Shoot, I had a bulletin yesterday and could have shown you. I’m United Methodist. We love our bulletins. They’ll tell you exactly when everything happens and God forbid you diverge from the agenda.
On the first Sunday we have Communion, so things are different, but for yesterday, I’ll do my best to remember.
We tend to get there at about 8:15. There are two greeters, both older and they’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. They’re a married couple and the lady is like a grandmother and her husband is like a grumpy, old man and he knows it and plays it up. They play off each other and it’s hilarious. Anyway, you usually mill around in the sanctuary for a bit catching up with people. At 8:30, the pastor stands up and welcomes you and then they usually play a processional. Acolytes who are elementary aged kids walk in with candles and robes and light the candles at the front.
Next, we stand for the first hymn, generally something related to the sermon. Then we do a passing of the peace where you go around and say “Hi” to people and catch up on their week. Then we sing the “Welcome” song - it’s just a song that says ‘You’re welcome in this place’ with various lyrics for a couple of verses.
Then we do Children’s time. All of the kids in the church go up front and someone gives them a simple object lesson. I think the last one was about helping others and everyone had to take a random ‘Act of Service’ to do that week.
Then, we read the Gospel lesson or Bible lesson and then a hymn and then the sermon.
The sermon is about 20-25 minutes and typically deals with where we are in the liturgical calendar or on some news item of the day. So last week’s was on the Tree of Life shooting and how hateful words can easily transition to hateful actions especially among the mentally ill, so it’s our job to make sure that our words are never hateful and that we should always speak of others remembering that they are valuable children of God who were each put here to be loved by Him and so we must make sure that our words are words of love and not hate. God always loves what we are and an insult to another human being is an insult to the image of God. When we use hateful and divisive language towards others, we are actually using hateful and divisive language towards God’s images and vicariously God Himself. Anyway, I digress.
After the sermon, we usually pray, typically a prayer of repentance for failing to live up to our ideals or a prayer that asks for the sermon to be remembered throughout the week. We end it with ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ Then we’ll do announcements, usually the charities that need volunteers or a musical show or art show that we’re sponsoring. Various people in charge of those efforts will go up and make their pitch.
Then we’ll take up offering and afterwards sing ‘The Doxology’. Then a final hymn during which time the acolytes go forward and extinguish the candles. Finally we’ll get a benediction “Go into the world and make it a better place” kind of thing that is only a few sentences. Then the pastor exits and the organist will play a recessional while we chat some more with friends. You walk out to the narthex and shake hands with the pastor who asks about your week. Whomever wants to then goes to a large side room where they have a light brunch set up. You can hang out there for awhile or go to some classrooms where they’ll do Bible study or other types of Sunday School-ish things. I typically don’t do those, so can’t say what they entail. I usually just hang out for awhile and chat with different people.
Most weeks we also have special music during the service, usually sometime after the “welcome” song and before the sermon. Sometimes it’s the choir or a mini-orchestra we have. We have a few classically trained vocalists who will often sing a religious aria or sacred song. We have a composer that will sometimes play some of his more religious works.
So, except on Communion Sundays, that’s the main gist of things. Communion Sundays aren’t too much different except that we take Communion, so the sermon is shorter and they’ll skip a hymn which is not a horribly complicated thing, but this post is long enough.