Mormon Sacrament meetings

I'm scheduled to speak in our church service on Sunday, January 27, 2013.  Anyone is welcome to come and join us.  The meeting starts at 1:00 pm.  If you want to come, you will want to know where my church is: 210 South Avenue, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

For an official short summary of what to expect, visit the following description at www.mormon.org/worship.

Our meetings actually consist of three parts over a 3-hour block. For 2013, our meetings are as follows:
  • Sacrament meeting: 1:00 - 2:10 pm
    This is the main worship service for families, children are welcome
  • Sunday school: 2:20 - 3:00 pm
    Classes are available for ages 12 and up
  • Primary: 2:20 - 4:00 pm
    Junior Sunday school classes are available for ages 3-11, grouped by age
  • Priesthood/Relief Society meeting: 3:10 - 4:00 pm
    Separate classes designed for men and women, ages 12 and up
The rest of this blog entry is my attempt to explain a little more about what our meetings are like.  If you have questions that I don't address, you can always check out www.mormon.org or if you want a more personal interaction, just ask me.  I'd love to share.

 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world-wide church, where membership in one congregation actually means membership in the overall church.  Congregations are organized geographically in units called wards so that every member of the church has a well-defined ecclesiastical leader, called a bishop (a lay member assigned to serve as pastor for approximately a 5-year term), and an automatic church family wherever they may be. The Harrisonburg 2nd ward essentially consists of all church members living in the southern half of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  The Harrisonburg 1st ward includes the other half.

Church services take place during a 3-hour block and consist of three separate meetings.  Visitors are always welcome.  Right now, my ward begins meetings at 1:00 pm.  Our first meeting (1:00 pm - 2:10 pm) is called Sacrament meeting and is the primary worship service. The second meeting (2:20 - 3:00 pm) is our Sunday School.  We have separate classes for adults, college-age students, and youth. The third meeting (3:10 - 4:00 pm) usually separates the men and women to separate classes.  The men's meeting is called the Priesthood meeting and the women's meeting is called the Relief Society meeting (adults) and Young Women meeting (youth). Children under age of 12 have a junior Sunday school that covers both the 2nd and 3rd hours, called Primary, which includes both a smaller class lesson and a larger group sharing time.

Our main worship service is named after the sacrament (communion) that is provided every time we meet.  Congregants join in singing an opening hymn after which a member is invited to offer an opening prayer.  Church business is generally conducted immediately after the prayer and prior to the sacrament.  The sacrament portion involves congregants singing a hymn while members of the priesthood (priests are often young men 16 or older) prepare trays of broken bread in remembrance of Jesus' broken body.  After the hymn, a priest will offer a fixed prayer that establishes a covenant with God that we will take the name of Christ, always remember him and keep his commandments so that the Holy Spirit can be with us.  The trays are brought to congregants row-by-row, and all who wish to participate partake or otherwise just pass the tray along.  In remembrance of Christ's blood, trays with cups of water are then blessed and passed to the congregation.

Following the sacrament, the remainder of the worship service involves talks, testimonies and songs.  With a few exceptions, the first Sunday of the month is set aside for fasting and does not have any scheduled talks—members are invited to share short personal testimonies as they feel prompted to share.  Other Sundays, the bishop (or his counselors) invite a few members in advance to prepare talks under a particular theme, or perhaps they speak themselves.  We do not have a liturgy.  An intermediate hymn often is sung between two major speakers, and our ward typically invites all to stand and sing.  Following the final speaker, a closing hymn is sung by all congregants and a closing prayer is offered by an invited member.

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