You may have noticed over the past several weeks the return of the role of Assisting Minister to the Sunday worship at Bethlehem. I though you might like to know what it is all about.
When the Lutheran Book of Worship was published in 1978, it brought again into Lutheran worship the important role of Assisting Minister. The Assisting Minister role is based on the ancient deacon, a person whose churchly vocation was prayer along with care for the community and the poor, something they most often did along with their regular day to day work. Because of this, the Assisting Minister need not be an ordained person, but a person who cares for and is connected to the life and needs of the community. In worship, the Assisting Minister is the chief prayer minister, offering and leading prayers for and on behalf of the entire community. The best preparation to serve as Assisting Minister is a regular devotional and prayer life.
During worship the Assisting Minister prays/reads all parts marked “A:” (for Assisting Minister). This includes the Kyrie (may be done by a cantor), the opening of the Hymn of Praise (if included—also may be done by a cantor), the Prayers of the People, the Offertory Prayer, the Post Communion Prayer, and the Sending. Several people can share the Assisting Minister role during a single service (including one person writing and the other person praying the Prayers of the People).
As you can see, the Assisting Minister is largely in charge of leading the prayers that happen during the Sunday service. What the Assisting Minister does is to act as the chief layperson of the day, leading the congregation in its parts of the worship service. Whenever you all have a role to play in the service, expect the Assisting Minister to be there, calling you to prayer or leading you out in service. The work of the Assisting Minister highlights the worship elements that extend and flow out of the ministry of Word and Sacrament—Prayer and Service. These are the work that we all do, both inside and outside of the church. Each of us is called to lives of prayer and service, and the Assisting Minister helps us in that task, and sends us forth to continue our ministry in the world.-----------------------------------------------
Anxious about Passing the Peace during the season of Advent? Here’s some (tongue-in-cheek) encouragement from the Lutheran Handbook:
“How to Share the Peace in Church”
“In Romans 16:16, Paul tells members of the congregation to ‘greet one another with a holy kiss.’ The First Letter of Peter ends, ‘Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.’ (1 Peter 5:14)
Some Lutherans worry about this part of the worship service due to its free-for-all nature. Some also feel uncomfortable because of their fear of being hugged. You can survive the peace, however, with these steps.
1) Adopt a peaceful frame of mind.
Clear your mind of distracting and disrupting thoughts so you can participate joyfully and reverently.
2) Determine the appropriate form of safe touch.
Handshaking is the most common. Be prepared, however, for hugs, half-hugs, one-armed hugs, pats, and other forms of physical contact. Nods are appropriate for distances greater than two pews or rows.
3) Refrain from extraneous chitchat.
The sharing of the peace is not the time for lengthy introductions to new people, comments about the weather, or observations about yesterdays game. A brief encounter is appropriate, but save conversations for the coffee hour.
4) Make appropriate eye contact.
Look the other person in the eye but do not stare. The action of looking in the eye highlights the relationship brothers and sisters in Christ have with one another.
5) Declare the peace of God.
‘The peace of the Lord be with you,’ ‘Peace be with you,’ ‘The peace of God,’ ‘God’s peace,’ and ‘The peace of Christ,’ are ways of speaking the peace. Once spoken, the peace is there. Move on to the next person.
Safe touch involves contact that occurs within your personal space but does not cause discomfort or unease.”
(Lutheran Handbook [Augsburg Fortress, 2005], 44-45)
On a more serious note, I have been asked about the danger of sharing the peace during flu season. If you think you are contagious, or have health problems that make hand shaking inadvisable, find a creative way to share the peace (bowing with your arms folded, perhaps) that won’t endanger your health.