How Worship and Sacraments take Place

Understanding the distinction of the way worship takes place in the Presbyterian Church is keenly important in understanding its working structure. In order to understand this we must begin at the most basic point where the whole concept is divided into two parts; worship and sacrament. Each of these are defined quite vividly and in complete detail in the several publications that have been a key part of the Presbyterian practice since its very beginning in the modern times in the leadership of John Calvin. However, the direct link that you will find between the practices seen around the world by Presbyterian Churches are all said to have come down from a the oldest of Presbyterian Churches, the Scottish Presbyterian church. A major influence on the penning down of these practices is attributed to John Knox who was a direct partner of John Calvin when he first preached the teachings of Presbyterianism in Geneva nearly six centuries ago.

What are the forms of worship?

Although the beginning of the worship customs of the Presbyterian Church actually coincide with those of the protestant church practices of the time, it was soon changed when John Calvin’s very own Book of Common Order came into being and got approved by 1562 General Assembly of the church. Two years later, the Psalms and the Confession was also added to it and this version stayed in use right until the year 1643 when the Westminster Directory replaced it. At that time, there were two basic methods of worship under use and they were actually quite unbelievable if it were to be brought into comparison with today’s standards. The first one was the exclusive psalmody which established that only the part of Bible in the Psalms was to be sung during church. If other portions were to be sung, it was to be done outside the church. The second one was cappella singing which strictly established that no instrument other than the voice of humans was to be used to sing.

Shift to Continuous Singing

This particular change was brought into the style of worship around the same time when the Westminster Directory was brought into practice. However, even at that time, the implementation was only for practical reasons and not a custom. The regular style was lining out where the people read after a precentor line after line. The main reason for the lack of implementation was the fact that it was not possible for a lot of people to read. However, by 1720, it had become a regularly practiced part of the worship and most of the churches around the world adopted this method. Only a few are still using the old lining out method for recitation and it is a very rare sight.

Use of Hymns in Worship

There was a very strict rule against the use of hymns and any other non-Biblical verses during worship and it was not until the year 1861 that it was formally introduced into the regular worshipping routine. The Church of Scotland was the first one to do it and a year later, the Free Church of Scotland also did the same. Today the use of verses that are not a part of Bible is a very common practice in nearly all Presbyterian circles but how and what they use during worship is quite varied and diverse.

Musical Instruments in Worship

The first time someone ever used musical instruments during worship was by Reverend R. William of Glasgow in the early 1800s when he used an organ during the worship in the church he was in. The governing body of Glasgow told him that it was against the established laws of the Presbyterian Church. In the year 1863 Robert Lee, another Reverend from Edinburgh followed suit and used the harmonium during worship. He was also given the same message and he went on to defend his actions by saying that it should only be disallowed if it caused a disruption in the harmony of worship. As a result, a pipe organ got installed in his church in 1865, the first ever occurrence of such kind.

The Sacraments Explained

There are two sacraments in the Presbyterian Church. The first one is the baptism and it is different from that of the Catholic Church because instead of submerging they use the Affusion and Aspersion positions. However, the Immersion technique is also considered to be valid. The second is the Lord’s Supper in which they break bread and wine and the belief is that instead of being physically present with them, the Lord is present among the participants in the form of the wine and bread. Another name for this is Communion.