Church service

Church service

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In Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, a church service is a term used to describe a formalized period of communal worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

, often but not exclusively occurring on Sunday, or Saturday in the case of those churches practicing seventh-day Sabbatarianism. The church service is the gathering together of Christians to be taught the "Word of God" (the Christian Bible) and encouraged in their faith
Faith in Christianity
Faith, in Christianity, has been most commonly defined by the biblical formulation in the Letter to the Hebrews as "'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". Most of the definitions in the history of Christian theology have followed this biblical formulation...

. Technically, the "church" in "church service" refers to the gathering of the faithful
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 rather than to the building in which it takes place.

Styles of service vary greatly, from the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions of liturgical worship to the evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 Protestant style, that often combines worship with teaching for the believers, which may also have an evangelistic component appealing to the non-Christians and/or skeptics in the congregation. Quakers and some other groups have no formal outline to their services, but allow the worship to develop as the participants present feel moved.

From Jewish to Christian services



The first miracle of the Apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

, the healing of the crippled man on the temple
Jewish temple
Jewish temple:*Jewish temple or The Jewish Temple, may refer to the original two ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem.**The First Temple was destroyed by the ancient Babylonians in 586 BCE.**The Second Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 CE....

 steps, occurred because Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and John
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

 went to the Temple to pray . Since the Apostles were originally Jews, see Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians
Jewish Christians is a term which appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries....

, the concept of fixed hours for services, and services therefore which differed from weekday to Sabbath
Biblical Sabbath
Sabbath in the Bible is usually a weekly day of rest and time of worship. The Sabbath is first mentioned in the Genesis creation narrative. The seventh day is there set aside as a day of rest—the Sabbath. It is observed differently in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in...

 to holy day, were familiar to them. Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

 (63 - ca. 113), who was not a Christian himself, mentions not only fixed times of prayer by believers, but also specific services—other than the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

—assigned to those times: "they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity ... after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. ."

The real evolution of the Christian service in the first century
Christianity in the 1st century
The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The Apostles and others following the Great Commission's decree to spread the teachings of Jesus to "all nations," had great success spreading the religion to gentiles. Peter,...

 is shrouded in mystery. By the second
Christianity in the 2nd century
The 2nd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Apostolic Fathers who were the students of the apostles of Jesus, though there is some overlap as John the Apostle may have survived into the 2nd century and the early Apostolic Father Clement of Rome is said to have died at the end of the...

 and third centuries
Christianity in the 3rd century
The 3rd century of Christianity was largely the time of the Ante-Nicene Fathers who wrote after the Apostolic Fathers of the 1st and 2nd centuries but before the First Council of Nicaea in 325...

, such Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 as Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...

, Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

, and Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 wrote of formalised, regular services: the practice of Morning
Matins
Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

 and Evening
Vespers
Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours...

 Prayer, and prayers at the third hour of the day (terce
Terce
Terce, or Third Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said at 9 a.m. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the third hour of the day after dawn....

), the sixth hour of the day (sext
Sext
Sext, or Sixth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said at noon...

), and the ninth hour of the day (none
None (liturgy)
None , or the Ninth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said around 3 p.m...

). With reference to the Jewish practices, it is surely no coincidence that these major hours of prayer correspond to the first and last hour of the conventional day, and that on Sundays (corresponding to the Sabbath in Christianity), the services are more complex and longer (involving twice as many services if one counts the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 and the afternoon service). Similarly, the liturgical year from Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 via Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 to Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

 covers roughly five months, the other seven having no major services linked to the work of Christ. However, this is not to say that the Jewish services were copied or deliberately substituted, see Supersessionism
Supersessionism
Supersessionism is a term for the dominant Christian view of the Old Covenant, also called fulfillment theology and replacement theology, though the latter term is disputed...

.

Church services today



Today a wide variety of church services exist, from the long and elaborate services of Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

 to the very basic Evangelical
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 sermon. Though the majority of services are still conducted in church buildings designed specifically for that purpose, some services take place in "store front" or temporary settings. For those unable to attend a service in a church building a burgeoning televangelism
Televangelism
Televangelism is the use of television to communicate the Christian faith. The word is a portmanteau of television and evangelism and was coined by Time magazine. A “televangelist” is a Christian minister who devotes a large portion of his ministry to television broadcasting...

 and radio ministry provides broadcasts of services. A number of Websites have been set up as "cyber-churches" to provide a virtual worship space free to anyone on the Internet.

Church services are often planned and led by a single pastor or a small group of elders
Elder (Christianity)
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is a clergy person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of Word,...

 or may follow a format laid out by the dictates of the religion. Some churches are "lay led" with members of the congregation taking turns guiding the service or simply following format that has evolved over time between the active members.

