Archbishops’ Certificate in Public Worship



Section 1

Component 1: Previous Experience
Component 2: Courses and Training
Component 3: Practical and Written Work
Component 4: Extended Viva

Section 2 Guidance

How to enter

Section 3 Additional Information

Component 1
Component 2
Component 3
Component 4

Introduction ^

 ACertPW is open to all involved in Christian worship as ordained or lay leaders (or as active participators).

The course has four components, with examinations for Components 3 and 4.

Component 1: Previous Experience
Component 2: Courses and Training
Component 3: Practical and Written Work (worth 60% of the total marks)
Component 4: Extended Viva (40%)

To qualify for the Certificate, you must satisfy the examiners in Component 1 and in Component 2, and attain the pass mark of 60% in both Component 3 and in Component 4.

A Distinction will be awarded, following attainment of an average mark of 80% or more in Components 3 and 4.

The four components are described in Section 1 below. Section 2 gives details of how you enter. Section 3 will help you prepare to meet the requirements of ACertPW.

You are reminded that, if you have regular contact with children, young people and/or vulnerable adults, you should have the necessary DBS clearance.

Section 1 ^

Component 1: Previous Experience ^

You must demonstrate

  • EITHER competence as a leader of worship in the place(s) where you regularly or frequently worship.
  • OR a strong interest in the history and theology of liturgy and worship as a regular worshipper.

You must submit ONE of the following:

  • A certificate for the Archbishops’ Award.
  • A testimonial written by a priest, minister, or other suitably qualified person indicating
  • EITHER the nature of your experience of leading worship where you are currently active and/or have recently been active
  • OR your sustained interest in worship as a member of a congregation.

Component 2: Courses and Training ^

This component requires you to widen your horizons in terms of constructing and leading worship, and to acquire knowledge about some of the practicalities of working as a worship leader in today’s world.

In the two years before the examination, you must have attended two courses, study days or training events that are relevant to your involvement in leading worship in a church. The possible candidature for this qualification is so diverse that it is not practical to insist on particular types of course. Instead, some suggestions are provided below.

  • Courses that extend your knowledge of musical repertoire and/or the character of different styles of worship (e.g. a course on Music from Taizé and Iona, or a study day led by the Prayer Book Society)
  • Workshops in composing and/or arranging music for liturgical use
  • Workshops or conferences on hymnody (e.g. gatherings of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland)
  • Workshops on Eucharistic celebration
  • Study Days or meetings of the Alcuin Club or other Liturgical Society.
  • Workshops on song writing (e.g. as provided by the Songwriters and Hymnwriters Foundation)
  • Management and planning: choosing hymns; relationships between clergy and musicians; fees and contracts
  • Resources (notably copyright and photocopying, and performing rights)
  • PA/Sound system operation and management techniques

The Guild may from time to time provide appropriate activities – details will be published in Laudate. You are very free to suggest other types of activity instead, or in addition, but the Chairman of the Academic Board must approve these when you enter for the examination or as soon afterwards as possible.

You must submit an account of about 500‒600 words) for each of the two events that you have attended, to indicate in your own words how it has helped you develop your knowledge, interest or practical skills. You may also identify areas for further development suggested by reflection on the event.

You must also submit for each event:

  • A certificate of attendance (or some similar form of documentation) signed both by the course director(s) and yourself
  • A course brochure, flyer or other printed information and publicity material outlining the aims and objectives of the course.

You will be asked about your written accounts and the above materials in the Viva, in particular about your reasons for your choice of courses and/or training.

Component 3: Practical and Written Work (60%) ^

You must offer

  • EITHER Section A and Section C
  • OR Section B and Section C

Section A: Liturgical Creativity (30%)

Choose one of the following three options. See ‘Guidance’ below for further information on each option.

