Aids for Pulpit Vacancy
When a congregation is without a pastor under call (or a
resident interim), planning worship can become a
challenge. The pastor often serves as the technical expert
in the congregation. Unless there is a long tradition of
liturgical study among a congregation's laity, both small
and big matters can occasion confusion.
This constellation of pages is not an exhaustive "manual"
for liturgical practice. They serve as crib sheets.
They're intended to help congregations with things like
appropriate seasonal changes while providing tips that may
make life a little easier.
As you use these pages and navigate worship planning, you
can help us improve these guides by sending any questions
you might have. If you have a question, chances are
someone else has the same question. Email your questions
to Bishop Riegel.
When a congregation has a pastor under letter of call,
that pastor is responsible for worship oversight in
conjunction with the Congregation Council. When a
congregation does not have a pastor under call, that
pastor's oversight falls to the interim pastor, the
interim pastor being appointed by the bishop with the
consent of the congregation. In some cases, there is no
interim to be had (or a mutually acceptable interim cannot
be secured). In such cases, the Bishop has oversight as
the interim pastor. The interim has the same authority as
a the regularly call pastor.
Any questions should go to the interim (or Bishop when no
other interim is assigned).
Contact information for supply preachers/pastors as well
as related policies and guidelines are found on our Supply Preaching &
New opportunities for authorized lay preaching have been
coming on line under our Synodical Lay
Worship Leadership program. In fact, applications
are being accepted for certification in the first tier of
licensure, the Licensed Reader, with some applicants
already passing their exams and being licensed. A Licensed
Reader leads worship but does not write his/her own
sermon, reading an approved sermon instead. Learn more at
Reader page. The Apprentice Preacher's license is
There may be days when you can't find a supply preacher
(or a last minute problem has prevented the scheduled
supply preacher from showing up). The Licensed
Readers' Sermon Library may be utilized, but
consultation with the interim pastor prior to doing so
should be attempted if at all possible.
Liturgy can be broken down into those elements that we
call "the propers" and those that we call "the ordinary."
In short, the ordinary of the mass includes those things
that we pretty much do (with a little wiggle room) every
time we have service. The propers include those things
specific to the day (or season), e.g., the
lessons, the prayer of the day, etc.. Admittedly,
this has gotten more than a little mushy over the years
largely because of untempered creativity, a degree of
historical-liturgical ignorance, sloppiness, indolence,
and the diversity of traditions that fed into the ELCA.
For congregations in pulpit vacancy, we recommend that the
standard form of the liturgy be used as there may be a
good number of different people stepping into the pulpit.
This can also serve as a liturgical reset prior to calling
a new pastor.
When planning a worship service, pay close attention to
the rubrics (the instructions in red print in the LBW).
rubrics provide instructions on the execution of the
liturgy and how to handle particular elements. The general
rubrics should also be consulted. The general rubrics are
found in the early pages of the "Altar Book" (Lutheran
Book of Worship: Ministers Edition), s.v.,
"Notes on the Liturgy," pp.13-39. They can also be found
in the Lutheran
Book of Worship: Ministers Desk Edition. In
the unlikely case that you do not have an "Altar Book,"
the Synod Office can loan you a "desk edition" for study.
An excellent resource for learning more about the liturgy
is the Manual on the Liturgy–Lutheran Book
of Worship by Pfatteicher & Messerli. The
Synod Office has several copies that may be borrowed for
On this page, you will find some general notes about
liturgical planning. Separate pages that provides details
for each of the liturgical seasons, principal feasts, and
some of the lesser festivals are linked below. On those
pages, you will find matrices that list the elements of
the liturgy in their proper sequence for the given day or
season. Each matrix provides the elements and page numbers
as found in the LBW. Yes, there are more options
than indicated in each matrix (e.g., seasonal
antiphons, verses, offertories, responsories, etc.).
The intent of these pages is to assist inexpert worship
planners who often contend with limited resources. If
resources are present, and there is a desire to go
further, consult the interim pastor. The Bishop is also
happy to do workshops on liturgics; feel free to contact him to
arrange a workshop.
