This service was developed for All Saints’ Day (November 1) or the Sunday evening closest to it. Through the use of majestic music sung by congregation and choir, responsive readings based on Scripture passages and themes, and meditations on martyrs and saints who spread Christianity throughout the centuries, All Saints’ Day can be celebrated in a fresh, festive way.
Many churches who have never celebrated All Saints’ Day are beginning to remember those who died for their faith through the efforts of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (www.idop.org), a growing movement of Christians around the world who use this occasion to pray for the many Christians undergoing persecution in our own time.
This service calls for several choral anthems; smaller churches can easily adapt by singing more hymns, particularly those from around the world that bear witness and testify to the faith of Christians in many different.
“For All the Saints” PsH 505, PH 526, RL 397, TH 358, TWC 751
Opening Sentences (1 Corinthians 1:2b-3)
To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
called to be saints,
together with all those who in every place
call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
both their Lord and ours;
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: from Hebrews 11
Leader: What is faith?
People: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Reader 1: By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
Reader 2: By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous.
Reader 3: By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household.
Reader 1: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. He looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Reader 2: By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.
Leader: All of these persons died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
People: Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city ready for them.
Reader 3: By faith Moses chose rather to share ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.
Reader 1: By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land.
Reader 2: By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.
Reader 3: By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
Reader 1: Through faith God’s people conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and obtained promises.
Reader 2: Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Reader 3: All these were commended for their faith.
Leader: And what of ourselves?
People: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
“For All Your Saints, O Lord” (Folk tune; arr. Owen) or “For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love” SNC 195
Reflections on Saints, Times, and Places
Lawrence, Third Century
Lawrence, probably of Spanish descent, was born early in the third century. He went to Rome as a young man and became chief of the seven deacons, which meant that he was responsible for handling the charities of the church and the properties used in worship. In the emperor’s attempt to gain the treasures of the church, he arrested, tortured, and killed Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome, and Lawrence. Lawrence’s behavior in prison is said to have led to the conversion and baptism of his jailer and the jailer’s family. It is also said that Lawrence was killed by being roasted on a gridiron. Lawrence’s martyrdom was one of the first to be observed by the church, since the torture and execution of a Roman citizen by Roman authorities made a deep impression on the young church.
Responsive Reading: Psalm 5
Cyril and Methodius, Ninth Century
These two brothers are known as the apostles to the southern Slavs. Cyril, the younger, born in 827, taught at the University of Constantinople, and Methodius, born 815, was governor of a province. They became priests and were sent by the emperor, Michael III, to preach the gospel in Moravia. They took an immediate interest in the vernacular language, and Cyril invented an alphabet, called Glagolithic or Cyrillic. In 869, on a visit to Rome, Cyril died. Methodius returned to his mission field and, despite opposition from the German bishops, labored there until his death in 885. The Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, and Bulgars revere the memory of Cyril and Methodius as founders of their alphabet, translators of the liturgy into Slavonic, and builders of the foundation of Slavonic literature.
Choral Anthem: “Salvation Is Created” (Tschesnokoff)
Elizabeth, Thirteenth Century
Elizabeth, daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, was born in 1207. At the age of fourteen she was married to Louis IV, the Landgrave of Thuringia, to seal a political alliance. The marriage was a happy one, and the parents lived with their three children in the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. Elizabeth was generous to the poor; with her husband, she founded two hospitals and sought work for the unemployed. Louis died of the plague September 11, 1227, while joining a crusade. Having provided for her children, Elizabeth left Wartburg and formally renounced the world on Good Friday, 1228, joining the third order of Saint Francis. She died November 17, 1231, at the age of 24, and is buried at Marburg. Countless hospitals have been named for Elizabeth, one of the most beloved saints of the German people.
Scripture Reading: Romans 12
Paul Miki and Martyrs of Japan, Sixteenth Century
In 1597, twenty-six Christians, including six European Franciscan missionaries, a Japanese Jesuit priest, a Korean layman, fifteen Japanese laymen, and three young boys were killed by crucifixion at Nagasaki. The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Holy Catholic Church of Japan, adopted this commemoration in its calendar in 1959 as a festival of all those who have given their lives for the Christian faith in Japan.
“Don’na Tokidemo/Anytime and Anywhere” SNC 188 (Japanese hymn)
or “Children of the Heavenly Father” PsH 440, RL 585, TH 131, TWC 84
Onesimos Nesib, Twentieth Century
Onesimos, born 1855, was captured by slave traders and taken from his Galla homeland in western Ethiopia to Eritrea, where he was bought and freed by Swedish missionaries. They educated and baptized him, and shared their concern for evangelizing the Galla. Onesimos became an evangelist and translated the Bible into Galla. In spite of difficulties, he returned to preach the gospel in his homeland until he died at Nekemte, Ethiopia, on June 21, 1931. His tombstone reads: O land, O land, hear the Word of the Lord.
Choral Anthem: “God So Loved The World” (Stainer)
Hymn: “Lift High the Cross” PsH 373, PH 371, RL 415, TH 263, TWC 229
O God, we thank you for the many people throughout
who have followed your way of life joyfully;
for the many saints and martyrs, men and women,
who have offered up their very lives,
so that your life abundant may become manifest.
For your love and faithfulness we praise you.
O God, we thank you for those who chose the way
In the midst of trial, they held out hope;
in the midst of hatred, they kindled love;
in the midst of persecutions, they witnessed to your
in the midst of despair, they clung to your promise.
For your love and faithfulness we praise you.
O God, we thank you for the truth they passed on to us:
that it is by giving that we shall receive;
it is by becoming weak that we shall be strong;
it is by loving others that we shall be loved;
it is by offering ourselves that the kingdom will unfold;
it is by dying that we shall inherit life everlasting.
O God, give us courage to follow our way of life.
For your love and faithfulness we praise you. Amen.
—National Council of Churches of the Philippines
Hymn: “The Church’s One Foundation” PsH 502, PH 442, RL 394, TH 347, TWC 689
Renew our communion with all your saints,
especially those we name before you . . .
[Silence may be kept for the remembrance of names.]
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, strengthen us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
By your Spirit make 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 God, now
—United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 74