A Liturgy for Exam Time

This is a deliberately quiet and simple service designed with the exam time at universities and colleges in mind.  You might want to use it as it is, or just use it as inspiration for writing your own worship – maybe for some entirely different occasion.

If you choose to use it roughly as it is, then there are still plenty things you might want to think about so that it is helpful for your situation.  For example, you might want to ask different people to read different parts of the ‘leader’ passages, or add periods of silence within the prayers (or elsewhere). Some chants and songs have been suggested. These will probably work best if sung unaccompanied or with one or two quiet instruments (e.g. flute or clarinets or guitar). Again, you’re best placed to know what is likely to work well with your group to create the atmosphere that you want!

Opening

‘But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.’                                Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)

Prayer of confession and forgiveness

(The Taizé chant ‘Ubi Caritas’ should be sung as a response between each petition.)

Ubi caritas et amor,  Ubi caritas Deus ibi est

(Where charity and love are found, God himself is there.)

There are times when we cannot see clearly
When we are too busy and stressed to notice the most important things in life
We bring them to mind
And pray that we can learn to experience grace and love, even when we cannot see

Ubi caritas et amor, Ubi caritas Deus ibi est

There are times when we cannot follow nearly
When we cannot go that way, regardless of what we’re told
We bring them to mind
And pray that we can learn to seek guidance and truth, even when we cannot follow

Ubi caritas et amor, Ubi caritas Deus ibi est

There are times when we cannot love dearly
When we cannot understand and find it hard to care
We bring them to mind
And pray that we can learn to experience peace and hope, even when we cannot love

Ubi caritas et amor, Ubi caritas Deus ibi est

Reading

Mark 4:35–41 (or something else which is suitable for the exercise that follows)

Response

This is a familiar story that most people will have known for a long time.  However, how many people have stopped to think about what it would really have felt like to have been on that boat that evening? Ask people to make themselves comfortable and listen to the story again. However, this time ask them to imagine themselves as someone involved in the story.  The story will be read with pauses so they can reflect on how they (their character) feel at that moment.

It’s entirely up to you how you choose to break the story up, but one suggestion follows (using an NRSV translation). An alternative to this is to ask people to imagine themselves in the story but actually give them a copy to reread themselves at their own pace, and pen/paper/other stuff to write/draw/create their reflections if they wish.

On that day, when the evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go to the other side’.  And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.  Other boats were with him.

A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;

And they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’  Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

He said to them ‘Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Song

Possibilities include:

  • Another appropriate Taizé or Iona-style chant
  • Be still for the presence of the Lord
  • As the deer pants for the water

These are just suggestions. Something that is reasonably quiet and reflective will probably work best so that it will follow on smoothly from the response/meditation above. It might also be worth choosing something that most people know (maybe even without having to go rummaging around for a service sheet to find the words).

Prayers of intercession and thanksgiving

You might want to edit these or add your petitions depending on your particular circumstances.

We pray for life in all its fullness

We pray for our world
For places where there is no sign of peace
Where fullness is enough food to eat or finding a safe place to sleep
We thank you for people working for a better world in their own small ways
And pray that their efforts are supported and appreciated

We pray for life in all its fullness

We pray for our communities
For intertwining experiences that help to make us who we are
Where fullness is some shared life that we could never explain
We thank you for the places we can trust
And pray that everyone can find a space that’s right for them

We pray for life in all its fullness

We pray for ourselves
For what we do – and what we avoid
Where fullness can come and go, always when we least expect it
We thank you for our lives and the opportunity to explore
And pray that we can all live lives that fulfil us

We pray for life in all its fullness

For our world, for our communities and for ourselves

Blessing

As we leave this place and return to our lives, we bless each other. (If your group normally uses some other blessing then you may want to stick with that.)

Deep peace of the running waves to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you