Deacon leadership in Prayers of the People

At this point, over my ecclesial career Deacons have been bookends:  a Deacon was a regular Sunday liturgical leader in the first parish I served (very large, 2 deacons) for 5 years, and a Deacon was an almost weekly liturgical leader in my first interim ministry in 2014 (my current ministry again  does not include a deacon).  In between I have not been unaccustomed to deacons in diocesan liturgy planning and clergy gatherings, but there was no Deacon in my parish in the intervening 24 years.

Over all these years, I had always felt the ancient role of the Deacon in calling the church to prayer, and leading it (“Lift up your hearts!”) was sorely missing.  The last Deacon was well-versed in her liturgical roles, and desiring to made use of even more.   So I started to develop a form of the Prayers of the People where the Deacon figured in prominently, and the Celebrant’s only role was the concluding Collect.    The tradition in that parish was to make use of one particular author of the biddings, Deacon Ormonde Plater from the Diocese of Louisiana, whose website is virtually complete with Year A, B, and C related content for the Prayers.  This was articulated in the liturgy by a combination of the Deacon, the Eucharistic Minister (AKA Lay Assistant) and two random members of the Laity who were drafted as they came into the nave for the next Sunday service.

I began to make use of fuller introductions and biddings by writing my own, and making use of other Prayers of the People graciously made available from other individuals, congregations, and even the RCL Vanderbilt website.  One that I have made use of quite a bit, and thus deserves to be singled out is the Rector of st Paul’s, Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The available forms from the Book of Common Prayer provide the essential outline of the prayers to be bid, and eventually gave me what I needed for the Deacon to use.

The concept is simple:

1)  The Deacon, as the Deacon should in consideration of ancient practice and because of the nature of the ministry to which the Deacon is ordained, begins the Prayers of the People by addressing the congregation.  Scripture theme can be used to make the segue to the Prayers within the ministry of the Word of God; so also the introduction to any special intentions called for by the Rector, the Bishop, the House of Bishops, etc., and also indicates the “versicle and response” for the end of the bidding.

2)  The Prayer Points for the Prayers of the People, outlined in the BCP on the introduction page to the Forms, given to the various laity and addressed to God, are each immediately followed by the Deacon bidding the congregation to utter (silently or aloud) their petitions or thanksgivings related to that bidding.

3)  After a short pause giving time for the individual petitions (the Deacon also is given the task of inserting names of those in hospital, etc. , and those with birthdays, etc., and the week’s parishioners to be kept in prayer)   it is the Deacon who gives the “versicle” with the congregation making the given response.

4)  Whether there is a final bidding from the Deacon themself or not, the Celebrant then prays a concluding Collect.

Two things are still missing:  the Deacon’s participation earlier in the week of the development of the list of names which will be inserted into the bulletin and then named aloud in the litrugy.  By the time I left we were only barely moving in that direction.  The point though serves the principle — this would allow the Deacon to be fully present in the discussion and development and leading of the Prayers of the People for Sundays services.  And second, although every congregation may be different, it wouldprovide a more whole-hearted preparation prior to the service and verbal participation during the service by the congregation.  In my experience this just takes consistent and very intentional invitation for several Sundays (some would say prodding) which includes “by example.”   The priest or the deacon can do this, but it should be one or the other to provide a focus of leadership.

I would like to credit the seminal practices, vision, seeding and teaching for my own thinking and practice early on to Dr Massey Shepherd, and the Rev. Everett “Terry” Fullam.

Included is an Adobe .pdf document of the Prayers of the People from Pentecost, and one from August 10, 2014 which is very much in line with the Form IV PoP in the BCP.

Prayers of the People, Pentecost, 2014

Prayers of the People, Aug 10 2014

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