Learning the Liturgy of the Chapel
Whenever they take place, worship services have some kind of internal order and structure. Some worship is called “high church” (formal); some is called “low church” (informal). Some worship services are labeled “traditional,” while others are labeled “contemporary.” Regardless of the seeming formality or informality of a service, in most churches a pattern often exists that characterizes the weekly gathering for worship. Another name for this service structure is “liturgy.”
Duke Chapel offers an interdenominational worship that is not linked to one particular denominational pattern or liturgy. The structure of Duke Chapel worship provides a framework for the praise and worship of God in Jesus through the Spirit. The particular way we order our worship draws from the earliest traditions of the church and is meant to enable all those who have gathered together to participate in common acts of worshiping God. In this way, the liturgy is the means by which the whole community participates in worship. Liturgy becomes everyone’s activity, everyone’s work. In an effort to bridge faith and learning in weekly worship, we will regularly include information in the bulletin about particular aspects of our liturgy. We invite you to learn why we do what we do, to ask questions, and to find ways to participate more deeply in worship as together we encounter our triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Chapel's liturgy is explained by the different elements of the service listed below. Click the links below to navigate to that section:
- Greeting and Procession
- Confession, Pardon, and Peace
- Proclamation and Prayer for Illumination
- Old and New Testament Lessons
- Gospel Reading and Procession
- Prayers of the People
- Offering and Doxology
- Doxology in Advent: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- The Great Thanksgiving
- The Lord's Prayer
- Receiving the Body and the Blood
- Lent: Changes in Worship Patterns
- Prayer of Thanksgiving
- Benediction and Sending Forth
Our Sunday morning worship begins with the church assembling together, indicated in the order of worship in the bulletin as “Gathering.” Music from the carillon, the organ, and the choir creates a worshipful atmosphere for people to enter the space of the Chapel and find a place of worship and sanctuary. To be ready to worship with people from different places with different life experiences involves intentional individual and communal preparation. So we invite people to enter in a spirit of contemplation and prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to enable us to worship.
GREETING AND PROCESSION
Students, children and senior adults, faculty and the unemployed, families and singles all gather on Sunday morning to worship God. We begin with words of greeting and welcome, which are more than a cheery “good morning”, to remind us that in worship we seek to glorify God. Our opening words strive to let all people know that they are welcome in this place, for God invites us all into the Body of Christ. The greeting is followed by the procession in which the choir and worship leaders follow the cross to the front of the sanctuary. The members of the procession are ordinary people, representative of all those who are gathered. They remind us that each of us is on a spiritual journey as we follow Jesus Christ.
CONFESSION, PARDON, AND PEACE
We make mistakes. We fail in our responsibilities. We do not live as God would have us live. In other words, we are sinful people. And from our earliest days, we are separated from God and in need of reconciliation. But our sins do not need to hold us in bondage or keep us from God, because in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we find forgiveness and new life. The realities of our sinfulness and forgiveness are articulated in our prayer of confession and words of assurance. Our confession demonstrates our dependence on God and constant need for grace in order to become like Jesus. In the prayer of confession, we tell the truth about ourselves; in the words of assurance, we hear the greatest truth of God’s love and mercy. This truth-telling is followed by peace, which is symbolized in our greeting one another with the phrase “The peace of Christ be with you.
PROCLAMATION AND PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
To hear God’s word to us, we need help. Specifically, we need God’s Holy Spirit. The skill of listening to God’s voice is one that can be developed with practice, yet it is always the Spirit that enables us to hear, interpret, and understand the divine word. The Spirit opens our hearts and minds, as well as our eyes, ears, and hands, so that we may receive what God would communicate to us. As we pray the “prayer of illumination”, we ask God to shine light on the scriptures that they may be the word of the Lord that shines light on us, the church gathered in worship.
OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT LESSONS
A representative of the gathered community stands to read selections from God’s story told in the Old and New Testaments. Worshipers are welcome to use the pew Bibles in order to read as well as hear the texts for the day. Through the choral anthem, the choir often lifts up themes within the readings to help the gathered people experience and understand God’s word. The story of God is revealed in the Bible through a variety of genres such as letters, history, and poems. The Bible, written over thousands of years, helps us meet the one, true God, revealed fully in Jesus, the living Word of God who is present with us now.
