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 · Sacraments

Worship at First Presbyterian

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.


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 Lord’s Supper.
This day has special significance, since it was on “the first day of the week” that Jesus’
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 “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). It was
the day to remember and celebrate the resurrection. The Lord’s Day, the first day of
the week, is therefore the very center of the church’s 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 Christ’s resurrection, Christians saw the beginning of the “new creation” and
came to regard the day of resurrection as “the eighth day of creation.” The Lord’s
Day is therefore a sign of God’s kingdom and of hope.

Gathered on the Lord’s 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 God’s 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 God’s king-
dom. Essential announcements pertaining to the order of worship of the day may be
briefly given.


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. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who
made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8).


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 day’s

The people respond with “Amen” to this and all other prayers offered by the
minister or other worship leaders. In the corporate response “Amen” (Hebrew,
meaning “so be it”) 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.


The people sing praise to God in a hymn, psalm, or spiritual, which tells of
God’s 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.


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

Having confessed our sin, we remember the promises of God’s redemption, and
the claims God has on all human life. The assurance of God’s forgiving grace is
declared in the name of Jesus Christ. We accept God’s 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 God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in
the world.

With gladness, God is praised in song, for the gift of God’s grace brings joy. The
response may be an appropriate psalm, hymn, canticle (i.e., a biblical song other than
a psalm), spiritual, or the “Glory to God” or “Glory to the Father.”


Worship now moves to the reading, proclaiming, and hearing of God’s Word.


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






There should be readings from both the Old and the New Testament to ensure
that the unity and completeness of God’s 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. 1035–1048) 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 church’s 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 God’s 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 God’s 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.


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.


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 church’s 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 Apostles’ 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-
tles’ Creed as a part of the baptism. The Apostles’ 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 Apostles’ Creed is also appropriately said
when new members are welcomed.

The Nicene Creed is traditionally said whenever the Lord’s 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 Lord’s Supper, Baptism is a sign and act of God’s self-giving, by
which God’s 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 God’s grace and
love for us. In Baptism, God claims us and marks us as God’s 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 Christ’s 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 God’s 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 God’s claim on their lives, and of their dependence upon God’s grace.

The basic order of Baptism is as follows:

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 Apostles’ Creed.

Thanksgiving Over the Water
God’s 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.

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.

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 people’s intercessions, as well as the offering of them-
selves and their gifts to support the ministry of Christ and the church.


In response to the Word, prayers are offered. In these prayers, we acknowledge
God’s 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

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 God’s love is to share God’s concern for the world. Our
prayers should therefore be as wide as God’s love and as specific as God’s tender com-
passion for the least ones among us.

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.

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 God’s purpose.



The Christian life is marked by the offering of one’s 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 God’s love in Jesus Christ we offer God our lives, our gifts, our abilities, and our
material goods, for God’s service.

Silence or appropriate music may accompany the gathering of the people’s 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 Lord’s Supper. When the Lord’s Sup-
per is to be celebrated, gifts of bread and wine may therefore be brought to the table
in thanksgiving for God’s Word. If the elements are already in place, they are made
ready for celebrating the Sacrament.

When the service does not include the Lord’s Supper, the offering is followed
by prayers of thanksgiving, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. The service is then
concluded with a hymn, spiritual, canticle, or psalm, and with the charge and


From New Testament times the celebration of the Eucharist on each Lord’s 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 Lord’s Supper was firmly
fixed at the heart of Christian faith and life. From the church’s inception, the Lord’s
Day and the Lord’s Supper were joined. Along with the reading and proclamation
of the scripture, the Eucharist has given witness to God’s redemptive acts each Lord’s
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

It is appropriate, therefore, that the Eucharist be celebrated as often as on each
Lord’s Day. It shall be celebrated regularly and frequently enough so that it is clear
to all that the Lord’s Supper is integral to worship on the Lord’s 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 God’s reign. The
church is renewed and empowered as in thanksgiving it remembers Christ’s life,
death, resurrection, and promised return. The people of God are sustained by the
promised presence of Christ, and are assured of participation in Christ’s self-offer-
ing. Christ’s love is received, the covenant is renewed, and the power of Christ’s 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 God’s future as well. It is a glad resurrection
feast. Gathering around this table, the church anticipates the great banquet of the
new age in God’s eternal kingdom.

The Lord’s Supper is therefore more than a reminder of Christ’s 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 Christ’s 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 Lord’s Supper recalls Jesus’ institution of the sacrament with his disciples.
Eucharist(thanksgiving) reminds us that we receive all of the benefits of God’s 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 Lord’s
table using suitable words from scripture. If the words of institution (1 Cor. 11:23–26,
or Gospel accounts: Matt. 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–26; Luke 22:14–20) 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 Lord’s 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

We praise God for all God’s 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, God’s 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: “Holy, holy, holy Lord,” the song of the heavenly hosts, eternally being sung
before God’s majesty (Isa. 6:1–5).

Christ’s 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

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 Christ’s body, made one with the risen Christ,
united with all the faithful in heaven and earth, kept faithful as Christ’s 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 Lord’s Prayer is said by the people.


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 Christ’s 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.


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 people’s 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 God’s 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.


The congregation sings a hymn, spiritual, canticle, or psalm.


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 God’s call to us to
engage in obedient and grateful ministry as God’s agents to heal life’s 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 God’s 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. God’s
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 God’s 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 God’s 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).