Opening worship: thoughts from Von Ogden Vogt

I was reading the 1960 edition of well-known Unitarian minister and liturgist Von Ogden Vogt’s Art and Religion that explained his vision of the opening part of worship. This is his chapter “The Order of Liturgy” — so influential that it’s cited as a such here. The following chapter “Introit and Antiphons” anticipated a revival of that liturgical use among mainline Protestants, but which have little purchase among Unitarian Universalists.

The book’s in copyright, but the original 1921 edition is in the public domain: that’s what follows. And if there’s any difference between 1921 and 1960 in these two chapters (there is an appendix) it has escaped my attention.

Von Ogden Vogt is important for understanding the influential — if now little used — Services of Religion that prepend the joint Unitarian and Universalist red Hymns of the Spirit. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s behind making an introit an option for the services, though, as he explains in Art and Religion, these ought to be composed afresh. What he doesn’t write about is the sequence, particular to Unitarians so far as I’ve seen, of

  • Opening words
  • Exhortation
  • Invocation
  • Confession (sometimes broadly conceived)

The exhortation (which also sets the tone of worship) is the innovative part, and fills the role of the introit.

Categorized as Worship

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The Congregation of Abraxas certainly celebrated Von Odgen Vogt in its 1980 <>

    It did develop its own theories of liturgical flow.

    When attending services at the U of Chgo Rockefeller Chapel, I noted the regular use of Introits and recorded one, “Surely the Lord is in this Place.” As a parish minister, I developed many kinds of Introits, from using Shakespeare (for example, “Out, out, brief candle”), Jefferson, etc, with the sentences interwoven with passages from rock and classical music.

    Having given up on secularized worship in UUism, and recalling what I learned from Mircea Eliade about worship as a way of recovering my human nature as a seeker of the sacred, I, an atheist, am now an extraordinarily pleased and faithful Episcopalian in a very special cathedral parish.

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