GOSPEL READING AND PROCESSION
People often wonder, “Why do we read the gospel from the center aisle?” We read the gospel lesson—the readings from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—from the center of the sanctuary because the story of Jesus is the center of the church’s faith and life. The gospel tells the story of God who in Jesus came and lived in the midst of the people. Placing its reading at the center of our worship reflects this movement of God becoming flesh among God’s people. As the reader processes to the center, the people turn to face the gospel reader to embody the way we turn our lives to Christ in faith and discipleship. We sing a hymn together as the reader follows the cross to the center. The lyrics of the gradual hymn often connect directly to the gospel reading for the day, highlighting aspects of the passage for deeper consideration.
By the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, the sermon is the Word of God to the community of faith. Each preacher strives to connect the stories and truths of the Bible to our daily lives, offering us the good news of Jesus Christ. Each worshiper is called to listen to the message with openness and faith. Ultimately, however, the sermon is more than preacher and listener, as the Holy Spirit uses the sermon to speak to our hearts and minds. If you discuss the sermon with others, don’t be surprised if individuals find meaning in different parts of the sermon. That is the Spirit at work.
God’s Word calls for a response. In scripture, song, and sermon, we hear of God’s grace shown to us in Jesus Christ. God speaks, and we are to respond. One of the ways we respond is by affirming our faith in the triune God by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. This statement of faith, developed by the early church, offers a brief summary of God’s merciful work in our world. Because this ancient creed is recited by Christians around the world, it unites us with believers of all times and places and reminds us we are part of the catholic, or universal, church. Together we respond to God’s Word by saying “I believe.”
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Prayer is one of the ways we respond to God. Following the example of Christ who prayed frequently, we offer our joys and concerns to God. We pray that God’s Word made known in the scriptures readings and sermon would take root in our lives. We seek divine mercy for our world as a whole as well as for individuals in special need. And if we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. All prayers, regardless of their content or eloquence, may be offered to God. Because the Lord is merciful, we know our prayers are heard.
OFFERING AND DOXOLOGY
Our response to God’s grace is always the work of the Holy Spirit; sometimes it is tangible and other times intangible. For example, an affirmation of faith may work in intangible but still real ways. In our offering, our response to God becomes more tangible. Out of gratitude for God’s gracious love, we offer our time, talent, and treasure. Serving in the church or community is a gift of time. Sharing musical skills in the choir or teaching a class are offerings of our talents. Giving money to support the Chapel, the Congregation, or community ministries is a contribution of our treasure. We give freely in grateful response to God’s freely given love. Our giving is an act of praise by which we give glory to God, so we sing the doxology—a song of glorious praise—as we present our gifts to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
DOXOLOGY IN ADVENT: O COME, O COME EMMANUEL
There are seven great Advent prayers (antiphons) that have been prayed since the seventh century. Each Antiphon begins with “O” and addresses Jesus with a unique name, which comes from the prophecies of Isaiah in the Old Testament.
Each O Antiphon begins with an invocation of the expected Messiah. When read backwards from the bottom up, they form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means, “Tomorrow I shall be with you.” Today the O Antiphons are most familiar to us in the hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” sung to the tune veni emmanuel.
- Sapientia—O come, thou Wisdom from on high...
- Adonai—O come, O come, thou Lord of might...
- Radix Jesse—O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree...
- Clavis David—O come, thou Key of David...
- Oriens—O come, thou Dayspring from on high...
- Rex Gentium—O come, Desire of nations...
- Emmanuel—O come, O come, Emmanuel...
As the O Antiphons (and subsequently the stanzas of veni emmanuel) tell the Advent story of Christ’s coming, we will sing the story of God’s coming to dwell with us not all at once, but progressively and patiently over the course of four Sundays.
