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All Saints Sunday

 A Service of Worship

Robin Stephenson-Bratcher and Dennis Bratcher


Secular culture and many Low Church traditions associate All Saints Day (November 1), also known as All Hallows (hallows = saints) or Hallowmas (mas = Mass), with Halloween (een=evening before or eve), All Hallows Eve (October 31). As a result, many tend to reject this Holy Day because of modern associations with witches, ghouls, the macabre, and a preoccupation with death that began to grow up around the Holy Day in the medieval period. Also, Protestants have generally tended to be uncomfortable with this day in its association in Roman Catholic tradition with the doctrine of Purgatory and praying for the dead.

All Souls Day began in the third century to honor martyrs of the Christian Faith.  By the seventh and eighth centuries it developed as a way to honor any of the saints of the Church who had attained the full status of heaven.  During the early medieval period in the eleventh century, the following day, November 2, came to be observed as All Souls Day to remember those who had died but had not yet achieved the “beatific vision” of heaven, or who were still in Purgatory.  This became a time to pray and intercede for these departed saints. 

As with a lot of other excesses of the medieval period, these two days began to accrue a lot of popular mythology and became overlaid with layers of superstition.  However, much of what concerns modern Christians actually developed in Ireland and England from pagan Celtic festivals and was imported into the United States by immigrants in the middle 19th century.  It was not until the late 19th century that Halloween emerged in its modern Western version, which was then exported to other countries.  It is this syncretism of Christianity with pagan beliefs in Halloween that lends a bad reputation to All Saints Day in Western Protestant thinking.

Yet beyond those issues, traditionally in the Church the two days of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) were valued as times to celebrate heritage and those Christians of the past who faithfully transmitted the Faith to succeeding generations. Martin Luther actually chose All Saints Eve to send his Ninety Five Theses to the Archbishop.  His challenge to the Church and its leaders to reform was set against the background of the heritage of that Church.  And even after the Reformation, both Lutheran and Anglican traditions retained the celebration of All Saints Day as a time to honor those who had been faithful.

Today, many Protestant churches combine the two traditional days into the observance of All Saints Day.  However, the day focuses not only on honoring departed members of the Church and local congregations, but also those still living who have contributed to the work and ministry of the Church in significant ways.  Since most years November 1 falls on a weekday and most Protestant churches do not have weekday services, usually the Sunday following November 1 is celebrated as All Saints Sunday (All Saints Day falls on a Sunday in 2009 and 2015).  Some churches combine All Saints Day celebration with Reformation Sunday (last Sunday in October) as a way to focus on heritage.

The Service

(* = congregation standing)


Welcome - Community Events

Call to Worship

[Optional] Reading: Heb 11:8,  20-22, 24-25, 31, 32-40, 12:1-2a

*Hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God (verses 1 and 2)

Alternate: For All the Saints (verses 1-3)

*Minister: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

*People: And also with you!

*Minister: Let us pray together.  Lord God, by your grace we are running a race.

*People: We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses--

*Minister: Patriarchs and matriarchs, prophets and psalmists, disciples and evangelists, martyrs and saints.

*People: We thank you for their example. We praise you for their lives of faith. For all your saints, O Lord, who strove in you to live, who followed, obeyed, adored you - our grateful hymn we sing.

*Minister: Lord God, by your grace we are running a race.

*People: We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses--

*Minister: Loved ones now resting in you, who guided us, nurtured and cared for us; ancestors who worked and traveled, lived and died that we might be who we are, where we are--your precious children in this community of believers.

*People: We thank you for their example. We praise you for their lives of faith. For all your saints, O Lord, who strove in you to die, who counted you their great reward - accept our thankful cry.

*Minister: Lord God, by your grace we are running a race.

*People: We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses--

*Minister: Family members and members of this congregation; fellow believers in every country, every denomination; friends who help, guide and uplift us-- children of your family, sheep of your fold, saints of your redeeming.

*People: We thank you for their example. We praise you for their lives of faith. For this, your name we bless, and humbly pray anew, that we like them in holiness may live and die in you.

*Minister: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,

*People: and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

*Minister: looking to Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

*People: Amen.

* Hymn:  A Mighty Fortress is Our God (verses 3 and 4)

Alternate: For All the Saints (verses 4-6)

The Written Word for Us Today

(Optional) Psalm Reading:

Year A - Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Year B - Psalm 24

Year C - Psalm 149

Old Testament Reading

Year A - Joshua 4:19-24 (Alternate: Revelation 7:9-17) [A homily: Living Stones]

Year B - Isaiah 25:6-9

Year C - Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Epistle Reading (may be omitted if Hebrews is used at the beginning of the service):

Year A - 1 John 3:1-3

Year B - Revelation 21:1-6a

Year C - Ephesians 1:11-23

Reader: This is the Word of the Lord.

