Variety in the Vesper Service

The vesper service at the close of the Sab­bath has been an important feature of the religious program of some of our larger churches for more than twenty years, and has therefore long since passed the experimental stage.

By TAYLOR G. BUNCH, Pastor, South Lancaster, Massachusetts

The vesper service at the close of the Sab­bath has been an important feature of the religious program of some of our larger churches for more than twenty years, and has therefore long since passed the experimental stage. This service occupies from thirty to sixty minutes and closes with the sundown bell. This is a most appropriate way to close the Sabbath, and where this service has been properly con­ducted the churches would not want to dispense with it.

Each of the several services held in our churches should be different from all the others, and thus the vesper service should be charac­terized by an individuality all its own. Monot­ony should be avoided by varying the program from time to time. Vesper services have been successfully conducted where the main feature was a thirty-minute sermon on topics of a de­votional nature. This is a good time for a series on prayer, the shepherd psalm, or the sermon on the mount. Music should always be made a special feature.

After several years of experience and experi­ments in vesper services, it is my opinion that the service should be at least forty-five minutes in length, and that the devotional message should occupy the central place, with all else built around it and complementary to it. The topic of the message should as far as possible be taken into consideration in the selection of the hymns, Scripture reading, poetry, and music, both vocal and instrumental.

In a service of this length the devotional mes­sage should not consume more than fifteen or twenty minutes, and should be of a very spirit­ual and inspirational nature, putting the audi­ence in a relaxed and restful mood and kindling in their hearts feelings of faith, hope, courage, reverence, and veneration. The worshipers should be inspired with a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past and especially the Sabbath day just closing, and with resolution and confidence be led to face the duties and problems of the new week jus‘t on the threshold.

It is important that this service have variety enough to appeal to, and benefit spiritually, all the members of the church, and not alone those who love music, or poetry, or preaching. The audience should be fed with spiritual food as well as inspired by a beautiful service. The in­tellect as well as the emotions should be ap­pealed to in order to make the service of last­ing benefit rather than a temporary enjoyment.

Much of the time should be devoted to music, both instrumental and vocal. A pipe or electric organ contributes much to the vesper service. String music is ideal for the occasion. All the music should be of the quiet, restful, inspira­tional type. An all-music program from time to time gives variety and creates interest. Appro­priate poems, when well read, also help to make the service different and profitable.

The congregation should have a definite part in the service. This can be accomplished by appropriate responsive readings and congrega­tional hymns. There should be a hymn at the beginning or close of the service, or at both times. The hymnal contains a number of beau­tiful evening songs. Distinction can also be given the service by turning off all the lights except those on the rostrum, as soon as the opening hymn and responsive reading are fin­ished.

The large auditorium of the South Lancaster church is virtually filled with worshipers at each vesper service. The following 45-minute schedule is being followed, with variations:

Organ meditations --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------      5 minutes

Call to worship (four to six verses of Scripture) --------------------------------------------------     2 minutes

Hymn ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    3 minutes

Responsive reading --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------   3 minutes

Instrumental music ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    5 minutes

Vocal selection ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  3 minutes

Devotional message ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  15 minutes

Instrumental music ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------ 5 minutes

Organ meditations ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  3 minutes

Sunset prayer -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  1 minute

Sundown bell

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By TAYLOR G. BUNCH, Pastor, South Lancaster, Massachusetts

July 1949

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