While a congregation with copyright permission (or a
copyright license) may print out the entire worship
service in its Sunday bulletin (to the extent permitted in
the permission or license), it may find it easier to print
a bulletin with only the order of service and page
numbers. This, of course, means that the worshipers will
have to use the hymnal/worship book (unless they have the
service fairly well memorized). The question is one of
resources (human, material, and fiscal). Who is preparing
your bulletin? Is there adequate staff? Are there enough
hours in the day? How easy a task is it going to be? How
much is it going to cost? Fully-printed services in
worship bulletins was introduced as a measure to make
worship more welcoming to visitors. One has to seriously
question just how many visitors our typical congregation
sees over the course of a year. We may also question just
how much a fully-printed worship bulletin really helps a
visitor with no prior experience in Lutheran worship.
Simple truth: a friendly parishioner who sits with a
visitor and gently assists that visitor with the service
will be experienced as much more welcoming than a
fully-printed worship bulletin coldly handed out by an
If your congregation is using ELW, you will need
the direct assistance of your interim pastor to properly
assemble the liturgy. To be frank, the ELW is not
well-designed for use as a stand-alone worship book. It is
designed to be used as a resource in constructing a
fully-printed worship bulletin, and certain elements are
only available through the electronic resource. It is
possible, with care, to translate what you find here for
use with the ELW. You do have the option of
pulling your old LBWs out of storage during your
time of pulpit vacancy.
A note on Sundays and Seasons and external
resources: Some congregations have purchased Sundays
and Seasons with the electronic resource for
constructing liturgies. Sundays and Seasons
provides a wider range of resources than those found in
the print versions of the LBW and ELW. N.B.,
not all resources are equal. Some of the resources
provided in Sundays and Seasons are theologically
suspect. Any resource, whether it is in Sundays and
Seasons or found somewhere else, should be subjected
to critical liturgical review, and critical liturgical
review, if it is to be critical, includes theological
review, specifically, review for consistency with the
Lutheran Confessions. Before employing options found in Sundays
and Seasons but not found in the LBW or ELW,
consult your interim pastor.
Further down this page, you will find some notes on liturgical appointments.
For Sundays without Holy Communion
For Sunday mornings when there is no Lord's Supper, three
options for liturgy present themselves...
These non-eucharistic services should not be used when a
presbyter (pastor) is present to lead the worship service.
With the shortage of presbyters, one cannot be sure when
the next communion service might be held. In other words,
if you can have hold a communion service, do so because it
might be a long time before you will have another chance.
Furthermore, the employment of a presbyter for a
non-eucharistic service is poor human resource allocation.
Every time a congregation has a supply pastor lead a
non-eucharistic service, there may be another congregation
that is deprived the Sacrament of the Altar.
For Sundays with Holy Communion
The full service of Holy Communion may only be used when a presbyter (pastor) or bishop presides.
Four different orders for Sunday worship are provided for
each of the following seasons, feast days, and lesser
festivals. Click on the link.
And the true adornment of the churches is godly, useful, and clear doctrine, the devout use of the Sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels, tapers, altar-cloths, images, and similar adornments are becoming, but they are not the adornment that properly belongs to the Church. — Apology XXIV:51
We further believe, teach, and confess that the community of God in every place and every time has the right, authority, and power, to change, to reduce, or to increase ceremonies according to its circumstances, as long as it does so without frivolity and offense, but in an orderly and appropriate way, as at any time it may seem to be most profitable, beneficial, and salutary for good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the Church. — Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration X:9
We like our things, and we like our worship spaces to be adorned. While these things are neither the true adornment of the church nor necessary to salvation, we should attempt to maintain decorum, and that is facilitated by following the rubrics and customs long-established in the church.
Appointments for Seasons, Feast Days, and Lesser
West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030 + Porter@WV-WMD.org
Last update: 25 November 2022