The Role of the Presider
The Presider is the formal host of the Liturgy. She/he presides over the Liturgy as a host presides over a banquet. This is particularly evident on Sundays when the Eucharist is celebrated. Then the church recalls that its Sabbath gatherings are always intended to be remembrances of the Last Supper mingled together with experiences of the Messianic Banquet in God’s kingdom come. But even when the Table is not spread with bread and wine, the Presider’s role is an important one in shaping the liturgical life of the Congregation.
Before the Liturgy the Presider gathers members of the Worship Leadership Team in the Vestry at 10:20 am. Here the Lector, Worship Elder, Ministers of Music, Preacher and Presider meet to share any final information or questions concerning the Liturgy. Then the Presider leads the Worship Leadership Team in prayer, asking God’s blessing and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Service of Worship.
The Presider, Preacher and Worship Elder process into the Chapel with The Singers. The Presider is responsible for welcoming the congregation and setting the tone of warm hospitality and of holy reverence. The normal position for the Presider is behind the Table, facing the congregation - a reminder of the central meal which we share. A simple greeting leads to the Music Ministry team leading in a gathering hymn. As the hymn concludes the Presider moves to the mike and invites the congregation to remain standing and to exchange the Peace of Christ:
The Peace of Christ be with you;
and also with you.
Watching the community as it exchanges Christ’s peace, the Presider discerns when to make a few timely announcements about the congregation’s life (and/or to invite particular members of the community to make important announcements). It is our practice to refrain from a lengthy list of announcements and so we make ample use of printed announcements in the Order of Service and of email announcements using our email mailing list. Those wishing to have an announcement given voice at public worship are asked to speak with the Presider earlier in the week (not on Sunday morning). At this time a particular welcome to visitors from near and far is extended, with an invitation to join the congregation following the Liturgy for a time in community over refreshments. This may also be a time when special presentations are made. The Presider hosts these acts of gift giving or of covenanting whenever they occur during the Liturgy.
At the close of the gathering time, the Presider invites the congregation to focus its attention on God, on behalf of the world. In the silence that follows an Introit may be sung and the Chapel Bell is rung before the Bible and flame process to the Table and Pulpit. Once the Bible is open and the candles are lit, the Presider moves to the Table and speaks words of Invitation to Worship. Our common practice is to select some key verses from the Psalm of the day for this Invitation. This, however, should not restrict the Presider from other words that bring the congregation before God. Then the Presider announces the opening hymn.
The Presider returns to the Table once again to announce the Declaration of Grace. This crucial announcement signals the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that lies at the heart of our life together. We invite the Presider to make wise use of one of the great Declarations of Grace of the church or to craft his/her own concise statement of the good news that we discover in Jesus Christ - news that liberates, saves and redeems the world from sin - from its separation from God and neighbour.
The Presider invites the congregation to offer its gifts to God. Once the gifts have been brought to the Table the Presider offers the Thanksgiving Prayer. On Sundays when the Eucharist is celebrated the Great Thanksgiving Prayer is recited by the Presider and congregation. On those occasions the Presider is responsible for inviting the baptized to the Table (and making room for the unbaptized who now wish to step forward as disciples of Jesus Christ), co-ordinating the serving of the elements and closing the celebration with prayer. On Sundays when the Eucharist is not celebrated we remember that we are gathered at the Lord’s Thanksgiving Table by asking the Presider to lead a brief Thanksgiving Prayer. Here we thank God especially for the good news met in Jesus Christ and offer our life together to Christ’s service in gratitude.
When the Eucharist is served the Presider will - prior to the service - invite a team or teams of Communion Servers to share the elements with those who wish to participate in the Sacrament. This normally requires six servers - two teams of three, with each set of servers having one to share the bread (“The body of Christ broken for you”), one to share the wine (“The blood of Christ shed for you”) and one to receive the empty glasses on an empty tray. It is common to invite the Lector and Worship Elder of the day to join in this ministry. Once the congregation has been served the serving teams serve each other, in turn.
The Presider and the Worship Elder step to the Table following the closing hymn. The Worship Elder commissions the congregation as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world. The Presider gives the congregation a Blessing in the name of the Triune God. Both Worship Elder and Presider sit down as the Postlude is played. When the Postlude ends, the Presider and Worship Elder signal the conclusion of worship by recessing together behind the light and word to the Chapel entrance, where they greet the congregation.