recently, our church has started this:

    The elder who leads the worship service gives a few brief announcements — usually only a reminder of one or two scheduled activities, and maybe a reference to a situation needing prayer or thanksgiving that has arisen so recently that members may not have heard about it through the e-mail list or grapevine (e.g. a baby born a day or two before, a very recent death or illness in a church family.)

    Then the pianist plays a brief prelude, after which we have a few minutes of silence for reflection.

    I think this has worked really well — it allows for the socializing and doesn’t try to impose the idea of specialized behavior within the worship space outside of the actual worship time, which I think many people our our church would be resistant to. But it gives the opportunity for reflection and “shifting gears” into a more worshipful attitude.

  29. There’s nothing wrong with pre-service ‘fellowship’ if it’s true spiritual fellowship. Building depth and community through being invested in other peoples’ lives and allowing them to invest in yours. NOT discussing yesterday’s game, the weather or a new car purchase.

    There’s nothing wrong with pre-service announcements if we see them as opportunities for greater service, building community, deeper teaching, or meeting needs. NOT ‘commercials’ for the agendas of different ministries or committees who also compete for who gets the brightest colored bulletin insert.

    I’m not saying we should try to ‘spiritualize’ everything we do in life, but I think we should try to intentionally spiritualize everything we do in church.

  30. “Building depth and community through being invested in other peoples’ lives and allowing them to invest in yours. NOT discussing yesterday’s game, the weather or a new car purchase.”

    I gotta say that I think that the way you get invested in people’s lives and allowing them to invest in yours is to get to know them, and all the big AND little things that they care about, or happen to them. Hearing about how a friend spent yesterday afternoon helps me get to know here better. Deep relationships and casual chat aren’t against each other — a relationship was supposed to be conducted on a serious level all the time would be like a roof without walls.