Methodist Service Book

Work began in 1963 to revise the Book of Offices of 1936. The resulting book retained the 1936 Communion Service (essentially the Anglican rite of 1662, with some light revisions by John Wesley) but preceded it with a new order called, after Wesley's abridgement for the American Methodists, 'The Sunday Service'. This was much influenced by the Liturgical Movement which, beginning in Rome, has controlled revisions in all the mainstream Churches, so that the shape of the liturgy is now virtually the same in them all. Its main principles are (a) that the Eucharist (the preferred ecumenical name, though not yet widely used in Methodism) is the central and normative act of Christian worship, (b) that it is a union of word and sacrament and must include the Bible lections and preaching as well as the Lord's Supper, (c) that it is the congregation and not the presiding minister who 'celebrate' and therefore there must be as much participation of the people as possible and (d) that the Supper has a fourfold shape, following Jesus's actions in the Upper Room - he took (offertory); he gave thanks (the long central prayer rehearsing God's mighty act and the Lord's institution); he broke the bread to share it, and he distributed the bread and wine to the disciples (communion). This seeks to go back beyond Cranmer and the medieval rites to the earliest known orders. Where there is no Lord's Supper, the service has a eucharistic shape. The Covenant Service, Marriage and Ordination similarly, and Confirmation (the alternative name for public reception into membership). Infant baptism is still presupposed as the usual custom, with the emphasis on what God in Christ has done for the child. The optional giving of a candle is included. The book was compiled independently of the CofE and for the first time Methodist liturgy is free of direct Anglican influence; but the Joint Liturgical Group was consulted throughout. The position of the Lord's Prayer to conclude the intercessions and the Ministry of the Word is a departure from tradition on URC advice. The Service Book was used beyond all expectations, but was superseded in 1999 by the Methodist Worship Book.

  • A. Raymond George, 'The Methodist Service Book', in WHS Proceedings, 41 pp.65-72
  • K.B. Westerfield Tucker (ed.), The Sunday Service of the Methodists (Nashville, 1996)
  • G.S. Wakefield, An Outline of Christian Worship (1998).
  • A. Raymond George, Memoirs Methodist & Ecumenical (2003) pp.141-47