THE SHAPE OF THE LITURGY
"Whatever else God calls us to, we are called to worship, to do so together, and to do so in the promised company of Jesus Christ. It is in worship that our lives are expressed before God and informed and converted by God’s Word. It is in worship that through song, prayer, and preaching, our theology is formed, our discipleship encouraged, and our spirits nourished. It is in worship that we reach out to touch the hem of Christ’s garment and find that, instead of touching the hem, we are being offered the grace of God by word of mouth and gift of hand." 1
"Liturgy is the love song we sing to the reality we name, God." 2
At Beaches Presbyterian Church you will participate in wonderful liturgy that is Reformed, catholic,and deeply creative. To say that our worship is "Reformed" is to say that its content and shape are rooted within the Reformed tradition and the theological convictions that emerged from the 16th Century reformations in Europe. Presbyterians are also catholic Christians. To say that our worship is fully "catholic" 3 is to say that it also reaches back to the earliest liturgical traditions that have embodied Christian worship throughout the entire history of the Christian faith.4 To say that our worship is deeply creative, is to celebrate our commitment to articulating these theological principles in meaningful ways in our own time and context. The people of Beaches Presbyterian Church embrace the wonderfully rich Reformed and catholic traditions, as well as the gifts of diversity and innovation; always to the glory of God.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC MOVEMENTS OF THE SUNDAY SERVICE?
"With its focus upon scripture and sacrament, the main body of the service moves broadly from hearing to doing, from proclamation to thanksgiving, and from Word to table." 5
For Presbyterian Christians, the Sunday service has four basic movements. 6 Within these basic movements, the possibility for variation and creativity are endless.
We gather on Sunday, the festival day of the resurrection. We gather because we feel that God has moved us to do so; to offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and to find strength and nourishment on the journey of discipleship. In prayer and song we gather as the body of Christ; the Church. We confess our brokenness and together we welcome God’s forgiveness.
The scriptures are read in the midst of the community. As Presbyterians believe that the whole of scripture speaks, there are four readings each Sunday: The Old Testament, The Psalm of the day, the Epistle, and the Gospel. Anthems and musical responses may be sung between the readings. At Beaches Presbyterian Church, we follow the schedule of weekly scripture texts known as the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The sermon follows the readings and seeks to engage the scriptural themes as well as contemporary issues facing our community and our world. We then pray for the Church, for the world, and for one another.
The sacrament is known by many names. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, and Holy Communion are the most widely known. “Eucharist” is both a biblical (New Testament) word as well as a word of the Reformation. It is literally "thanksgiving" in Greek. That is why the central prayer of the Church (used during the Communion liturgy) is called "the Great Thanksgiving." An essential principle of catholic Presbyterianism is that Word and Sacrament form an essential unity. For Presbyterians, the central act of Christian worship is the celebration of Holy Communion. 7
As hearing moves to offering, the offerings of the people are gathered and the table is spread with gifts of bread and wine. God’s people are invited to the table where Christ himself is the host. The Great Thanksgiving is offered in which God is praised for creation, Christ’s work of redemption is remembered and celebrated, and the Holy Spirit is invoked upon and in the church. 8
At Beaches Presbyterian Church, the sacrament is celebrated on the second Sunday of every month as well as on many other important festival days. We are always working toward more celebrations. 9
We are blessed (the benediction is pronounced) and we are sent out in ministry. It has been said that our worship ends, but our service begins. Having been challenged and nourished, we go in peace to love and serve God in the world God loves. A sung blessing is offered by the whole community together and we respond, "Amen."
1 The Church of Scotland. The Book of Common Order (3rd Ed).
Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 2005. Pg. ix (Preface)
2 Bishop John Shelby Spong. Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ. (Ret’d)
3 “Catholic” comes from the Greek: kathlikos. The meaning is “whole, universal, and circumspect.”
4 Presbyterian Church (USA), The Book of Common Worship.
Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press. 1993. Pg. 8
5 Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship. Pg. 33
7 Ibid. and The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Book of Common Worship (1991).
Toronto: The Board of Congregational Life (PCC), 1991. Pg. 16
The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Book of Common Worship (1991). Pg. 15-16
The Presbyterian Church in Canada, Word and Sacraments.
Toronto: The Board of Congregational Life (PCC), 1987. Pg. 50
8 Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship. Pg. 33
9 Bower, Peter C. (Ed.) The Companion to the Book of Common Worship.
Louisville: The Geneva Press (Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church, USA). 2003, Pg.8
10 FROM: Commentary on the Order of Worship for Sunday. Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City.
See the full text on their website: www.mapc.com
13 Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Commentary on the Order of Worship for Sunday. www.mapc.com
14 Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Book of Common Worship (1991). Pg. 120
15 Gerrish, Brian A., Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.
Moltmann, Jurgen, The Church in the Power of the Spirit.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. Pg. 243.
17 Moltmann, Jurgen, The Church in the Power of the Spirit. Pg. 243.
18 Bower, Peter C. (Ed.) The Companion to The Book of Common Worship. Pg. 7
19 This text is borrowed from the Commentary on the Order of Worship for Sunday of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.
The full text may be found at www.mapc.com