Worship Aids for Pulpit VacancyMen at work

Contents
Introduction

When a congregation is without a pastor, planning worship can become a challenge. The pastor often serves as the technical expert in the congregation. Unless there is a long tradition of liturgical study among a congregation's laity, both small and big matters can occasion confusion.

This page is not an exhaustive "manual" for liturgical practice. This page is nothing but a crib sheet. It's intended to help congregations with things like appropriate seasonal changes while providing tips that may make life a little easier.

As you use this page and navigate worship planning, you can help us improve this guide by sending any questions you might have. If you have a question, chances are someone else has the same question. Email your questions to Bishop Riegel.

Interim Pastor

When a congregation has a pastor under letter of call, that pastor is responsible for worship oversight in conjunction with the Congregation Council. When a congregation does not have a pastor under call, that oversight falls to the interim pastor, the interim pastor being appointed by the bishop with the consent of the congregation. In some cases, there is no interim to be had (or a mutually acceptable interim cannot be secured. In such cases, the Bishop has oversight as the interim pastor. The interim has the same authority as a the regularly call pastor.

Any questions should go to the interim (or Bishop when no other interim is assigned).

Filling the Pulpit

Contact information for supply preachers/pastors as well as related policies and guidelines are found on our Supply Preaching & Presiding page.

New opportunities for lay preaching are coming on line under our Synodical Lay Worship Leadership program. In fact, applications are being accepted for certification in the first tier of licensure, the Licensed Reader. A Licensed Reader leads worship but does not write his/her own sermon, reading an approved sermon instead. Learn more at our Licensed Reader page.

There may be days when you can't find a supply preacher (or a last minute problem has prevented the scheduled supply preacher from showing up). The Licensed Readers' Sermon Library may be utilized, but consultation with the interim pastor prior to doing so should be attempted if at all possible.

Planning the Liturgy

Liturgy can be broken down into those elements that we call "the propers" and those that we call "the ordinary." In short, the ordinary of the mass are those things that we pretty much do (with a little wiggle room) every time we have service. The propers are those things specific to the day (or season). Admittedly, this has gotten more than a little mushy over the years largely because of untempered creativity, a degree of historical-liturgical ignorance, sloppiness, and the diversity of traditions that fed into the ELCA. For congregations in pulpit vacancy, we recommend that the standard form of the liturgy be used as there may be a good number of different people stepping into the pulpit. This can also serve as a liturgical reset prior to calling a new pastor.

When planning a worship service, pay close attention to the rubrics (the instructions in red print in the LBW). The rubrics provide instructions on the execution of the liturgy and how to handle particular elements. The general rubrics should also be consulted. The general rubrics are found in the early pages of the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition), s.v., "Notes on the Liturgy," pp.13-39. They can also be found in the Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Desk Edition. In the unlikely case that you do not have an "Altar Book," the Synod Office can loan you a "desk edition" for study. An excellent resource for learning more about the liturgy is the Manual on the Liturgy–Lutheran Book of Worship by Pfatteicher & Messerli. The Synod Office has several copies that may be borrowed for study.

The following matrices list the elements of the liturgy in their proper sequence for each of the days/seasons for the near future. This page will change over time in advance of any festal or seasonal changes. Further down this page, you will find some notes on liturgical appointments.

Yes, there are more options than indicated in each matrix (e.g., seasonal antiphons, verses, offertories, responsories, etc.). The intent of this page is to assist inexpert worship planners who often contend with limited resources. If resources are present, and there is a desire to go further, consult the interim pastor. The Bishop is also happy to do workshops on liturgics; feel free to contact him to arrange a workshop.

While a congregation with copyright permission (or a copyright license) may print out the entire worship service in its Sunday bulletin (to the extent permitted in the permission or license), it may find it easier to print a bulletin with only the order of service and page numbers. This, of course, means that the worshipers will have to use the hymnal/worship book. The question is one of staffing. Who is preparing your bulletin? Do do you have adequate staff? Are there enough hours in the day? How easy a task is it going to be? Each matrix provides the elements and page numbers as found in the LBW.