  • Hymns, Anthems or Songs. Write two texts suitable for setting to music as hymns, anthems or (sacred) songs. (Both texts may be of the same genre, or of different genres – for example one might be intended to be set as an anthem, the other as a hymn.) Each text, in verse (but although not necessarily rhyming), must be between 12 and 24 lines long. Your texts may have already been published, or submitted to external assessors (such as Jubilate’s Text Advisory Group): if so, this should be indicated. In a written note of not more than 400–500 words, you should explain the rationale and meaning of both texts, place them in the context of other similar texts, and demonstrate knowledge of relevant aspects of metre, rhyme, practical use and seasonal or specific relevance.
  • A service order for an act of worship.
    • Devise a service suitable for use at a church where you minister. If designed for use at a service of the Word, it must not follow a ‘standard’ pattern such as Choral Evensong. Likewise a service designed for a baptism, wedding or funeral, or for an ‘informal’ Eucharist, must not simply reproduce a set liturgical pattern. The service you devise must be practical; it may have been used recently in a real act of worship. Its content must be approved by the Chairman of the Academic Board before you proceed with the following part of the task.
    • For your service, prepare a service sheet (which will probably be in A5 format, or may be a PowerPoint or similar form of presentation for use in a church where such technology is used). It should be complete, specifying and including the complete texts for all hymns/songs, leaders’ and congregational spoken texts, rubrics, and readings Very careful attention should be paid to accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar, and to presentation and layout. You must read and take careful note of the information about copyright and performing rights which appears under ‘Guidance’ below.
  • You will present a teaching session (Lent Group, Homegroup etc.) as part of the examination, lasting between 20 and 30 minutes and based on some aspect of the liturgy and worship, pitched at worshipping Christians, to deepen their understanding of that aspect (e.g. eucharist, psalm-singing, lectionary, hymn-selection, etc.) Appropriate reference to scripture will be expected. The intended topic should be submitted to the examiners in advance.

Section B: Knowledge and Experience of Liturgy and Worship (30%)

Choose one of the following two options. See ‘Guidance’ below for further information on each option.

  • You will compile a portfolio based on description and analysis of between 20 and 25 services in which you have been involved in a period of six to nine months during your time of study for ACertPW. These services must show some variety (e.g. there may be visits to traditions or denominations other than your own), and for at least some of them you may be a member of a congregation (rather than a preacher, participant in a choir, singing group, etc., or active in leading the worship). For each service you should briefly discuss to what extent the choice of readings, liturgical elements and music enhances the liturgy or worship (for example by underlining a seasonal message, readings, or preaching), and where possible general conclusions should be drawn.
  • Written examination: 2 hours – with previously-unseen questions to test your knowledge and experience of liturgy and worship. You will select two short questions from a choice of four, and one longer essay question from a choice of three. Questions will be ‘open’, to allow you to demonstrate knowledge and experience of whatever type of Christian worship you specialise in within the context of the liturgy or worship of your denomination.

Section C: Reflecting on Liturgy and Worship (30%)

You must write an essay of 3000‒3500 words on a topic which involves reflection on the relationships between music, liturgy and worship.

Your work must be submitted not less than a month in advance of the examination date. Your essay is ‘coursework’– in other words, it is not produced under examination conditions.

Credit will be given for references to the practice of your own denomination and to other tradition(s) where possible. Where appropriate, include comment on the practices of past age(s) – from c.1500 onwards. Identify particular works which endorse points that you make.

The following are examples of suitable topics. You are free to devise your own topic, but must submit it for approval to the Chairman of the Academic Board before beginning work.

  • What purpose does hymnody serve in Christian liturgy and worship?
  • Should hymns and songs used in church have their own special styles, or should they embrace secular styles as well or instead?
  • To what extent is liturgy dependent upon the Bible?
  • Explain how liturgy can help to underline a sense of season and occasion (for example at Christmas and in Holy Week).

