Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leading the intercessions

Parish Church of Saint Jude-on-the-Hill

Leading the Intercessions

Canon B12 “ . . . the Prayer of Intercession may be at the invitation of the minister be read by a lay person at the celebration of the Holy Communion.”

Follow this link to the Forms of Intercession in Common Worship pp 281-287 and to the Endings for Intercessions pp 288-289:

There also a note on page 332.

There are now special forms of Intercession for feasts and the seasons. This should be made clear on the rota and a word, or preferably an email, to the Vicar will bring you the texts for these.

The list of the sick, the dead and the minds is available from the vestry – please make sure you are clear about names (and pronunciations).

The idea

Intercessions are specific prayers. They are not general prayers for grace, forgiveness, strength or whatever. The day has a Collect, which the celebrant has already said, and which sets the theme for the day. The intercessions is not the place for introducing other themes through more collects or set 'stand-alone' prayers'.

The idea behind the Intercessions is that the local Christian community has ‘gathered’ or ‘assembled’ to celebrate the Liturgy on Sunday morning or on a principal feast of the Church. They do so as part of the universal ‘catholic’ church, and of a wider a national community and they remember those who are unable to be present.  

The community should not, therefore, really be learning from the intercessions who is sick or has died (although it should be recognized that many in fact will be so learning.) 

 This is expressed in the basic structure of the Intercessions which should always include prayer for satnd:

the Church (focused in prayer for the bishop(s) by name;

the nation (focused in prayer for the sovereign by name);

the local community;

those in need (and absent);

the departed.

The most basic form of intercession could therefore look like this:

We pray for the Church, for Richard and Peter our bishops.

We pray for our nation, for Elizabeth our Queen.

We pray for our parish of Hampstead Garden Suburb.

We pray for X and Y who are sick.

We pray for Z who died on Monday and for Q and P whose years minds (or the anniversaries of whose deaths) fall this week.

It is appropriate to expand the petitions a little bit, for example:

We pray for the Church as she observes this penitential season of Lent, for Richard and Peter our bishops, for those preparing for baptism or confirmation at Easter.

We pray for our nation as she prepares for the General Election, for Elizabeth our Queen, for the peace of the world, for those serving in the armed forces.

We pray for all who live work or study in our parish of Hampstead Garden Suburb, for the schools and the Institute, the work of the Fellowship, for the Jewish community.

We pray for X and Y who are sick.

We pray for Z who died on Monday and for Q and P whose years minds fall this week.

But you should not go into too much detail. These are prayers not notices:

We pray for X and Y who are sick (not for “X who has cancer” or “Y who is recovering from a recent fall and unable to get to the shops without the help of her carer who does not always turn up”). . .  Considerable care should be taken to ensure that the sick person would give their permission to be mentioned by name. We do not usually pray for those who present.

We pray for Z who died on Monday or whose funeral takes place on Friday (but not “for X whose funeral will take place in the West Chapel at Golders Green on Friday at 2pm followed by refreshments in the tea room”).

There are some things which sometimes appear in the Intercessions which probably should not and others which rarely appear but occasionally might:

We pray for the Church, for Richard and Peter our bishops (but not for the Vicar, Readers or Church Wardens – especially if they are present – as they are part of the assembly offering the prayers).

We pray for our nation, for Elizabeth our Queen (to which might be added our Mayor and Borough of Barnet).

There are some words and expressions it is better to avoid:

We pray for those who are sick especially or particularly for X and Y who and for any others known to us. (The prayers for the sick are specifically for those who would normally be present but cannot be today. Sometimes, though, we are asked to pray for others by name and we should always accept this request.)

We pray for the dead, or for X who has died . . . not for those who have ‘passed away’ or ‘who are no longer with us’.

Sometimes we should add extra petitions:

We pray for the victims of the earthquake in X, and for those involved in rescue work . . .

We pray for Y to be baptized today, for her parents and godparents.

We don’t have to begin each petition with “We pray for”:

We could say

We pray for the Church, for Richard and Peter our bishops.

