Services for Weekdays

Services for WeekdaysReadings, Reflections and Prayers

by James Woodward
and Leslie Houlden
Published by SPCK April 2006



FOREWORD by The Rt Revd Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

Just within the borders of the Diocese of Birmingham is the Lady Katherine Leveson Foundation. Dr James Woodward is Master of the Foundation. In his time as Master, James has reminded us locally and nationally of the importance of thinking about and reflecting upon and responding to the religious needs of older people, both in our congregations and communities. This important message is one we must listen to and respond to accordingly.

This invaluable book has been written in partnership with Professor Leslie Houlden who, for many years, has worked in theological education especially attempting to relate the New Testament to Christian discipleship. His wisdom and expertise are very evident in the editing of this book. It will be an excellent resource for clergy and lay people who are planning short weekday services with a variety of people - for example young families and parents. In this respect, groups of older people or young parents who worship on weekdays are just as important as the Sunday congregation and deserve as much thought and preparation. In busy lives, it is not easy to do. This is where this book is so helpful in that it offers the highest possible standard of service material for any group. This is something I constantly do myself and this book will have a permanent place on my desk!

Worship is central to the Christian life and, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we should put as much energy, imagination and creativity into our worship so that we are nurtured and challenged to live the Gospel.

+ Sentamu Ebor: Archbishop of York



The editors of this book both live in an Anglican Foundation which supports older people in community, with housing and care. James Woodward is the Master of the Foundation and Leslie Houlden a resident. Our friendship goes back to the late 1970s when the roles were somewhat reversed - Leslie Houlden was a teacher and James Woodward a student of theology at King's College, London. So this book is in part the product of many years of conversation and mutual learning as together we have grappled with the mystery of faith and its application to life. We both are enriched by one another's perspectives and learning; ready to hear the challenges and questions that ministry offers.

Each Thursday morning the community gathers to celebrate the Eucharist. This service takes place in the residents' lounge and we have a particular concern to draw in the frailer residents for worship. The service has to be short (about half an hour) and wherever possible participative. One particular difficulty that we faced was the need for us to keep the community in the rhythm of the liturgical year through the use of short Scripture readings. The three-year lectionary was difficult to use appropriately, given the range of choice and length of readings, so we devised a set of readings that was appropriate for the liturgical year. People, both clergy and lay, who are called upon to lead worship on weekdays in groups of many kinds, often find themselves in need of aid which is not always readily forthcoming. Sometimes they operate at short notice; sometimes they find no ready source of assistance with readings, addresses or prayers; sometimes they need a prompt in the wings.

This book offers, for each week and major occasion of the year, a brief and accessible Scripture reading, almost always from the New Testament and mostly from the Gospels. Then we give two comments on each passage: first a succinct exegetical comment, then a more discursive and personal reflection. Both set out to help people as they consider what to say in an address. In our worship here we have found it helpful to open up a conversation about the biblical passage by asking a question about either our faith or our life experience. What has emerged has challenged some of our perceptions about how people learn about faith and what rich and wonderful lives we human beings share. We have also learnt about the particular spiritual wisdom that old age can bring. We have been surprised by the creative way in which people have engaged with Scripture and how appreciative they have been to have been given a voice: 'The sermon becomes ours and not just yours' exclaims a resident! The final section offers brief bullet points to stimulate prayer and further reflection. In all this we have attempted to engage the reader in a deeper attention to the word of God and its power to illuminate the path of our journey.

In the compiling of this book we have embraced the possibility of it being of wider use to both individuals and groups. It may be of use to those churches which have weekday services for other groups such as young families. It may also be of use to individuals to enrich their devotional life. With this wider audience in mind we have offered a range of styles and approaches in the Reflection section in the hope that it offers a starting point for enriching the Christian year.

Our thanks to the community of the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson and especially those faithful women and men who listen and pray and whose reflections have shaped this book. Thanks also to Jenny Jones for her willing secretarial support.

For more information about the Foundation please visit our website: The authors can be contacted via e-mail at ¨¨

James Woodward
Leslie Houlden



I was particularly pleased to be asked to review this book as James Woodward had recently provided the keynote speech at The Almshouse Association's Annual General Meeting and, as I had anticipated, his talk was thought provoking and stimulating.
I had anticipated similar stimulation from James Woodward's book written in conjunction with Leslie Houlden - I was not to be disappointed.

The aim of the book is clearly iden-tified in the introduction: "People, both clergy and lay, who are called upon to lead worship on weekdays in groups of many kinds, often find themselves in need of aid which is not always readily forthcom-ing. Sometimes they operate at short notice; sometimes they find no ready source of assistance with readings, addresses or prayers; sometimes they need a prompt in the wings."

This book certainly offers this prompt, not only for each week but also for the major occasions of the year. (t is an excellent compilation of readings from the Scriptures, followed by usually two comments on each passage and finally bullet points to stimulate prayer or further reflection.

In his foreword, the Archbishop of York describes the book: "This is where the book is so helpful in that it offers the highest standard of service material for any group ... this book will have a permanent place on my desk".

I share such a view and can highly recommend the book, not only for the almshouse community but also wider use to both individuals and groups. James Woodward is Master of the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson and Director of the Leveson Centre for the Study of Ageing, Spirituality and Social Policy.

Leslie Houlden worked as a parish priest in Leeds and was Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, from 1970 77, and Professor of Theology at King's College London from 1987-94.

Trevor Hargreaves
Almshouses Gazette, issue 204 autumn 2006




ISAIAH 9.2,6,7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.


Advent is the great time to nourish Christian eagerness - for the richness of God's love and the peace of his presence. The prophet Isaiah fixes his hope on a royal child. Such a birth is always a time for expectation of better times. No wonder Christians have always read these words as pointing to Jesus; and especially the focus is on his appearing - and so too on Christmas. But yet there is more, even beyond that. How far can a Christian's hope stretch? To the end of our lives and the aims we still have in our hearts? To the end of the world we know? Such things are beyond our reach; but we can always hope for what is good and fine - and to know God.


Advent leads us into a waiting mode of living. Children are caught up in the excitement of waiting for Christmas. The experience of waiting is a common one and it shapes the rhythm of our lives. We wait for trains, for the post or for pay-day. Perhaps when we think of Jesus we think of him waiting, of him trusting, of him being open and vulnerable and exposed. Jesus discloses in his waiting the deepest dimensions of the glory of God - as he waits in exposure and helplessness for what is to come.

Although this experience of waiting is a common one, we live in a world where we want or create a culture within which waiting is undesirable. We live in a world where we are promised that we can have what we want and have it now- and more than that, that we can have now what we do not want or need.

Jesus shows us that waiting has its own value and dignity. Advent is the invitation to wait with hope for the future that is to come. God's future is not an invitation that we find easy to accept. We live in a time when thoughts of the future may fill people with fear and not with hope and joy. We must learn to hope, to rest, to pray, and to wait.

  • Let us think about waiting and God's future promise as we prepare for Christmas.

  • Pray to open up yourself to God, ready to trust and to hope.

  • Pray for those who wait, especially those in the vulnerable situations of weakness or illness