Component 4: Extended Viva (40%) ^

The Viva, which will last probably between 30 and 60 minutes, is an opportunity for you to meet your two examiners, and to discuss with them your work for the other components. The requirements for Component 2 above indicate some topics for likely discussion. Other questions will help you to remedy any uncertainty, lack of clarity, or insufficient detail in your written submissions. You will be asked broader questions as well, notably concerning the structure and content of the services in which you participate, and the role of music in them. You will be rewarded for quality and clarity in your answers.

Section 2 Guidance ^

If neither the syllabus itself nor the following notes provide answers to any of your queries about the examination, please contact the Chairman of the Academic Board.


You must first become a member of The Guild of Church Musicians. Contact the Membership Secretary, whose address is given at Contact us page

You can download an entry form from the Guild’s website at examination application or you may obtain one from the Chairman of the Academic Board, Dr Hugh Benham at email

You should return your completed entry form by post to the Chairman of the Academic Board, together with the examination fee of £200 payable to ‘The Guild of Church Musicians’. Entries may be made at any time of the year.

The Chairman will arrange the date and venue of the examination in consultation with you as candidate and with your two examiners.

Your examination will normally be held in your own church, or school, or at another approved centre.

You must ensure that the Chairman knows which options you are offering as soon as possible after entry, and that you provide any other required information in good time. Please note in particular that any topic that you devise for Section C must be approved before you start working on it.

Your result will usually be issued within three weeks of the examination.

If successful, you will be awarded a certificate. Certificates are presented at Guild events or in a church with which you have connections. Academic dress, which may be worn by certificate holders, may be obtained from the official robemakers to the Guild, Shepherd and Woodward.

If you should pass in one or more components, but not in other(s), you may retake just the component(s) in which you have been unsuccessful within two years of your first attempt.

Section 3 Additional information ^

Component 1 ^

You should send copies of certificates, not originals. They will not be returned to you, unless you provide stamped addressed envelope(s).

Component 2 ^

Excellent courses and training events are provided by such bodies as The Royal School of Church Music, The Alcuin Club, The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland, The Royal College of Organists, and Church Music Future as well as by The Guild of Church Musicians itself.

Component 3 ^

Section A: Liturgical Creativity

Section A: Texts of Hymns, Songs and Anthems

There is no expectation that music be composed or provided, but to do so would be helpful to the examiners. A recording of the work in use can also be provided.

Texts might, for example,

  • be for use at any point in an act of worship
  • be intended for congregational singing, unison voices, or four-part choir
  • be worship songs, intended for accompaniment for keyboard, guitar or band.

You must provide copies of your work for the examiners

A recording must be on a CD playable on standard domestic hi-fi equipment (not, for example, an MP3 or wav file).

You may wish to provide a recording even if this is not actually required – it can help examiners in the assessment of your work.

Section A: A service order for an act of worship.

It is your responsibility to furnish the examiners with copies of the liturgical booklet, or to set up the projection equipment. Candidates will be expected to ‘talk through’ the liturgy, and answer questions on the rationale behind the choices made. Any printed material should be clearly readable, in colour or black and white, stapled and folded.

Section A: Leadership

You are responsible for gathering a group of 6-12 people together for the purposes of presenting a study session. A room should be made available and be laid out appropriately. If handouts are to be used, there should be sufficient copies to include the examiners. Opportunity for the group to ask questions should be included.

Section B: Portfolio

Your portfolio is best presented electronically (as a Word document or PDF) but other forms of presentation (in a ring binder, for example) are possible. Handwritten submissions are better avoided – word-process your work wherever possible.

Your portfolio should be accompanied by a short signed statement by a priest, minister or other suitable person who can vouch for the authenticity of your work.

Section B: Written examination.

A specimen paper will be available on request from the Chairman of the Academic Board.

Section C: Reflecting on Liturgy and Worship

Please see Brief Study Guide (sections B4, B5 and B6) for information on the use of quotations, style, and presentation. (This information is as applicable to ACertPW as it is to LGCM and FGCM.)

Component 4 ^

You are advised to go beyond short closed responses to questions where possible, while still aiming for relevance and conciseness.