Each Sunday, we are offered the great grace of gathering around the banquet table of our Lord. Whether in the main sanctuary or in Memorial Chapel, our church shares in the feast of thanksgiving—the Eucharist. We meet at the table to remember Jesus’ death for us, to receive grace anew, and to encounter Jesus in the ordinary stuff of life: bread and wine. In this meal by the Holy Spirit, the Father re-members us and makes us one with Christ and with the saints of the past, present, and future. What we consume at the table consumes us, so we become what we eat and are joined into the communion of the Triune God.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
With the elements gathered at the table, the work of the people— demonstrated in worship and the production of bread and wine—is offered to God in thanksgiving. With hearts, minds, and spirits lifted, we join in a prayer of Great Thanksgiving because it is right and good to give God thanks and praise. The presiding minister prays, remembering the Father’s work of creation, covenant, and sending his Son. The gathered people add their voices to the prayers and praises of the minister and the saints and angels of all time, singing the ancient hymn that begins, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The prayer continues, recalling Jesus’ life, death, and giving of himself in bread and wine. The congregation again joins and leans into the mystery of God’s work in Christ: past, present, and future. The prayer concludes by inviting the Father to send the Spirit. The Spirit both makes the Triune God present in the sharing of the communal meal and makes the people of God one in Christ for the sake of the world.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Jesus taught us to pray, and he gave us a prayer. We lift this prayer as part of our prayers during Communion. The “our” and “us” of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we join with disciples across the ages, across the world, and across the street. We pray to our God who is holy and other, and who is known intimately in relationship: our Father. This prayer aligns Jesus’ followers who pray it with God’s reign and rule, God’s Kingdom, in our present time and place. In an act of prayerful trust, we place our spiritual and physical needs in our Father’s hands, even as we are compelled to enact Jesus’ kingdom way of forgiveness. The prayer concludes calling for God’s provision and protection that leads to our praise: for God’s is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
RECEIVING THE BODY AND THE BLOOD
The creation story tells us we are earth made alive by the Spirit. The bread we break and the wine poured out is the stuff of earth filled with the Spirit to enliven us with Christ’s life. We stretch out our hands; God gives; we receive. The servers share God’s grace—the grace offered from one person to another in an act of communion, a sacred joining together. To receive the gifts, worshipers move, spirited-bodies in action who must pay attention to one another even as we discern Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 11). “The body of Christ, broken for you.” “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation!
LENT: CHANGES IN WORSHIP PATTERNS
The Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness. Jesus spent forty days in prayer and fasting being tempted by Satan in the desert. Individually, we spend forty days in Lent preparing ourselves through prayer, fasting, scripture reading, and other disciplines. In our communal worship, we alter patterns, reduce extravagances, and embrace penitence. Here are some of the ways Sunday morning worship has and will reflect these Lenten changes: we have removed alleluias, flowers, and brass instruments. We will occasionally strip away organ postludes and musical accompaniment to hymns. We will invite people to kneel in body or spirit during confession even as the presiding minister kneels facing the cross. We have added a common Lenten confession, an extended time of silence and reflection after the sermon, and an invitation to worship more. We pray these modifications to worship will lead us into greater discipleship during this season.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
God’s word has been proclaimed and the church has responded. We recognize the goodness and blessedness of Jesus’ presence with us, and we can’t help but give thanks. At the Chapel, we give thanks through our offerings, which are acts of response and thanksgiving. We give praise through the doxology—a sung prayer in adoration of our God. And we offer prayers of gratitude that conclude with the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. The prayer of thanksgiving is written thinking of God’s glory and the gracious invitation to be joined with Christ through the Spirit. With God’s abundance in view, we cannot help but see our lives in the light of grace and remember Jesus’ activity and presence among us. In this holy remembering, we reflect back to God what was God’s all along: glory.
BENEDICTION AND SENDING FORTH
We are people gathered by Christ’s love, who scatter to be witnesses to that love in the world. Gathering and scattering; inhaling life to exhale life in the world; inspired by the Spirit to expire for Christ. Through the worship liturgy, we are reminded of how God works in creation and new creation, and we learn to see Jesus’ presence anew. Being enlightened by the light of the world in this way, we are sent out to continue worshiping, to see God’s presence and activity in the world, and to testify to God’s grace. To this end, the minister proclaims a good word of blessing and sending, and the people, led by the cross, depart singing a song of worship and praise.