If your congregation is using ELW, you will need the direct assistance of your interim pastor to properly assemble the liturgy. To be frank, the ELW is not well-designed for use as a stand-alone worship book. It is designed to be used as a resource in constructing a fully-printed worship bulletin, and certain elements are only available through the electronic resource. It is possible, with care, to translate what you find here for use with the ELW. You do have the option of pulling your old LBWs out of storage during your time of pulpit vacancy.

Order of Service for the Easter Season

For Sundays without Holy Communion

For Sunday mornings when there is no Lord's Supper, three options for liturgy present themselves...

  • Matins: a service of morning prayer found in the LBW, pp.131-141. This is an appropriate service to use when no preacher is available. Congregations should not cancel worship for lack of a preacher. Gathering for prayer, the recitation of the psalms, and the reading of Holy Scriptures has long sustained the church in desperate situations.
  • Service of the Word: a less complicated service than Matins found in the LBW, pp.126-130.
  • Ante-communion: essentially, the Service for Holy Communion without Holy Communion. This was the liturgy commonly used on non-communion Sundays.

Matins (Morning Payer)

Presented here is the service of Matins (a.k.a. "morning prayer") keyed to the LBW. The service is appropriate when no preacher is available. It may, however, be used when a preacher is available, following the option for a sermon found in this matrix. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue. Additional information is found in the footnotes (*, †, ‡, **, ††, and ‡‡).

Liturgical Element
LBW
Versicles ("O Lord, open my lips..."),
Gloria Patri ("Glory to the Father..."), and
Alleluia
p.131
Venite exultemus ("Oh, come, let us sing to the Lord...") * with invitatory antiphon ("Give glory to God, our light and our life...") †† p.132 | or #4
Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Psalm Prayer (optional; each psalm and its associated psalm prayer is found in the "Altar Book")

Psalm 93 (optional)
Psalm Prayer (optional)
p.259
Laudate Psalm 150 (optional)
Psalm Prayer (optional)
p.289
Old Testament Canticle (optional)
#5, #14, #15, #16, #18, or #19
Office Hymn ‡‡
Old Testament Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Gospel (optional; as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Responsorium breve ("In many and various ways...")
p.133
Benedictus ("Blessed be the Lord...") *
p.134 | or #2
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Other Prayer(s) (optional) pp.42-53
Office Prayer ("O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety...")
p.136
Lord's Prayer
p.136
Benedicamus ("Let us bless the Lord...")
p.137
When there is a sermon... (optional) **
  • Offering
  • Hymn
  • Sermon
  • Sermon Prayer
p.137
Paschal Blessing ("As many as have been baptized into Christ..."),
Alleluia, and
Resurrection Gospel according to St. Luke ("On the first day of the week...")
p.138-139
Te Deum ("You are God...") *
p.138 | or #4 or #535
Closing Prayer ("O God, for our redemption...")
p.137
Benediction ("The Lord almighty bless us...)
p.141

* Some congregations my find the liturgical music challenging. The Venite exultemus, Benedictus, and Te Deum are set to psalm tones in the canticles section of the LBW. Additionally, LBW #535 is a hymn paraphrase of the Te Deum.

† For each psalm, there is an associated psalm prayer. The psalm prayers are found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and also the Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Desk Edition). Locate the required psalm, and you will find the psalm prayer printed immediately below it. The psalm prayer may be omitted. As an alternative to the psalm prayer, one may add the Gloria Patri (i.e., "Glory be to the Father, and tó the Son* and to the Hóly Spirit; | as it was in the begínning is now,* and will be forevér. Amen") at the conclusion of the each psalm.

