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An Exhortation for Presiders

Presiding is perhaps the most important duty on Sunday morning—even more important to the memorial meeting, as a whole, than exhorting.
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The presider’s voice is the first one to be heard. It is their duty to set and maintain the tone of the meeting.

The one who presides will bring unity and continuity to the whole service through a reverent attitude and well-chosen words duty is also to introduce and handle the central features of the whole worship service, that is, the Breaking of Bread, with the emblems or symbols—of the body and the blood of Christ. This should require preparation (and prayer) at home, even before coming to the meeting. 

Words of Advice 

As a presider, it is a good idea to make your assignments for Bible readings and prayers well ahead of time, and to organize the hymns also—perhaps even a day or two before Sunday. Rushing around just before the meeting starts, trying to line up brothers to do this or that, is not helpful in achieving the right tone. Furthermore, it will distract you from your own necessary meditation and preparation. 

The presider brings unity and continuity to the whole service

There should be standard presiding forms available from someone, possibly the Recording Brother. Get one and use it. Or better yet, keep a supply for yourself. There is no need to reinvent the program each week or ever to have to guess what is supposed to come next.

If you have organized your program in advance, then you may turn to your own personal preparation. As the person who oversees the meeting, it is a good idea to sit down, five or ten minutes before the service starts. This will accomplish two things: 

First, it will encourage others to also take their seats, and begin their meditation as well.

And secondly, it will allow you, as the presider, to concentrate on preparing for what you have to do. 

Remember to take a deep breath or two, and remind yourself to take your time. There is absolutely no need to rush any part of the service. You are not a clerk in a grocery store, or a waiter in a restaurant, passing food and drink quickly and efficiently to the customers. Your objective is not to finish quickly but to give every aspect of the meeting—and especially the bread and the wine—its proper sense and meaning. Remind yourself that, in a symbolic fashion, you are handling the “body” and” blood” of our Lord and Savior.

Prepare a few very brief comments ahead of time to open the meeting. Examples would include a psalm of praise to the LORD, or perhaps Isaiah 53, or a few of the first verses of Psalm 22. There are many good introductory passages if you keep in mind the purpose of the memorial meeting.

Then you should have other comments to introduce the Breaking of Bread at the appropriate time. If possible, try to make this introduction start just where the exhorting brother left off, by calling special attention to the emblems themselves. 

When the speaker has done the job of reminding us of the purpose of the meeting, then you don’t need to do much more. Simply read a few verses by which the bread and wine are introduced in the Scriptures (Matt 26:26-29; Luke 22:19,20; or 1 Cor 11:23-26). But read them slowly and carefully. Three verses read slowly, and with reverence, are much, much better than six verses that are rushed through!

Another suggestion: While the memorial hymn is being sung, just before the Breaking of Bread, take a moment to remove the cloth from the Bread and the Wine (if your ecclesia uses one). This allows you to move slowly and carefully, and avoid knocking emblems over. It also means that, as soon as the hymn is finished, the emblems are on display for everyone—which also helps everyone to focus on the right things.

Before and after partaking of the Bread, as well as the partaking of the Wine, sit down for a minute or two. This is a time for reflection and meditation, not just for yourself but for everyone else. It is a silent time to think, “Stop. Why are we here? What are we doing? Think about this sacrifice.” During this time, we all can remember that first Memorial Meeting in the upper room in Jerusalem and perhaps think about the absolute love and devotion that preceded the suffering of our Master, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

As the host, Jesus was the first to officiate over a Memorial Service. He did it by conveying a pervasive calm and confidence to his disciples. By this means, he demonstrated God’s presence and God’s love to them. The presider can do nothing more important than to help everyone in the meeting to shut out the thoughts and worries of the ever-present world and to focus on the eternal spiritual truths—the only things that really matter in this world of sin and death. 

Being with Jesus

If the presider has done the job well, with dignity and reverence, then the congregation will be able to see Jesus. Wherever our thoughts and words take us as we contemplate God’s message, there we will find Christ. He is the central character in the Bible and the centerpiece of our world—as well as the world to come. 

If the service has been conducted carefully and in the right spirit, then the presider will have successfully conducted a rewarding meeting. This will mean that all of us who attended will leave the memorial service feeling and acting as though we have been changed for the better:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13). 

George Booker,
(Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX)

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