Approach to God
Having considered the overall shape of our Sunday morning worship, and last month considered the time of 'Gathering' of God's people on a Sunday morning, we now turn our thoughts to the first section of the service proper: Approach to God.
In the printed order of service you receive when you come to worship on a Sunday morning you will note that the first section of the service is headed 'Approach to God'. This is the part of our worship which immediately precedes the reading and preaching of the 'Word of God'.
Following the choral introit (usually related to the theme of the day) one of the Ministers leads the congregation in responsive sentences followed by the Collect of the Day. This short prayer reflects the theme of that particular day of the Christian Year and so contributes to the focus of the day's worship.
During the Processional Hymn, which the congregation stand to sing, the choir enters, followed by the Bible Reader who will be carrying the Bible and who will place it upon the lectern. In this we are reminded that we are a people who are gathered around God's word and we will seek to listen for his Word in our worship together. The Ministers follow, and take their places in the chancel.
At the end of the hymn, one of the Ministers issues a brief Call to Prayer (often an appropriate sentence of Scripture) and the congregation are seated for the Prayer of Approach and Confession.
Having praised God in our opening hymn we now bow before him and approach him in our prayers and confess our sin to him. We ask for God's mercy in the text of the ancient 'Kyrie Eleison' (Lord, have mercy) which is sung on Communion Sundays. Following a short silence for our own personal confession of sin, the Minister will declare assurance of God's forgiving grace in the name of Jesus Christ.
Following the conclusion of the prayer we are invited to extend Christ's peace to one another, recognising that having once again heard the assurance of God's grace and pardon in our lives, we are also reconciled and at peace with each other. (In Services of Holy Communion, the Peace usually occurs after the celebration of the sacrament. At some Communion Services the choir will sing the ancient hymn Gloria in excelsis at this point in the service.)
At services where there is no celebration of Holy Communion, a further hymn usually follows at this point. This hymn (which might sometimes be a hymn asking God to illumine our minds or to send the Holy Spirit to inspire us, or another hymn reflecting the themes of our Approach to God) concludes the opening section of our worship.
And so, having prepared ourselves for worship, and approached God in thanksgiving and praise, confessed our sins and shared Christ's peace, we are ready to hear God's Word as the day's Bible passages are read.
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