Worship is at the heart of the Christian life, and is the chief purpose for which we have been created. The following article articulates with some detail how we worship and why we do it the way we do it.
As always, you are invited and you are welcome to worship with us as often as you are able. THE SERVICE FOR THE LORDíS DAY A Description of Its Movement and Elements
From its beginning, the Christian community has gathered on the first day of the week to hear the scriptures read and proclaimed and to celebrate the Lordís Supper. This day has special significance, since it was on ďthe first day of the weekĒ that Jesusí followers discovered the empty tomb and met the risen Lord.
Recognizing the importance of the resurrection, the New Testament community called the day of the week on which Christ rose ďthe Lordís dayĒ (Rev. 1:10). It was the day to remember and celebrate the resurrection. The Lordís Day, the first day of the week, is therefore the very center of the churchís calendar.
In the ancient story of creation, this day marked the beginning of creation. On the first day, God spoke light into being, separating light from darkness.
In Christís resurrection, Christians saw the beginning of the ďnew creationĒ and came to regard the day of resurrection as ďthe eighth day of creation.Ē The Lordís Day is therefore a sign of Godís kingdom and of hope.
Gathered on the Lordís Day, Christians celebrate the age to come, which was revealed in the risen Christ, by remembering the words and deeds of Jesus and cel- ebrating the presence of the risen Christ among them in the Word proclaimed and in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.
Worship begins with God. God takes the initiative and calls us into being. In the name of Christ we answer Godís call and assemble as the community of faith. As the people gather, they may informally greet one another as members of the household of faith. They may pray silently or engage in quiet meditation, or music may be offered appropriate to the season or to the scripture readings of the day. The music should help people focus their attention on God and Godís king- dom. Essential announcements pertaining to the order of worship of the day may be briefly given.
CALL TO WORSHIP
The people are called to worship God. Words from scripture are spoken or sung to proclaim who God is and what God has done. We are thus reminded that our wor- ship centers in God and not in ourselves. ďOur help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earthĒ (Ps. 124:8).
PRAYER OF THE DAY OR OPENING PRAYER
An opening prayer may be said. It may be a prayer of adoration. Adoration is the keynote of all true worship, of the creature before the Creator, of the redeemed before the Redeemer.
Or the prayer of the day may be said. This prayer typically expresses some aspect of the day, the festival, or the season, and thereby contributes to the focus of the dayís worship.
The people respond with ďAmenĒ to this and all other prayers offered by the minister or other worship leaders. In the corporate response ďAmenĒ (Hebrew, meaning ďso be itĒ) the people affirm their participation in the prayer, and embrace it as their own.
Option: The prayer of the day may be used later in the service, for example, as the concluding collect to the prayers of the people.
HYMN OF PRAISE, PSALM, OR SPIRITUAL
The people sing praise to God in a hymn, psalm, or spiritual, which tells of Godís greatness, majesty, love, and goodness. Praise is the joyful response to the incomparable gift of God in Jesus Christ, and so is dominant in Christian worship. CONFESSION AND PARDON
In words of scripture the people are called to confess the reality of sin in personal and common life. Claiming the promises of God sealed in our baptism, we humbly confess our sin.
Confession is made by using a prayer, a penitential psalm, or appropriate music.Whatever the form, it will engage us in acknowledging our sinfulness and in confessing our sin to God. A period of silence may be observed before, within, or following the confession of sin. Music of a penitential character may follow the prayer.
Having confessed our sin, we remember the promises of Godís redemption, and the claims God has on all human life. The assurance of Godís forgiving grace is declared in the name of Jesus Christ. We accept Godís forgiveness, confident that in dying to sin, God raises us to new life.
Having been reconciled to God in Jesus Christ, the people are invited to share signs of reconciliation and the peace of Christ. In sharing the peace, we express the reconciliation, unity, and love that come only from God, and we open ourselves to the power of Godís love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world.
CANTICLE, PSALM, HYMN, ORSPIRITUAL With gladness, God is praised in song, for the gift of Godís grace brings joy. The response may be an appropriate psalm, hymn, canticle (i.e., a biblical song other than a psalm), spiritual, or the ďGlory to GodĒ or ďGlory to the Father.Ē
Worship now moves to the reading, proclaiming, and hearing of Godís Word.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
A prayer for illumination may be offered before the reading and proclaiming of the scripture. This prayer seeks the illumination of the Holy Spirit and calls upon God to make us receptive to the life-giving Word, which comes to us through the scripture.