People’s Response: Thanks be to God.

*The Gospel:

Year A - Matthew 5:1-12

Year B - John 11:32-44

Year C - Luke 6:20-31

Response to the Reading of the Gospel (Sung):

All: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.

Honoring the Saints

Minister (may be adapted to local congregations): We often talk about the Church as a community. In our western individualized society, it is sometimes hard to realize just how interrelated we are with other people. And yet, our lives are intertwined with the lives of others in ways that we are sometimes unaware. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are social creatures.

We also sometimes like to think that we are who we are because we have worked hard to make ourselves this way. That is, unless it is something that we do not like about ourselves, and then it is obviously due to those traumatic experiences of childhood.

Yet, if we are honest, much of what we are as human beings we owe to other people. Especially in the Church, most of us have fathers and mothers in the Faith. Sometimes those are our own parents. Sometimes they are people who loved us and were patient with us when we were bratty teenagers. Some were teachers, pastors, youth ministers, Sunday School teachers who in small or large ways helped us grow and nurtured us, in life and in the Faith.

We always stand in a larger community than just those who are around us daily. For those who are older, many of those people who shaped our spiritual journey are gone now. But this is the time of year, the time near All Saints Day, that the Church calls us to remember our father and mothers in the Faith. We truly are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the Church and its people across the centuries that were faithful to God and to us.

Naming of the Honored Dead

Minister: This is a time of recognizing and honoring those who have passed on before us.

[At the direction of the minister, people are asked to stand and speak the name of a deceased loved one. For churches that have a local or denominational Memorial Roll, the certificates can be presented here.]

Hymn: The Beatitudes (verses 1 and 2, sung to Ode to Joy)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for God’s kingdom shall be their’s
Blest are those who mourn with grieving; they of God shall be the heirs.
They shall not be lost, forsaken, but shall comfort full receive.
God will bless them with his mercy and their ev’ry fear relieve.

Blessed are the meek and lowly; God shall give them of the earth.
Blest are they who thirst for rightness; God shall slake their hungering.
God shall bless the ones whose mercy mirrors his abundant grace.
God will bless them now, forever; they in heav’n shall have a place.

Naming of the Earthly Saints

Minister: This is a time of remembering and honoring those who are still living who have helped us and nurtured our earthly journey.

[At the direction of the minister, people are asked to stand and speak the name of those who have been a blessing. If time and facilities allow, people can go and stand beside the person if present. This is also a time to give special recognition to people who have contributed significantly to the life of a local Church.]

Hymn: The Beatitudes (verses 3 and 4, sung to Ode to Joy)

Blest are they whose hearts are purely living truly by God’s grace;
They receive God’s favored blessing and behold him face to face.
Blest are those who seek not warfare but seek peace most constantly;
Children of the Lord, they always live in peace eternally.

Blessed are the persecuted, cursed, insulted, and reviled;
Though great evil stands before them, they shall never be defiled.
Who for Christ’s sake bear such evil, suff’ring, death, or bitter pain.
Their reward is great and plenteous: they God’s kingdom shall obtain.

Passing the Peace of Christ

Minister: Let the people show signs of grace and friendliness: Peace be with you.

People: And also with you

Pastoral Prayer [See Prayers of the People]

Minister: (at the conclusion of the Pastoral Prayer):  Now together, let us join the countless numbers across the centuries who have prayed as our Lord instructed us to pray. . .

All: Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Our Tithes and Offerings

Response to Offering

All - Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Affirmation of Faith - Apostles’ Creed

All: I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Alternate: Nicene Creed


[A homily can be included here depending on the time allowed for the service. In no case should the homily replace Eucharist in this service. For a homily that deals with heritage and honoring those who have gone before, see Living Stones.]

The Eucharist Table

Song: Come to the Table

Words of Life and Consecration

Minister: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Minister: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Minister: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. You formed us in your image, and breathed into us the breath of life. When we turned away, and our love failed, your love remained steadfast. You delivered us from captivity, made covenant to be our sovereign God, and spoke to us through your prophets. And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

All (can be sung): Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Minister: Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ. Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

People: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Minister: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit makes us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father now and forever.

All: Amen.

Invitation to the Table

Minister: All who would come to Christ are invited to come to His table.

Closing Eucharistic Prayer:

*All: Lord Jesus Christ, you have called us to run with patience, to be faithful through the years, to bring hope to a broken world. Help us each day to be your people and to live lives of uncommon faith and love. You are the Lord forevermore. Amen.

*Scattering to Minister

*Song: In Thanksgiving Let Us Praise Him


*Minister: Go in peace, serve the Lord!

*People: Thanks be to God!

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2016, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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