Recently I attended a church service in which the pastor was obviously anxious to “get rid of the preliminaries” so he could make the announcements. If there was any time left, he would preach. His practice was to have the congregation sing the hymns so rapidly that nobody could recognize either the words or the music. The pianist broke the little finger on her left hand trying to keep up with “Marching to Zion,” which should have been listed as “Jetting to Zion.”

I have never felt that the worship activities of the church were “preliminaries” to anything. I have always considered every act in a service a vital part of worship. But if a congregation insists on racing through its worship, perhaps one of the following ideas will help.

1. Assign different verses of the hymn to different sections of the congregation, and sing them simultaneously. That way you can sing the whole hymn at regular speed and perhaps get something from it.

2. Work the announcements into the choir selection. A gifted minister of music ought to be able to use the verse of an anthem to announce the various meetings of the church. I have no musical training at all, but I was able to come up with the following example:

Come we that love the Lord,

And let our joys he known;

We need two hundred volunteers,

To man the telephone.

I found it! I found it! (to be repeated)

3. Better yet, work the choir anthem into the body of the sermon. When the pastor signals, the choir can sing an appropriate song to emphasize the point he is making. This means, of course, that the pastor must have his message ready by the Wednesday evening choir rehearsal, and that’s asking a lot.

4. Teach the congregation to read the bulletin. I know this is a radical suggestion, but it has worked ...

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