A few begin their church services with the ringing of a bell
Church bell
A church bell is a bell which is rung in a church either to signify the hour or the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding, funeral, or other service...

 (or a number of bells
Ring of bells
"Ring of bells" is a term most often applied to a set of bells hung in the English style, typically for change ringing...

). The service usually involves the singing of hymns, reading of scripture verses and possibly a psalm, and a sermon
Sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

. If the church follows a lectionary
Lectionary
A Lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.-History:...

, the sermon will often be about the scripture lection
Lection
A lection is a reading, in this context, from Scripture.The custom of reading the books of Moses in the synagogues on the Sabbath day was a very ancient one. The addition of lections from the prophetic books had been made afterwards and was in existence at the time of Jesus, as may be gathered...

s assigned to that day. Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

ic churches which usually have Holy Communion either every Sunday or several Sundays a month. Less liturgical congregations tend to place a greater emphasis on the sermon.

Vocal music is traditionally sung by a choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 or the congregation (or a mixture of the two), usually accompanied by an organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

. Sometimes other instruments such as piano, classical instruments, or modern band instruments may be part of the service, especially in churches influenced by the contemporary worship
Contemporary worship
Contemporary worship is a form of Christian worship that emerged within Western evangelical Protestantism in the twentieth century. It was originally confined to the charismatic movement, but is now found to varying extents in a wide range of churches, including many that do not subscribe to a...

 movement. Some churches are equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media equipment to add to the worship experience. The congregation may sing along in hymnal
Hymnal
Hymnal or hymnary or hymnbook is a collection of hymns, i.e. religious songs, usually in the form of a book. The earliest hand-written hymnals are known since Middle Ages in the context of European Christianity...

s or words to hymns and worship songs may be displayed on a screen. More liturgical denominations may have the words to specific prayers written in a missal
Missal
A missal is a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year.-History:Before the compilation of such books, several books were used when celebrating Mass...

ette, prayer book or pew bulletin which the congregation follows.

Many churches will take up a collection during the service. The rationale for this is taken from , and . But some churches eschew this practice in favor of voluntary anonymous donations for which a box or plate may be set up by the entrance, or return-address envelopes may be provided that worshippers may take with them.

Some churches offer Sunday school
Sunday school
Sunday school is the generic name for many different types of religious education pursued on Sundays by various denominations.-England:The first Sunday school may have been opened in 1751 in St. Mary's Church, Nottingham. Another early start was made by Hannah Ball, a native of High Wycombe in...

 classes. These will often be for younger children, and may take place during the whole of the service (while the adults are in church), or the children may be present for the beginning of the service and at a prearranged point leave the service to go to Sunday school. Some churches have adult Sunday school either before or after the main worship service.

Following the service, there will often be an opportunity for "fellowship" in the church hall
Fellowship hall
A fellowship hall is a large room in a church building where certain activities in the church building are done, such as certain dinners, breakfasts, meetings, workshops, etc...

 or other convenient place. This provides the members of the congregation a chance to socialize with each other and to greet visitors or new members. Coffee or other refreshments may be served.

See also

  • Church attendance
    Church attendance
    Church attendance refers to the reception of religious services offered by a particular church, or more generally, by any religious organisation.-Participation statistics:...

  • Christian liturgy
    Christian liturgy
    A liturgy is a set form of ceremony or pattern of worship. Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis....

  • Compline
    Compline
    Compline is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day. The word was first used in this sense about the beginning of the 6th century by St...

  • Canonical hours
    Canonical hours
    Canonical hours are divisions of time which serve as increments between the prescribed prayers of the daily round. A Book of Hours contains such a set of prayers....

  • Divine Liturgy
    Divine Liturgy
    Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

  • Divine Service (Lutheran)
  • Evening Prayer (Anglican)
    Evening Prayer (Anglican)
    Evening Prayer is a liturgy in use in the Anglican Communion and celebrated in the late afternoon or evening...

  • Easter Vigil
    Easter Vigil
    The Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in many Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into...

  • First Communion
    First Communion
    The First Communion, or First Holy Communion, is a Catholic Church ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person's first reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe this event to be very important, as the Eucharist is one of the central focuses of the Catholic Church...

  • Garter service
  • Mass (liturgy)
    Mass (liturgy)
    "Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

  • Morning Prayer (Anglican)
  • Service As Worship
  • Service of worship
    Service of worship
    In the Protestant denominations of Christianity, a service of worship is a meeting whose primary purpose is the worship of God. The phrase is normally shortened to service. It is also commonly called a worship service...