ANTHEM, HYMN, PSALM, CANTICLE, OR SPIRITUAL
GOSPEL READING There should be readings from both the Old and the New Testament to ensure that the unity and completeness of Godís revelation are proclaimed. Both a reading from the epistles and a reading from the Gospels are appropriately included as the New Testament readings.
A psalm drawn from the full range of the psalms should also be included.
Coming to us from the worship of ancient Judaism, the psalms have been at the heart of Christian prayer and praise across the centuries. Throughout its history the Reformed tradition has given a special place to singing the psalms in worship. The singing of a psalm is appropriate at any place in the order of worship. How- ever, the psalm appointed in the lectionary (pp. 1035Ė1048) is intended to be sung following the first reading, where it serves as a congregational meditation and response to the reading. The psalm is not intended as another reading.
The scripture readings are to be selected with care. Their selection should be guided by the seasons of the liturgical calendar, pastoral concerns, world events and conditions, and the churchís mission. Attention should be given to ensure that over a period of time, worshipers will be provided all of the many and varied themes and emphases of the scripture.
The readings and the psalm may be those suggested in a lectionary. A lectionary provides consistency, and ensures that over a period of time the full witness of scrip- ture will be read as a part of worship. A lectionary used in common with other churches, such as the one in this book, expresses a connection with the universal church. A lectionary, including a plan for reading through particular books of the Bible, may also be prepared by those who plan worship.
The readings may be read by a minister or by a member of the congregation. Or, the congregation may read the scripture responsively or antiphonally. Or, when appropriate, the congregation may read the scripture in unison.
The public reading of the scripture should be entrusted to those who have the ability to read well. Readers are to be adequately prepared and should familiarize themselves with the passages to be read. They are to give attention to their reading, so that it will be clear, audible, and sensitive to the meanings of the text.
Those hearing the reading of the scripture also have responsibility, since listen- ing to the reading of scripture requires expectation and concentration.
In addition to the psalms, other musical forms (such as hymns, spirituals, canti- cles, anthems) or artistic expressions that proclaim or interpret the scripture read- ings or their themes may be included between the readings.
When the Bible has been read, its message is proclaimed in a sermon or other form of exposition of Godís Word. The God who speaks in scripture speaks to us now. The God who acted in biblical history acts today. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is present in the sermon, offering grace and calling for obedience.
Preaching should present the gospel with simplicity and clarity, and be in lan- guage the people can understand. A prayer, acclamation, or ascription of praise may conclude the sermon.
The Word may also be proclaimed through music and other art forms faithful to the gospel.
The proclamation of Godís Word in scripture and sermon invites a response of faith. We respond in song, affirmation of faith, prayer, and offering.
After the sermon, the people may be called to discipleship, giving opportunity to any who wish to make or renew personal commitment to Christ and his kingdom.
HYMN, CANTICLE, PSALM, OR SPIRITUAL
A hymn or other song is sung. It may be related to the scripture readings of the day, or it may lead to the prayers of the people or to Baptism or a pastoral rite that might follow. AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
The people respond to the proclamation of the Word by affirming the faith. The faith of the church both shapes our lives and expresses the hope and expectancy that are a part of the Christian life. From early in the churchís life, an affirmation of faith has been central in corporate worship. Candidates for Baptism gave assent to the faith in the words of the Creed, and upon their baptism were admit- ted to the Eucharist. As those who are baptized, whenever we say the creed we reaf- firm the profession of faith made in our baptism.
The people may affirm the faith by saying or singing a creed of the church. The Nicene Creed and the Apostlesí Creed express the faith tradition of the whole church, the faith in which we were baptized. Or the people may affirm the faith in the form of an affirmation drawn from scripture, a hymn or other appropriate musical response, or one of the other confessions of the church. Or the choir may lead the congregation in affirming the faith through an anthem or other musical form.
If Baptism is to be celebrated, the congregation professes its faith using the Apos- tlesí Creed as a part of the baptism. The Apostlesí Creed is also said when baptized persons make a public profession of faith for the first time, and on other occasions of reaffirming the baptismal covenant. The Apostlesí Creed is also appropriately said when new members are welcomed.
The Nicene Creed is traditionally said whenever the Lordís Supper is celebrated.