‡ It is encouraged to include an additional prayer here but not required. Select a collect from any one of the many found in the LBW s.v. "Petitions, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings" (pp.42-53). Rubric #9 indicates several options beyond the offering of a simple collect, but this is much more complicated; consult your interim before taking this option.

** A sermon at Matins is by no means required, the heart of the liturgy being recitation of and meditation upon the psalms. Still, if one is desired, the sequence of offering, hymn, sermon, and sermon prayer is used. After the sermon prayer, the liturgy proceeds immediately to the paschal blessing. Instead of a sermon, a short reading from one of the Patristic writers or a spiritual master may be used; consult you interim for recommendations.

†† The seasonal invitatory antiphon (p.176) may be used. Admittedly, doing so may confuse a congregation that infrequently used matins, but, if matins is used somewhat regularly, the seasonal invitatory antiphon will be a welcome seasonal marker. If the German Te Deum (#535) is used, the invitatory antiphon is omitted. It may be used with Canticle #4.

‡‡ The office hymn is traditionally one of the hymns appointed for morning. The LBW includes a section, s.v., "Morning," (##264-271) among the hymns. There are, however, other hymns scattered throughout the LBW that are equally appropriate for the office hymn, e.g., #142 which may be used on Easter Sunday, Ascension, and Pentecost or #443, or #465, which can be used at any time but works well for the morning. A hymn other than an office hymn may be used, but some obviously don't work well at Matins, e.g., #272.

Service of the Word

Presented here is the Service of the Word keyed to the LBW. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue.

Liturgical Element
LBW
Hymn

Dialog ("Holy is the Lord..." or "Blessed are you...")
p.126
Apostles' Creed
p.128
Old Testament Canticle
#4, #5, #14, #15, #16, #18, or #19
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) p.128
First Lesson (any of the lessons appointed in the propers for the Sunday)
Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday), hymn, or anthem

Second Lesson (any of the lessons appointed in in the propers for the Sunday)
Response
#10, #11, #12
Sermon

Hymn

Offering (optional)

General Prayer
p.129
Lord's Prayer
p.130
New Testament Canticle
#2, #6, #13, #17, #20, #21
Benediction
p.130
Hymn (optional)

Ante-communion

Presented here is the ante-communion liturgy keyed to the LBW. Employing the ante-communion is not preferred, but it may be the best option given local conditions. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue.

N.B., There are some modifications that must be made when this service led by a layperson or a deacon. Those are indicated with footnotes (*, †, and ‡). Additional information is also provided in the footnotes (**).

Liturgical Element
LBW 1
LBW 2
LBW 3
Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness (optional) *
p.56
p.77
p.98
Hymn (optional)



Apostolic Greeting ("The grace of our Lord...") p.57
p.78
p.99
Kyrie
p.57
p.79
p.99
Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest...") | or Dignus est ("This is the feast...worthy is Christ...") p.58 | or p.60
p.79 | or p.81
p.100 | or p.102
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with salutation ("The Lord be with you...")
p.62
p.82
p.103
First Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Epistle (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Verse ("Alleluia. Lord to whom shall we go...") **
p.62
p.83
p.103
Gospel (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with acclamations (i.e., "Glory to you, O Lord," and "Praise to you, O Christ")
p.63
p.83
p.104
Sermon



Hymn (optional)



Nicene Creed
p.64
p.84
p.105
Offering (optional)



Offertory ("Create in me...")
p.75
p.96
p.118
General Prayer ("O Lord our God, you have commanded...") | or Prayer of the Church
p.75 | or p.76 or pp.52-53
p.96 | or p.97 or pp.52-53 p.118 | or p.119 or pp.52-53
Lord's Prayer
p.76
p.97
p.119
Benediction p.76
p.97
p.119
Hymn (optional)



* Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness when led by a layperson or deacon: The second absolution formula ("In the mercy of almighty God...") is used, and the sign of the cross is not made over the congregation. Furthermore, the confessional rite is optional when the Sacrament of the Altar is not part of the service.

