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Odd the discussions that come up between ministers.

In our area - the ministers of all faiths come together every few weeks for a minister's meeting.

It gives us a chance to get to know one another - share resources and work jointly on community issues.

Someone raised the topic of length of their worship service (two hours long) as being the "right" amount

of time a worship service should last as it allows enough time for moving musical interludes (hymns) and

allows him time to "fully develop" the message. His congregation, he claims, wants their money's worth

and they don't want it to be shorter in length.

In our church the service usually last about 40 or 45 minutes which includes three songs and announcements

at both the beginning and end of the service (longest listening time to someone "just talking" at any one point

is under 15 minutes)....and that works well for us....

Now I am curious - what is the "norm" for worship service in terms of time?

How many hymns are "average"?

How long would you consider idea if you were attending a worship service?


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Everyone has a recipe, it seems. Around this area 45 minutes to an hour, (an occasional hour and 15 for special occasions and high holidays is acceptable) is standard.

The church I attend usually has the following format:


Call to worship (a quick reading of scripture to set the tone of the day's message - usually only a few verses and can be read in under 3 minutes at the longest).

Three worship songs or hymns

Scripture reading and a short prayer by the reader

one more song / hymn

Collection of offerings with a short musical piece

The pastor's message (some call it a sermon - unless there is a major set of points to cover, it would be extreme for him to break 30 minutes and usually it is about 15 to 20).

Closing song / hymn



Start to finish, usually 45 minutes to just under an hour.

That seems to work best for us. The church I grew up in had a similar format other than it added two more scripture readings (one old testament, one new testament) and a reading from one of the gospels, and the time allotment for the sermon was twice as long. They also had a communion at each service where the church where I now attend only offers communion on the first Sunday of the month and holidays where it is appropriate (Holy week, etc.). Difference: add another half hour to 45 minutes, depending on how "wound up" the rector was.

Some has to do with denomination, some with tradition, and a lot has to do with how much the congregation will put up with before falling asleep or walking out.

We are very fortunate to have a pastor who can teach a great message and explain the Bible well, so his half hour seems like mere minutes, and the following week people walk into church discussing the prior week's message. That is a rare gift, and should be treasured when it is found. Where I grew up, it tended to be the opposite. We were not engaged in the teachings, but "talked at," and most of the prayers said in that sanctuary were for the strength to stay awake and escape the seemingly endless sermon.

I have found the length of the service matters less than the quality of the service. I have attended two hour services that left me feeling uplifted and enlightened, and I have attended 15 minute mini services that felt like they took up the entire day. It is a matter of what was presented and how effectively it was presented.

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The one hour mark was common in most of the Lutheran/Evangelicals I grew up in, 3-4 hymns throughout service, one while collection of tithes and yep, 25-30 min. sermon. I've been to one 2 hour service in the SF Bay Area at a Methodist Church and could barely hear the sermon above the snoring the last hour or so. I never went back.

My Church of Universal Humanism, is a bit different as we combined the Call, Rede, Workings and Obligation (see below) into more of an afternoon and evening of celebration, especially since families come from rather long distances (1-2 hr drives). This includes the food service (bbq/potluck), activities for adults and kids, and on special occasions, blade and shield exhibitions. As well, since there are 3 Vitki's of the two dozen or so members, we alternate locations....being small has it's advantages, and yes, disadvantages.

My opinion is the Pastor, Minister, Priest, Vitki or Drighten should provide what each congregation desires. Of course that means risking turning a bit of authority over to those under the leader, but if done correctly should be a positive and earnest end result.

Blessings of Peace,

Call = greeting and statement regarding the official start of proceedings, and at end closing of event (5-10 minutes)

Rede = reading of announcements, selected Edda stanzas, the "message" of stanza(s) analyzed by Vitki/Membership (open discussion), new rune/majik formulas offered by Erulians (45-60 minutes)

Workings = rune casting, majik Works and various activities (20-45 minutes)

Obligation = instead of tithing this is the bringing of food for the "feast", exchanges of hand made crafts, tools etc. for individuals and/or the Hof at large (the Obligation is done as a "break" between the actual 'service' and the 'feast' a time of socializing and exchanges) (Funding for major events takes place all year long)

Closing Call = a short "benediction"

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i don't have services,so a "lesson"(sutra)could be as long as all day(although very unlikely)or as short as holding up a lotus blossom(the buddha is the only one i know of to do this,everybody else pretty much knows what it means).just depends on the message your trying to convey.

i understand that the dogchezn,and "american buddhist"churchs are geared much like the western services,but i have never been to one.i also understand that the dogchezn(pure land)churchs have their services in japanese.this really wouldn't help me as the most japanese i know is from a sushi menu.

Edited by mark 45
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In the UK, most denominations seem to have main services of around 1 hour or slightly longer, including around 20-25mins of music. I'm used to (and prefer) the Quaker tradition of meeting in silence, hence no music within worship. (Some Friends elsewhere do have music and sermons, etc. I believe.) There is often music in social contexts, but not in meeting.

One potential issue I see for those with a strong doctrinal base - do the words of any songs accurately reflect the doctrine? I know of several people who refuse to sing certain verses, whole hymns, or have been put off altogether by some lyrics.


Mark - purely for info - I believe the Japanese term used for pure land would be jōdo bukkyō.

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What can you say, that you haven't said in 45 to 60 minutes? I find that a long service (old Catholic Services prior to Vat II) was hard. With today's younger members, all they want is what I would call sound bites. Sure its nice to bring "Fire & Brimstones" into the picture, and rant and rave about today's ills in the world, but take it from a parent who's had children.... Children tune you out after 30 minutes, and a two hour service is just punnishing everyone.

So in a two hour service, are you there now to hear yourself talk, or to make an impact?

Rev. Cam

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I have always believed that the religious service should never be longer than one hour. The singing -- if any singing is to be done -- should be joyful. The sermon or lesson should be inspiring and not more than 20 to 30 minutes long. The minister should prepare a sermon that will inspire people to live a life of Understanding, Love, and Compassion. There should also be some time dedicated to silent prayer and/or meditation.

Herman Luis

Moriviví Hermitage

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Mark - purely for info - I believe the Japanese term used for pure land would be jōdo bukkyō.

thank you for the i said,my japanese is limited to a sushi menu,and even then i still get surprised.

Edited by mark 45
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  • 3 weeks later...

As a child I went to a Lutheran Church, the services were 30-45 mins. After the service most of the congregation would head over to the community building for about 30 mins. Everyone would choose a way to help the needy. Some would knit baby blankets while chatting, others would sort donated clothing into sizes. Some would box donated food for the needy. After going to other religious services with friends, I asked our Pastor why our service was so short comparatively. His reply was that we were all busy, including him. A longer service would take away from other works he and the church provided. He told me that if I needed him to clarify anything in the sermon, all I need to do was ask while sorting donations for the needy:) I have not seen many other informal, yet beneficial practices since.

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