Last month - as the first part of an occasional series - we explored the overall pattern of our normal morning worship. We were reminded that the pattern follows that of the service of Holy Communion, even when Communion is not to be celebrated. There is a three-fold pattern of 'Approach to God', 'The Word of God' and 'Response to the Word of God'.
However, the outline of that pattern did not include any mention of that which precedes the formal beginning of our worship - our gathering together.
It is notable and encouraging that in St Cuthbert's, many choose to arrive a little earlier and gather in conversation and fellowship in the Lammermuir Hall. This forms a very real and important part of our Sunday life together.
In the sanctuary itself the Ministers may informally greet you, or else you may find one or more of the Ministers along with the duty elders in the vestibule welcoming you to worship. We gather as the people of God, and we are one with each other as we come to worship.
And it is worship of God that we have come to offer. Therefore, many find value in the moments of silence and prayerfulness before the service begins and as the organist plays the voluntary. Our musicians will have chosen this piece with care, mindful of the theme for the day's service. It is not simply 'mood music' to cover up the arrival of worshippers! It is time for prayerful meditation.
As we gather and as we rightly and naturally greet one another, we should also respect that many worshippers value this time of prayer and reflection and wish to be still and silent, that the organist is playing thoughtfully as part of the preparation for worship, and that just as our greeting of one another is a proper part of our gathering, so is our prayerful reflection during the playing of the voluntaries which our organist has specifically chosen for the day.
This time of gathering - which is so important - comes to its conclusion when one of the Ministers greets the congregation, offers some brief words of welcome and explanation (especially for visitors), gives some congregational notices and invites the congregation to prepare for the worship of Almighty God.
And then the service proper begins.
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