We ask for your blessing on our nation, for Elizabeth our Queen.

We bring before you the needs of our parish of Hampstead Garden Suburb.

We commend to your care X and Y who are sick.

We remember Z who died on Monday and for Q and P whose years minds fall this week.


Bless your Church . . .

Guide our nation . . .

Lead our parish . . .

Comfort the sick . . .

Remember Z who died . . .

We might want to invite a response to each petition from the congregation:

Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Lord, hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.

These two are on the congregational sheets, this is another one which ought to be:

Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

You could make one up:

In your compassion, Lord: Grant our prayer.

But then you will have to tell the congregation what to say (as you will if you are using special seasonal intercessions):

“The response to “In your compassion, Lord” is “Grant our prayer”. (Then say it again): “In your compassion, Lord: Grant our prayer”.

When inviting a response (especially an unfamiliar one) pause, look up, say your phrase, and then lead the congregation in theirs.

There is a special response to the petition for the (recent) dead:

Rest eternal grant unto her/him/them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

To which is sometimes added:

May she/he/they rest in peace. Amen.

The minds list

Say “X and Y whose years minds (sg, years mind)” of, if you prefer, “the anniversaries of whose deaths . . . “.

When remembering a priest or bishop say “John Smith, priest or John Smith, priest, and second vicar of this church.

The intercessions could end with a short prayer (eg "All this we ask for Jesus sake" and ‘Amen’), or usually with “Merciful Father . . .” (see CW 288-9 above).

It is traditional to preface “Merciful Father . . .” with a mention of the saints:

"Uniting our prayers with those of the Blessed Virgin Mary, X, Jude, our patron and all the saints, we say:"


"Rejoicing in the fellowship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, X , Jude, our patron and all the saints, we say:"

The Blessed Virgin Mary is always mentioned first (and never omitted); she may be referred to as our Lady, our blessed Lady, Blessed Mary, Mary the Mother of God, Mary the Mother of Jesus, or just Mary.

X = the saint of the day who will only be an apostle (and so a special form of service will be being used). (Remember all other saints’ days are transferred when they fall on a Sunday – so contrary to what the ‘world’ thinks it can never, for example, be Valentine’s day or St George’s day on a Sunday, and they should not be specifically included in the intercessions.)

Saints whose days happen to fall in the coming week should not usually be mentioned.

As well as X, being the saint of the day, it is appropriate to add Joseph during the Christmas season, John the Baptist in Advent etc

Silence in the intercessions.

It is appropriate to have a very short period of silence or pause after each petition and before the response is invited.

Sometimes you might want to invite a more specific period of silence before the final response:

“In a moment of silence we bring our prayers before you/offer our prayers to you”, etc

It is better to call it ‘silence’ rather than ‘quiet’.

It is important that you then actually have a period of silence and don’t talk through it or end it immediately!

Some other points

Remember the Intercessions are petitions not thanksgivings, so avoid “We just thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day and the opportunity to come together to praise you” etc

They are not sermons, so avoid “In an age when people spend more time and money on their gardens than they do on more worthy causes such as the cat’s home, we pray for the church . . . ".

They are not notices, "we pray for those involved in preparing for next weekend's bookfair", but not "books can be handed at the vestry in between 10 and 4"

They are not an opportunity to harangue people, so avoid “We pray that the congregation will dig deeply into their pockets for the central heating fund . . ."

They are not an opportunity to express an opinion, so avoid “We pray that the vicar will soon find another position . . ."

There is a tendency to make the Intercessions too long, rather than too short.

There is a tendency to say too much, rather than too little when introducing a particular petition.

There is not enough silence during the Intercessions.

There is a tendency for the congregation to expect you or the Vicar or churchwardens to know everyone who is sick or whose ‘minds’ are occurring, and to have included them in the list, whereas, at least in theory, the list is compiled from names ‘handed in’ at the vestry before the service.

Important as the Intercessions are they are sometimes omitted when a particular form of liturgy is being celebrated.