Are the Salutation and Benediction required elements of public worship?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Puritan Sailor, May 22, 2009.

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  1. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    It's not listed in WCF 21 but several Reformed denominations do them in public worship. Are the Salutation ('Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...') and the Benediction ('May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all...') required elements of public worship? Or would they fall under the category of the reading of Scripture?
  2. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    What does the Westminster Directory for Worship say?
  3. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    It says to begin with a "solemn calling" and to end with a "solemn blessing." Not very specific, probably because of differences of opinion.
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Most Sundays I give the apostolic greeting prior to the Call to worship. In Dutch churches, they would often greet with "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth," sometimes split responsively.

    The Benediction is a standard close. I think the Call and the Benediction are being spoken of by the Directory.
  5. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    My understanding is that it broadly falls under the category of the reading of Scripture. However, I would also emphasize the covenantal character of a worship service. This is expressed in the back and forth dialogue between God and his people. The worship service reflects the covenantal relationship. Based on that, it would seem to be of "good and necessary consequence" that there be a greeting from God and a benediction. When parties meet who are in a relationship, this is the normal pattern.

    -----Added 5/22/2009 at 11:50:06 EST-----

    The votum (Psalm 124:8) is not a greeting, but a confession of faith. Though in many Reformed churches it is the opening of the worship service, this doesn't really fit with the covenantal character of worship. If God has the first word in the covenant, he should have the first word in the worship service. That's why I believe there must be a call to worship before the votum.
  6. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    We responsively split Psalm 124:8 later in worship---after the call to worship, invocation, Lord's Prayer, and first hymn/psalm.
  7. Idelette

    Idelette Puritan Board Graduate

    Excellent would seem to me that it would be a necessary element for worship to have a salutation and benediction.
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    So it would seem that they are necessary elements of worship by "good and necessary consequence" from examining the nature of Christian worship, not by express command?

  9. Idelette

    Idelette Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm not sure if you were referring to me or Guido's Brother, so I'll just give my :2cents:

    I don't believe it is expressly commanded in the Scriptures but it does seem to be a pattern throughout in which God spoke with His people (OT priesthood, the Psalms, and even Paul's epistles themselves often had salutations and benedictions) I'm not sure why we wouldn't follow that example today and not see it as a necessary element? But, honestly, I'm not sure that I should be speaking on this topic, as I'm not really its just my :2cents: nothing more...:)
    Last edited: May 22, 2009
  10. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    I would hesitate to say that the call to worship and benediction are necessary elements of the worship service. True worship can occur without either of these.
    In the gathered corporate worship on the Lord's Day it is important that our liturgy be biblical. The worship should have a gospel flow to it. We are called by God into his presence. We praise him, we invoke his blessing upon us. He calls us to confession, we confess our sins, he assures us of his pardon. And so on. As worship ends we are being sent out as God's children and we go with his blessing. This dialogical principle is seen in the Genevan, Strasbourg and Knoxian liturgies.
    So yes following a scriptural pattern for worship we begin with God calling us into his presence to worship him and leave after receiving God's blessing.
    A scriptural call to worship is far better In my humble opinion than , "Allrighty then, everyone get on your feet and give God your biggest voice."
    Likewise being sent out with God's blessing is far more appropriate than: "Go now, it's over."
  11. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Any other thoughts? Particularly from our Confessional and RPW scholars?
  12. RTaron

    RTaron The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)

    Patrick, it is my understanding that the Westminster Divines were seeking to give the churches as much freedom as possible in the liturgy, and to give the Spirit of God freedom to work through the minister, so they did not prescribe set forms to be read.
    Our old minister in the FP church in Vancouver would call us to worship by solemnly announcing, " Let us worship God." and then he would begin to address the Lord in prayer.

    I'm wondering if there are some folks here that attend the FP church in Scotland or the Free Church, do they simply begin by saying Let us worship God?

    For my part, I regarded this approach as being very refreshing, as having a kind of 'New Testament simplicity.'
  13. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    I have belonged to both the FP Church and the Free Church- at different times of course. I can affirm that the call to worship is usually "Let us worship God. Let us sing from Psalm....." This is particularly true in the FP Church from what I remember. They might also begin with: "Let us resume the public worship of God by singing from psalm...." I know that a number of FCS congregations now have a scriptural call to worship, but I doubt that it is the majority. In the FCS you could probably expect an opening welcome and announcements before the minister issues the call to worship.
    I had never considered the Westminster Directory's lack of fixed forms as being for the purpose of giving freedom. I thought it was due to the congregationalists rejection of fixed forms.
    I believe that the FCS and to an extent the FP Church, view the directory as just that- a guide rather than something to be followed precisely. Am I correct in thinking this? If it is true does that fall in line with the original intent of the Divines?
  14. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    I don't have the background, but Sinclair Ferguson, in a lecture from a series on worship related exactly this formula as standard in Scotland in the Free churches. He then went on to describe an awful experience he
    had where he was called to worship in a church unexpectedly by a young woman saying something like "Alright everybody, let's get ready to sing" or some such drivel, while his children asked each other 'what's the matter with Daddy that he's brought us to this place?'.
  15. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The 1851 Act anent subordinate standards regards the Directories as "regulations" rather than "tests," so the Directory of Worship is a little stricter than a guide but less exacting than the doctrinal formularies. This is in keeping with the 1645 Act of General Assembly putting the Directory into execution, whereby they reserved the liberty to understand its directions in the light of their own Books of Discipline. That this was the original intent of the Divines themselves is clear from the preface, where they notify the reader that the directory is something distinct from the former liturgy of the Church of England, and that they only sought to provide the "substance" of worship.
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    To answer the OP in terms of the Directory for Public Worship -- the call to worship was probably viewed as a circumstance, as there must be something said to convene the meeting; but the benediction falls under the element of prayer.
  17. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    That's interesting. I can remember when I was growing up that a lot of the older people would close their eyes during the salutation and benediction. That would seem to confirm that at least some in the past have viewed these as prayer. However, if it is prayer, it is strange that (in continental Reformed worship) the minister lifts his hands -- something he never does otherwise and if he is doing it and it is prayer, only One sees it in principle.

    So, my question would be: is the minister at that moment speaking on behalf of God or of the people?

    Numbers 6:24-26 is the Aaronic benediction traditionally used at the conclusion of many Reformed worship services and it is given to "bless the children of Israel." Number 6:27, "So they shall put my name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them." That doesn't sound like a prayer, but a liturgical blessing, spoken by the priests on behalf of God.
  18. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'm not sure that the benediction, in reformed worship, is a prayer.
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    From the biblical perspective that would appear to be the case. So we are led to the question whether the priest blessed the people as a minister or as a mediator.

    Does reformed sacramentology have a bearing on the subject, viz. the blessing of the elements takes the form of a prayer?
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I was only drawing attention to the placement of the Benediction in the Directory. Perhaps we could say it is in the spirit of prayer but uttered in the form of God's Word to the people?
  21. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Are you referring to the elements of the Lord's Supper? If so, there may be a difference here between Presbyterian and continental Reformed practices. But I'll wait to comment further until you clarify.
  22. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Our practice is based on the Directory, which I will quote for convenience:

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