† Apostolic Greeting when led by a layperson or deacon: The formula is modified to "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all."

‡ Benediction when led by a layperson or deacon: the formula is modified to "The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. The Lord look upon us with favor and give us peace," and the sign of the cross is not made over the congregation.

** Proper verses (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the propers for the Sunday, s.v., "Gospel Acclamation" (n.b., the term, "verse," was used in the LBW for this short passage from Holy Scripture, the term "Gospel acclamations," referring to the introductory, "Glory to you, O Lord," and closing, "Praise to you, O Christ." One needs to code switch between LBW and ELW. The proper verses can also be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper verses help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

For Sundays with Holy Communion

The full service of Holy Communion may only be used when a presbyter (pastor) or bishop presides. This chart is keyed to the LBW. Optional elements are highlighted in light blue. Additional information is found in the footnotes (* and †).

Liturgical Element
LBW 1
LBW 2
LBW 3
Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness
p.56
p.77
p.98
Hymn (optional)



Apostolic Greeting ("The grace of our Lord...")
p.57
p.78
p.99
Kyrie
p.57
p.79
p.99
Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest...") | or Dignus est ("This is the feast...worthy is Christ...") p.58 | or p.60
p.79 | or p.81
p.100 | or p.102
Prayer of the Day (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with salutation ("The Lord be with you...") p.62
p.82
p.103
First Lesson (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Psalm (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Epistle (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday)


Verse ("Alleluia. Lord to whom shall we go...") *
p.62
p.83
p.103
Gospel (as appointed in the propers for the Sunday) with acclamations (i.e., "Glory to you, O Lord," and "Praise to you, O Christ") p.63
p.83
p.104
Sermon



Hymn (optional)



Nicene Creed
p.64
p.84
p.105
Prayer of the Church
p.65
p.85
p.106
Peace
p.66
p.86
p.107
Offering (optional)



Offertory ("Let the vineyards...") p.66
p.86
p.107
Offertory Prayer ("Blessed are you...")
p.68
p.88
p.109
Sursum corda ("The Lord be with you...Lift up your hearts...")
p.68
p.88
p.109
Preface for Easter



Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy...")
p.69
p.89
p.110
Eucharistic Prayer (#31, #32, #33 or one of those in "Altar Book")
pp.69-71
pp.89-91
pp.110-112
Lord's Prayer
p.71
p.91
p.112 | or p.113
Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God...")
p.72
p.92
p.114
Distribution



Post-Communion Blessing
p.72
p.92
p.115
Post-Communion Canticle ("Thank the Lord...")
p.72
p.92
p.115
Post-Communion Prayer
p.74
p.94
p.117
Benediction
p.74
p.94 | p.95
p.117
Hymn (optional)



Dismissal ("Go in peace. Serve the Lord...")
p.74
p.95
p.117

* Proper verses (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the propers for the Sunday, s.v., "Gospel Acclamation" (n.b., the term, "verse," was used in the LBW for this short passage from Holy Scripture, the term "Gospel acclamations," referring to the introductory, "Glory to you, O Lord," and closing, "Praise to you, O Christ." One needs to code switch between LBW and ELW. The proper verses can also be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper verses help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

Proper offertories (for each Sunday and feast) may be found in the "Altar Book" (Lutheran Book of Worship: Ministers Edition and it's "desk edition"), but one must, in ordinary time, check to see if the lessons line up, as there was a change in lectionary after the publication of the LBW. While proper offertories help highlight the Scripture readings or themes for the day, this may be a level of complexity ill-suited for pulpit vacancy. Consult your interim should you want to avail yourself of this option.

Order of Service Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Ordinary Time

We are making progress. Matters related to the Feast of Pentecost are already posted: click here. Trinity Sunday and Ordinary time are being drafted.

Worship Appointments (candles, colors, etc.)