As an act of the whole church, Baptism is celebrated (except for extraordinary cir- cumstances) in the context of corporate worship. When Baptism is celebrated, it appropriately follows the reading and proclaiming of the Word.
As with the Lordís Supper, Baptism is a sign and act of Godís self-giving, by which Godís grace is made available to us. The sacraments give a distinctive shape to Christian worship and are the primary signs of the covenant of grace.
The meaning of Baptism is many-faceted. Baptism proclaims Godís grace and love for us. In Baptism, God claims us and marks us as Godís own. Baptism signifies our engrafting into Christ, and so affirms our new identity as members of the body of Christ. Through the waters of Baptism, we participate in Christís death and resurrection by which we die to all that separates us from God and are raised to new life in Christ. In Baptism we are assured of cleansing from sin, of inclu- sion in Godís grace and covenant, and of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The significance of Baptism is not limited to the one being baptized. Those pres- ent who have been baptized are reminded of their place in the covenant community, of Godís claim on their lives, and of their dependence upon Godís grace.
The basic order of Baptism is as follows:
Presentation Persons to be baptized are brought to the font or baptismal pool and presented for baptism. The meaning of Baptism is declared in the words of scrip- ture. Older children, youth, and adults express their desire to be baptized. Parents promise to fulfill the responsibilities for Christian nurture. The congregation and sponsors promise to love and nurture those being baptized and to assist them to be faithful disciples.
Profession of Faith Those coming to be baptized, parents, and sponsors make vows, renouncing the ways of evil and affirming the way of Christ. The congrega- tion joins the candidates for Baptism (or their parents) and the sponsors in affirm- ing the faith of the church in the words of the Apostlesí Creed.
Thanksgiving Over the Water Godís saving acts are remembered with thanksgiving and the Holy Spirit is invoked, that those who are baptized may have their sins washed away, be reborn to new life, be buried and resurrected with Christ, and be incorporated into the body of Christ.
The Baptism In the name of the triune God, the minister pours water visibly and generously on the head of each candidate or immerses each candidate in water.
Laying On of Hands As a sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, the minister lays hands upon the head of the newly baptized (and may anoint with oil), praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Welcome The newly baptized are welcomed into the household of God, and are charged to be faithful disciples.
The Peace The congregation may welcome the newly baptized into the house- hold of God, sharing signs of peace.
PASTORAL RITE OF THE CHURCH Response to the Word may include other acts of commitment and recognition.
Those previously baptized may make public their profession of faith for the first time. Baptized believers may reaffirm the covenant into which they were baptized, or transfer their church membership.
Christian marriage, ordination and installation of church officers, and commis- sioning for service in and to the church are other acts of commitment that may appro- priately be included as responses to the Word.
The service may be an occasion to recognize and give thanks for significant events in individual or community life, for reunions and farewells, and for remembering the lives of those who died.
Witness to faith and service and interpretation of the mission and programs of the church may prepare for the peopleís intercessions, as well as the offering of them- selves and their gifts to support the ministry of Christ and the church.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
In response to the Word, prayers are offered. In these prayers, we acknowledge Godís presence in the world and in daily life.
Across the ages the church in its worship has prayed for the church universal, the world, all in authority, and those in distress or need. At no other time in its worship is the community of faith more conscious of the needs of the life of the world.
We pray for the world because God loves it. God created the world and cares for it. God sent Jesus, who died for it. God is working to lead the world toward the future God has for it. To abide in Godís love is to share Godís concern for the world. Our prayers should therefore be as wide as Godís love and as specific as Godís tender com- passion for the least ones among us.
Intercession The congregation prays for worldwide and local concerns, offering intercession for: the church universal, its ministry and those who minister, that the world might believe; the world, those in distress or special need, and all in authority, that peace and justice might prevail; the nation, the state, local communities, and those who govern in them, that they may know and have strength to do what is right.
Supplications The congregation prays for its own life and ministry, offering supplications for: the local church, that it may have the mind of Christ in facing special issues and needs; those who struggle with their faith, that they be given assurance; those in the midst of transitions in life, that they be guided and supported; those who face critical decisions, that they receive wisdom; those who are sick, grieving, lonely, and anxious, that they be comforted and healed; all members, that grace conform them to Godís purpose.
