A Cloud of Witnesses

All Saints' Day Service

All Saints’ Day (also called All Souls’ Day) is a part of the church calendar that dates back to the early church. Originally a day was set to commemorate the life and death of each martyr. As the number of martyrs increased, a special day was set aside to remember these many saints and their commitment to Christ and his church—a commitment that led to their suffering and death. More recently this service has also come to include a time of reflection and thanksgiving for friends and loved ones who have died in the past year. Congregations observe this day to remember the “cloud of witnesses” that have gone before, and to acknowledge as a community the grief and hope that is an ongoing part of the lives of those within their fellowship—not only in the past year but throughout their lives.

Congregations wishing to use this service may want to include a note about the history and meaning of All Saints’ Day in the bulletin, as well as the following information:

During this service you may light a candle and write the name of a loved one whom you seek to remember this day. Candles can be lit from the Christ Candle; names may be placed on the table at various points during the service. Our offering this morning will be received at the table as you bring up your candle. Our offerings are always expressions of thanks to God, and this activity will tie in our thanks to God for those who have gone before us.

The Approach to God

Pastor: Almighty God, whose people are knit together in one holy church, the body of Christ our Lord: You have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymn: “We Will Glorify” CH 105, SNC 21, SFL 18, WR 337

People of God, in whom is our help?

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.

Grace be to you and peace from God, who is and who was and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Amen. (Rev. 1:4-5)

We Reflect on the Human Condition

Pastor: This morning we gather together as the people of God for a service of remembrance that celebrates the lives of the saints. In so doing, we pay homage to persons who have touched our spirit and marked our existence. These are the saints who made us laugh and corrected our foibles—even as they displayed weaknesses of their own. They oiled our wounds and dried our tears. They provoked our minds. Over time, they brought us gladness; and they helped us find faith.

As we remember them this morning, let us realize we are also remembering ourselves—the pain of our personal losses, the struggles inside our own hearts, including the seeming finality of all of life’s departures. It’s a journey that inevitably takes us deep into our own humanity—a journey Christ has offered to walk with us. Let us accept his invitation.

Hymn: “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” PH 363, SNC 130, SFL 214, TH 611, WR 506

Scripture: Psalm 90, responsive reading

Reader 1: vv. 1-2
Reader 2: vv. 3-6

All: Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Reader 1: vv. 7-9
Reader 2: vv. 10-11

All: Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Reader 1: vv. 13-14
Reader 2: vv. 15-16

All: Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Hymn: “Our Lives Are Filled with Sorrows” PsH 491


Hymn: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” PsH 341, WR 232

Candles and Names

We Question Our Losses

Scripture: Psalm 22, NEB
Reader: v. 1
All: v. 2
Reader: v. 14
All: vv. 16-17
Reader: vv. 27-28
All: v. 29
Reader: vv. 30-31


Hymn: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” CH 684, PH 404, PsH 493, WR 500

Candles and Names

We Learn God’s Counteraction

Scripture: John 11:17-31

Hymn: “And Can It Be” (st. 1-2) CH 347, PsH 267, TH 455, WR 366

Scripture: John 11:32-44, 17-44

Hymn: “And Can It Be” (st. 3-4)


Hymn: “Amazing Grace” CH 343, PH 280, PsH 462, SFL 209, TH 460, WR 422

Candles and Names

We Affirm the Triumphant Vision

Scripture: Revelation 7:9-17

Reader 1: After that I looked and saw a vast throng, which no one could count, from all races and tribes, nations and languages, standing before the throne and the Lamb. They were robed in white and had palm branches in their hands, and they shouted aloud:

All: Victory to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Reader 2: All the angels who stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures prostrated themselves before the throne and worshipped God, crying:

All: Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might—be to our God forever! Amen.

Hymn: “What Wondrous Love” (st. 1-2) CH 314, PH 85, PsH 379, SFL 169, TH 261, WR 257

Candles and Names

Reader 1: One of the elders turned to me and asked, “Who are these all robed in white, and where do they come from?”

Reader 2: I answered, “My Lord, it is you who know—they are those who have passed through the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they stand before the throne of God and worship him day and night in his temple.”

Reader 1: And he who sits on the throne will

protect them with his presence. Never again shall they feel hunger or thirst; never again shall the sun beat on them or any scorching heat—

Reader 2: Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs and to the water of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Hymn: “What Wondrous Love” (st. 3-4)

Pastor: Let us give thanks for these brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has granted rest from their labors—all those servants whom we remember today. Grant us grace to follow Christ as they did. Bring us with them to those things no eye has seen, nor ear heard, which you have proposed for those who love you.

Reading of the Names

All: Give us faith to look beyond touch and sight, and seeing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, enable us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Bring us at last to your eternal peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.


May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.


Hymn: “For All the Saints” (st. 1-2, 4, 7) CH 767, PH 526, PsH 505, SFL 195, TH 358, WR 529 

Timothy Douma is pastor at Loop Christian Ministries, Chicago, Illinois.


Donna Spaan (donnaspaan@sbcglobal.net) is a member of Loop Christian Ministries in Chicago. She is drama critic for the professional theater community in Chicago and has served on the executive board and editorial committee of the Chicago New Art Association.

Reformed Worship 80 © June 2006, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.