And the true adornment of the churches is godly, useful, and clear doctrine, the devout use of the Sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels, tapers, altar-cloths, images, and similar adornments are becoming, but they are not the adornment that properly belongs to the Church. — Apology XXIV:51
We further believe, teach, and confess that the community of God in every place and every time has the right, authority, and power, to change, to reduce, or to increase ceremonies according to its circumstances, as long as it does so without frivolity and offense, but in an orderly and appropriate way, as at any time it may seem to be most profitable, beneficial, and salutary for good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the Church. — Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, X:9

We like our things, and we like our worship spaces to be adorned. While these things are neither the true adornment of the church nor necessary to salvation, we should attempt to maintain decorum, and that is facilitated by following the rubrics and customs long-established in the church.

Appointments for Easter Season

Paraments and Vestments (esp. colors)

The color of the Easter season is white. Gold may be used for Resurrexi (Easter Sunday) for service in the morning, during the day, and in the evening. The Easter Vigil is white.

Paschal Candle

The Paschal candle is lit throughout the Easter Season. There is an older tradition among some Lutherans that the Paschal candle is extinguished during the reading of the Gospel on Ascension. If following this tradition, the Paschal candle is lit neither for Exaudi (the final Sunday of the Easter Season) nor after. Among others, it is extinguished after Exaudi. Among still others, it remains burning through the Feast of Pentecost, assuming one considers Pentecost part of the greater Easter cycle. In any regard, the Paschal candle is not lit outside of Easter Season except for baptisms and funerals.

During the season, it is recommended that the Paschal candle be lit when the first person opens the church for the day (rather than during the lighting of the altar candles) so that it is burning as worshipers arrive. Likewise, it is recommended that it not be extinguished when the altar candles are extinguished but be allowed to burn until the last person out the door extinguishes it—but don't forget to extinguish it!

During the Easter Octave (Resurrexi through Quasimodo geniti, or Easter Sunday through the second Sunday of Easter), it is appropriate for the Paschal Candle to he placed next to the altar, assuming this can be done without creating a hazard—safety first! After Quasimodo geniti, the Paschal candle may be moved to the font, or it may stay at the altar through the Easter season (as Pfatteicher & Messerli suggest) after which it is moved to the font.

When there is a baptism, the Paschal candle is at the font.

If there is a funeral during the Easter season, it is not recommended that the Paschal candle be used in the funeral position; instead, preposition near where the casket will rest so that it may be easily moved to the head of the casket, being careful not to tip a burning Paschal candle when repositioning it.

Other Candles

The lighting and extinguishing of candles for the Sunday morning service is a matter of local custom. Some congregations have rather elaborate rituals for doing so. Others struggle to find acolytes. If lighting and extinguishing the altar candles has become a challenge, a congregation might follow the advice found in the Manual on the Liturgy–Lutheran Book of Worship: light the candles well before the service, and extinguishing them well after the service, doing so decorously but without pomp and circumstance. This, then, can be done by ushers, the sexton, the altar guild, the pastor, etc. without vesting.

Flowers

Flowers are lovely and a fitting adornment. Flowers, however, should not placed on the mensa (tabletop of the altar). Most non-freestanding altars feature a gradine (a raised shelf at the rear of the altar); flowers may be placed on the gradine along with altar candles. A freestanding altar (or communion table) poses a challenge for flower placement. If, in the apse, there is an old high altar with gradine or a reredos with shelves for flowers, the problem is solved. Flower pedestals or stands can be used, or the flowers may be simply set on the floor in the front of the altar as it is faced by the congregation, assuming the pastor presides from the other side. Flowers should not pose a fire hazard in their placement or a tripping hazard.

Appointments for the Feast of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Ordinary Time

We are making progress. Matters related to the Feast of Pentecost are already posted: click here. Trinity Sunday and Ordinary time are being drafted.
[ Return to the Homepage ]


West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +  Porter@WV-WMD.org

Last update: 19 May 2022