The Christian life is marked by the offering of oneís self to God to be shaped, empowered, directed, and changed by God. In worship, God presents us with the costly self-offering of Jesus Christ. We are claimed by Christ and set free. In response to Godís love in Jesus Christ we offer God our lives, our gifts, our abilities, and our material goods, for Godís service.
Silence or appropriate music may accompany the gathering of the peopleís of- ferings. The tithes and offerings are gathered and received with prayer, spoken or sung.
From early centuries in Christian history, the offering has been the occasion for presenting the bread and wine to be used in the Lordís Supper. When the Lordís Sup- per is to be celebrated, gifts of bread and wine may therefore be brought to the table in thanksgiving for Godís Word. If the elements are already in place, they are made ready for celebrating the Sacrament.
When the service does not include the Lordís Supper, the offering is followed by prayers of thanksgiving, ending with the Lordís Prayer. The service is then concluded with a hymn, spiritual, canticle, or psalm, and with the charge and blessing.
INVITATION TO THE LORDíS TABLE
From New Testament times the celebration of the Eucharist on each Lordís Day has been the norm of Christian worship. The Eucharist was given by Christ himself. Before church governments were devised, before creeds were formalized, even before the first word of the New Testament was written, the Lordís Supper was firmly fixed at the heart of Christian faith and life. From the churchís inception, the Lordís Day and the Lordís Supper were joined. Along with the reading and proclamation of the scripture, the Eucharist has given witness to Godís redemptive acts each Lordís Day, giving Christian worship its distinctive shape.
In this sacrament, the bread and wine, the words and actions, make the promises of God visible and concrete. The Word proclaimed in scripture and sermon is con- firmed, for all that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ means is focused in the Sacrament.
It is appropriate, therefore, that the Eucharist be celebrated as often as on each Lordís Day. It shall be celebrated regularly and frequently enough so that it is clear to all that the Lordís Supper is integral to worship on the Lordís Day, and not an addition to it.
In the Eucharist the church blesses God for all that God has done, is doing, and promises to do, and offers itself in obedient service to Godís reign. The church is renewed and empowered as in thanksgiving it remembers Christís life, death, resurrection, and promised return. The people of God are sustained by the promised presence of Christ, and are assured of participation in Christís self-offer- ing. Christís love is received, the covenant is renewed, and the power of Christís reign for the renewing of the earth is proclaimed. Being made one with Christ, we are made one with all who belong to Christ, united with the church in every time and place. In this sacrament we also participate in Godís future as well. It is a glad resurrection feast. Gathering around this table, the church anticipates the great banquet of the new age in Godís eternal kingdom.
The Lordís Supper is therefore more than a reminder of Christís sacrificial death and resurrection. It is a means, given us by Christ, through which the risen Lord is truly present as a continuing power and reality, until the day of his coming. While the meaning of Christís sacrificial death is at the heart of this sacrament, it is a res- urrected, living Christ whom we encounter through the bread and the wine.
The many-faceted meaning of this sacrament is seen in the names given to it. The title Lordís Supper recalls Jesusí institution of the sacrament with his disciples. Eucharist(thanksgiving) reminds us that we receive all of the benefits of Godís grace with joy. Holy Communionreminds us that in this sacrament we are made one with Christ and with each other. The Breaking of the Breaddescribes the sacramental action by which Christ is known to his disciples.
The minister, or the one authorized to preside, invites the people to the Lordís table using suitable words from scripture. If the words of institution (1 Cor. 11:23Ė26, or Gospel accounts: Matt. 26:26Ė30; Mark 14:22Ė26; Luke 22:14Ė20) will not be spo- ken at the breaking of bread or included in the great thanksgiving, they are said as part of the invitation.
The Lordís table, having been set, the one presiding then leads the people in the great thanksgiving. This prayer with its emphasis on thankful praise has been of central importance to this sacrament from very early centuries in Christian worship. Thanksgiving is so important to this sacrament that it has been given the name of Eucharist (from the New Testament Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving).
We praise God for all Godís mighty acts in the past, present, and future. God is praised for: creating all things, the providence of God, establishing the covenant, giving the law, the witness of the prophets, Godís boundless love and mercy in spite of human failure, the ultimate gift of Christ, the immediate occasion or festival.
There may be an acclamation of praise, in which we join in one voice, with choirs of angels and with the faithful of every time and place, in adoration of the triune God: ďHoly, holy, holy Lord,Ē the song of the heavenly hosts, eternally being sung before Godís majesty (Isa. 6:1Ė5).
