How to Conduct SRF Services
from the Center Department Workshop
• Serve by being a good example. Apply Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings in your daily life.
• Cultivate desire and love for God through daily meditation, practice of the presence of God, and study of Paramahansa Yogananda's writings and other SRF publications.
• Remember God is the Doer....Try to be a humble and receptive channel.
• Strive for right attitude -- develop inner attunement with Gurudeva.
• Feel it is a blessing and privilege to serve.
• Meditate before planning the service.
• Plan outline of service - select appropriate prayers, chants, readings, etc.
• Try to make the spiritual truths you read your own through attentive study, by dwelling on them beforehand in meditation, and by applying them to the best of your ability.
• Refer to the Manual of Services -- review formats and instructions.
• Rehearse and review each section of the service until confident.
• Meditate and pray right before giving the service for at least 15 minutes.
• Prayer is talking to God.
• Always use standard invocation in opening prayer.
• Be sure you can pronounce correctly the Gurus' names.
• Include a prayer selected from the Guru's writings.
• May add a brief expression from one's heart if desired.
• Delivery of prayers should be in natural rhythmic tempo - neither too fast nor too slow.
• Avoid "preacher's tone," affected speech.
• Be sincere - speak naturally and clearly.
• Select appropriate opening prayer and closing prayer beforehand, so that the prayers flow smoothly when you give them. Note: Please refer to the Manual of Services (page 17) for more information about prayers.
• Pay due attention to chanting -- “Chanting is half the battle.” It is a very effective form of devotion, conducive to practice of meditation techniques.
• During regular SRF services, only Paramahansa Yogananda's "Cosmic Chants" should be used, unless otherwise noted in the Manual of Services. The chant leader should set the example, and play chants as they are given in the Cosmic Chants book.
• Harmonium is preferable for accompanying chants; melodies should be played simply, avoid using many chords.
• If service leader cannot play harmonium, then someone else can play for him or her.
• When newcomers are present, and/or at a more public oriented service, it is good to mention that chants should be sung with deep attention and feeling. Also, better to use simple, devotional chants (such as Door of My Heart, Polestar of My Life, Who is in My Temple, etc. ). Note: Please refer to the Manual of Services (pages 21-23) for more information about chanting.
READING - Part 1: PREPARATION
• It is important to read correctly, imbuing delivery of words with enthusiasm, life, and understanding.
• Think deeply and carefully about ideas expressed - read entire passage several times well in advance (a week or more).
• Work at improving reading skills: correct pronunciation and enunciation of words, right emphasis and expression.
• Rehearsal is important. Practice reading until you can deliver with confidence. The more comfortable you are with the delivery, the more you can concentrate on the meaning and vibration of Paramahansa Yogananda's words.
• Learn to recognize and emphasize words that most forcefully carry meaning.
READING - Part 2: THE WAY TO READ, GIVING THE SERVICE
• Read with vitality and animation, but not necessarily rapidly.
• Group words correctly, pausing for breaths between phrases, etc.
• Moderate your tempo of delivery - if you start to rush, slow down.
• People in the back of the audience should be able to hear your voice clearly.
• Vary volume and pitch to give interest, meaning, and inspiration to words.
READING - Part 3: NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATIVE TOOLS
• Check your posture and physical attitude - be aware.
• Try to make eye contact with audience - eyes communicate. Be familiar with subject so you can look at the audience frequently while reading.
• Hands and face - be aware of them, avoid isolated or exaggerated gestures, movements, or facial expressions - they distract the audience.
• Meditations should be conducted in silence, except for remarks given by leader, as well as prayers, chanting, and/or affirmations.
• Leaders should be aware of the congregation - are people restless or sleepy? If so, then one or more of the following appropriate measures may be taken:
1. Have a period of chanting, an affirmation, or a reading.
2. Make a few brief remarks about importance of alertness, etc. (use a few, well chosen words of advice and encouragement).
3. Make sure there is plenty of fresh air and/or adequate ventilation. Adjust if necessary.
APPEARANCE AND DEMEANOR
All those who conduct services should dress neatly and conservatively, so that attention of audience is focused on words and not on his or her appearance.
BEFORE CONDUCTING A SERVICE
• Practice beforehand! Be sure you have prepared sufficiently and correctly.
• Arrive early, so that you can check your physical props (harmonium, chair, microphone, lectern, etc.).
• Breathing exercises can help to calm you. Relax!
• Prepare yourself emotionally end psychologically- put yourself in a positive frame of mind. Convince yourself that with the help of God and Paramahansa Yogananda you are going to do fine.
• Meditate and ask God and Guru to bless and guide you. With Them behind you, you cannot fail.
SERVICE READERS' MEETINGS/SEMINARS
In addition to individually studying and applying principles given in the Manual of Services, the Center Bulletins, and notes from seminars led by Center Department, it is a good idea to meet as a group for the purpose of reviewing proper ways to conduct services. Following is a suggested outline for such meetings:
• Review points mentioned in Manual of Services, Center Bulletins No. 71, 72, 77, 79, and 84, as well as some topics covered in the leaflet Ways to Improve your Reading Skills.
• After reviewing the material, each service reader can give a short reading. Then, after everyone has read, positive suggestions may be made without mentioning names or singling out individual readers. If there is a particular problem with individual readers, please seek the guidance of Center Department.
Be patient - it may take time to become proficient in conducting services. Don't be discouraged. Be open to the suggestions and comments from others. Just do your best and offer it to God and Guru. They watch the sincerity of your heart.