Christís work of redemption is recalled with thanks: his birth, life, and ministry, his death and resurrection, the promise of his coming again. the gift of the Sacrament [which may include the words of institution if not otherwise used].
There may be an acclamation of faith, in which we joyfully acclaim Christ who died, is risen, and will come again.
The Holy Spirit is called upon to draw the people into the presence of the risen Christ, and to make the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup a communion in the body and blood of Christ, that the people may be nourished with Christís body, made one with the risen Christ, united with all the faithful in heaven and earth, kept faithful as Christís body, representing Christ in ministry in the world, in anticipation of the fulfillment of the kingdom Christ proclaimed. The prayer concludes with an ascription of praise to the triune God.
Following the great thanksgiving, the Lordís Prayer is said by the people.
BREAKING OF THE BREAD
The one presiding takes the bread and breaks it, and pours wine or unfermented grape juice into the cup. The action should be clearly visible to all present. If the words of institution have not previously been spoken, they are said as the bread is broken and the wine is poured. We are reminded in this action that Christís body was broken and his blood was shed for all. The action requires a loaf of bread of suf- ficient size for breaking, and a chalice and a flagon or pitcher for the pouring.
COMMUNION OF THE PEOPLE
The bread and wine from the table are served to the people in a manner suitable to the occasion.
The people may gather around the table to receive the bread and cup. Or, the people may go to persons serving the elements. Or, the bread and wine may be served to the people where they are.
A portion of a loaf of bread may be broken off and placed in the peopleís hands. Or, the people may break off a portion of the loaf of bread. Or, the people may be offered pieces of bread prepared for distribution.
Wine may be served from a common cup. Or, several cups may be offered and shared. Or, individual cups may be prepared for distribution. Rather than drink from a common cup, communicants may dip the broken bread into the cup.
During the serving, the people may sing psalms, hymns, spirituals, or other appro- priate songs. Or the choir may sing, or instrumental music may be played. Or scrip- ture may be read. Or the people may pray in silence.
After all have been served, and the remaining elements have been returned to the table, a prayer is offered thanking God for the gift of Christ in the Sacrament, and asking for Godís grace and strength to be faithful disciples.
Acts of commitment to discipleship, declaration of intent to seek Baptism, and reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant are appropriate responses to the Word received in the Sacrament. As the service comes to a close, other acts of commitment and recognition may be observed. People may make commitments to and be com- missioned to specific corporate and personal acts of evangelism, compassion, justice, reconciliation, and peacemaking in the world.
Those leaving the fellowship of a particular church to undertake these commis- sions, or to move to another community, may be recognized with a farewell. Announcements pertaining to the life of the church may be included at this point. Whether included here or elsewhere, announcements in corporate worship should be restricted to those that relate directly to the ongoing mission of the congregation and have relevance for all of the members of the worshiping community.
HYMN, SPIRITUAL, CANTICLE, OR PSALM
The congregation sings a hymn, spiritual, canticle, or psalm.
CHARGE AND BLESSING (BENEDICTION)
A formal dismissal concludes the service. A charge to the people to go into the world in the name of Christ may be included. The charge renews Godís call to us to engage in obedient and grateful ministry as Godís agents to heal lifeís brokenness. By the power of the Spirit, we are to be in life and ministry what Christ has redeemed us to be.
God calls the church to join the mission of Christ in service to the world. As the church engages in that mission, it bears witness to Godís reign over all of life.
God sends the church in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel, to engage in works of compassion and reconciliation, to strive for peace and justice in its own life and in the world, to be stewards of creation and of life, caring for cre- ation until the day when God will make all things new.
The church in both its worship and its ministry is a sign of the reign of God. Godís reign is both a present reality and a promise of the future. In an age hostile to the reign of God, the church worships and serves, confident that Godís rule has been established, and with hope firmly rooted in the ultimate triumph of God.
The dismissal shall include words of blessing, using a trinitarian benediction such as the apostolic benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14, or other words from scripture. Assured of Godís peace and blessing, we are confident that God goes with us to our tasks.
Signs of reconciliation and peace may be exchanged as the people depart. Instrumental music may follow the blessing.
For a sample of a somewhat customary liturgical experience, click here.
*The above description of how we worship at FPC was taken from the Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA).