Liturgical Worship

Discussion in 'Worship' started by 2ndViolinist, Nov 18, 2015.

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  1. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi everyone!

    Please correct me if I use this word incorrectly, but I want to ask for your thoughts on liturgical worship.

    I recently transferred my membership to an OPC that is vastly different from where I was previously a member. Although both churches follow a consistent structure for worship services, this new church is much more liturgical in worship. Worship services incorporate many of the traditions I wanted to leave behind with the Roman Catholic Church (I grew up Catholic). Examples:
    • The congregation repeats the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed every week.
    • The Lord's Supper is observed every week.
    • The congregation responds with "Thanks be to God" after passages of Scripture are read and after the pastor says certain things.
    • The month of December is approaching and as such, the Advent wreath will be displayed and songs of Advent will be sung.
    • The pastor wears clerical garb and a stole whose color reflects the current time period in the church calendar.

    Note that I am not against following a consistent structure for worship services. The Bible states:

    [BIBLE]"Let all things be done decently and in order."
    - 1 Corinthians 14:40[/BIBLE]

    I am just troubled because I am not convinced that much of what my new church does follows the Regulative Principle. Not only that, but there is always the danger of these things becoming rote. Do they have biblical basis or are they merely traditions of man? Am I just being nitpicky?
  2. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Reciting creeds, congregational responses besides a corporate "Amen," Christmas/advent, or seasonal garb are not commanded in Scripture (or the church calendar in general for the NT church, unless you mean the one day in seven pattern), therefore they would not follow the Regulative Principle. The majority of those were not practiced in the OPC I was a before of before, and I didn't know some of those things were permitted in the OPC.

    Frequency of the Lord's Super is not explicit in Scripture, and should be left to the discretion of each session. However, there seem to be good reasons why weekly is not to be preferred in general, though it should be frequent (i.e., compared to Passover).
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Let me just say what I don't think you should have a problem with. I don't want to be publicly critical of a sister church.

    And let me preface it by saying that there's a limited spectrum (but a spectrum nonetheless) in what you may find from one OPC to another.

    Reciting the creed and the Lord's Prayer in worship is historically connected to Reformed churches going back to Calvin. Some in our tradition believe that the church was further reformed and improved by removing those also. I think its OK to have them. Rightly understood, these corporate statements are not only expressions of the heart's commitment; they are also a confession of what we believe: both the vital content of the true faith, and what prayer should be.

    If you turn to the last portion of the Shorter Catechism, you may read a short theology of prayer based on the enumerated petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Then, as you pray it, you will pray even more with the understanding. If you study the Heidelberg Catechism, you will discover it is an exposition of the Apostles' Creed. Then, as you say it (or the Nicene, which is A.C. slightly expanded) you will be "avowing" that faith in those words.

    Calvin really wanted much more frequent communion than he was able to establish as the form in Geneva, even weekly; but it never happened. The Scots gave us once-a-year communion seasons. Rome only brought back weekly communion for the laity in the Counter-Reformation and later. This was Rome's declaration of the primacy of their mass; over against the Reformers who stressed the primacy of the Word--first taught, then (secondly) signified in sacraments.

    The frequency of the L.S. is a matter of pastoral wisdom, determined by the Session. Frequency always ends up being a tradition of some kind, unless one is convinced it is ordained to be at a particular rate. It is no more likely to be abused from "too often" than "too seldom." You may grow to love the blessing of weekly communion, as celebrated in a Reformed manner (rather than the Romish idolatry).

    Frequent congregational responses are uncommon in OPC churches, in my experience. Arguments for them might be based on the corporate "Amen" (a response) mentioned in Scripture. Historic examples from our tradition include the Sursum corda (We lift up our hearts) from Calvin's era; and the Votum (Our help is in the name of the Lord) from the Dutch Reformed liturgy.

    Creeping liturgical calendar elements (evidenced by candles, wreaths, colors, stoles)--I said I wasn't going to get too critical...

    Wearing a (plain) robe or clerical collar isn't "unReformed," strictly speaking. The black "Geneva gown" was worn in contrast to Rome's gaudy vestments; the historic purpose was to, in some sense, make the man anonymous; and let the Word of God dominate.

    So, I suppose what I'm saying is that some of these things you should try to separate from your experience with Rome; and also from the expectation that your previous non-Roman experience was intrinsically correct, mostly because it was so evidently contrasted from the sacerdotal manners. You probably experienced more of a "radical" reformation reflection of worship practice, than a display of the best efforts at real reform of the church's historic practice as rooted in the magisterial Reformation tradition. Believe me, if you encounter a high-Anglican or a liturgical-Lutheran service, you will without a doubt see worship that feels like (and is intentionally similar to) a Roman mass.

    You will have to decide if you can live with some of the display or accents of your current church which are (perhaps) less than ideal, for the sake of the doctrine and the truth that is there, and by which you should benefit.

    I hope you can stay.
  4. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Probably not. It is more likely an academic gown.

    This is the only one that sounds problematical from a strictly reformed standpoint. (See the annual Christmas thread for a fuller discussion of the issues. ).
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Acts 13:2

    "As they were liturgizing before the Lord..."
  6. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    I personally have a difficult time when there is a strong liturgy that is done in such a way that there is no instruction or pauses to allow me to think about and remember what it means. Even something as simple as group recitation of the Lord's Prayer goes by so fast it prevents me from attaching meaning in my own mind and heart to any part of it. I want my heart and my understanding to be engaged with what my lips are doing, so I worry about myself with this,

    This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (Matt. 15:8)
  7. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I am an Anglican and I appreciate the indulgence of the administrators in allowing me to participate on this board. Allow me to offer two observations.

    Their was a high church tradition among the continental reformed in North America. John Williamson Nevin is an example of a man in this tradition.

    Their was a Presbyterian Book of Common Prayer issued in 1661. It is sometimes referred to as Richard Baxter's Book. It was reissued by the old Presbyterian Church of the United States.
  8. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    I believe it is a black robe (which could be academic), but the different coloring stole throughout the year is papist-y (I'm a former papist too).
  9. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for pointing that out. Pastor actually mentioned that recently and it slipped my mind. I had no intention of being dishonest...
  10. Elizabeth

    Elizabeth Puritan Board Sophomore

    I actually find the liturgy we use(LCMS) to be very beneficial. It gets into the mind, and one thinks on it constantly. This is one of the great benefits of being in a good, God-honoring liturgical church. And no wonder...looking at our liturgy, it's all Scripture, except for the creed.

    Dare I say this is why I love celebrating and following the church year? Constant, regular reminders of God's grace frame our lives. No doubt this is due to having a weakish mind. Someone of a stronger mind would call this foolish and silly, but the regularity of the liturgical year really helps someone like me.

    Now, would I rather be in a Reformed church? Of course. But there are none where I live.
  11. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Which translation is the word liturgizing used?
  12. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Thanks. I missed that. I agree with you. I suppose it could be worse. As long as it isn't a rainbow stole....
  13. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    The advice above In my most humble opinion is generally good and what Pastor Bruce ended with "I hope you can stay" is good in that we should not want to be know as separatists. I have taken to heart in where I attend church. I will be honest in saying that where I attend is not substantially different than a typical Baptist sing along grape juice communion service, and Episcopal church (book of common prayer and advent stuff). What keeps me there is that I am not encourage, specifically, to do what is against my conscience, though it is encouraged nonspecifically. Also I find the central part of our worship service (preaching) to be good enough to warrant me staying where our family attends. along with our session allowing me to stay while disagreeing with much that is practiced in our church.

    One word of advice, try to keep your disagreements with the elders you trust in your church because it would be easy to cause strife within the congregation. A good thing about the PB is that this is a good place to let off steam and get good advice from the elders here in relative anonymity. :)
  14. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    That would be Jacob referencing the fact that leitourgia is the word being used there.

    I can't tell you how many rote "extemporaneous" prayers I have heard.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Like all of the "Jesus Weejus" prayers,

    "Dear Jesus, we just..."

    or all of the prayers that end with

    "...Lead, guide, and direct us."

    The most important thing is to react and negate anything that just "seems too Catholic." Never actually try to find out what that means. If a practice "seems too Catholic," let's not do it.
  16. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Haha! I know just what you guys are talking about. I personally would prefer more scripted prayers to extemporaneous prayers. There's potential for more theologically rich prayers that way. As they say, "Lex orandi, lex credendi."

    I believe in Calvin's Strasbourg liturgy all of the prayers were scripted, but I might be wrong
  17. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, Reverend Buchanan, for your response. I have no intentions to leave this church--or the OPC, for that matter. I will prayerfully consider all that you've written.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Despite what some people think and what I have been accused of in the past, I don't use scripted prayers. I use phrases from prayers but that's just because I have a good memory and I retain a lot of what I read and peruse, so these phrases "leak" into my prayers. But I'm sincere, really really, when I pray them and no one can prove I am not.
  19. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, everyone, for your responses.

    It should be noted that I am not against the use of scripted prayers. I enjoy The Valley of Vision and sometimes use prayers from there as my own. At the OPC where I was a member of previously, the pastor used both scripted and extemporaneous. The congregation recited Bible passages, prayers, and portions of different confessions together. But the pastor was known for his beautiful Scriptural extemporaneous prayers, none of that "weejus" nonsense. At an annual Reformation Day service in Maryland where 10+ congregations gather from different churches, he is always asked to pray.

    Sure, it is our responsibility that when we read a scripted prayer, we are to honor God and not just with our lips (Matthew 15:8). When the same scripted prayers are used from week to week, in my opinion, it is difficult not to let praying be rote. At least for me, this also applies to saying creeds aloud and other congregational responses.
  20. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    I also appreciate the indulgence of the "powers that be" in permitting me to continue on the PB and wish to keep my comments fairly circumscribed . . .

    Having spent most of my life in Baptist worship services and only 4 in liturgical ones, I GREATLY appreciate the latter over the former. As to the issue of things becoming rote or boring . . . sun rising never bores me, the same breakfast every morning never bores me, the sight of my wife of 41 years never bores me, carefully constructed prayers never bore me, receiving the Lord's Supper on a much more regular basis than my prior experience never bores me, the Lord's Prayer does not bore me, and (after six decades among the anything goes evangelicals)The Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed never bores me.

    What does bore me are pastors dressed in Hawaiian shirts, untucked shirts, or without socks; 7-11 "worship music" of the "Jesus is my boyfriend" type intended to manipulate the emotions of the worshipers; trite and silly repetitions such as "We just . . .," repeating the word "Father" 45x in a prayer, and prayers that start off in one vein and become tangled in grammatical errors and odd shifts from singular to plural and back again.

    I will stipulate that a solid Reformed service that honors the RPW will not fall into the realm of my gripes in the last paragraph. But, after a lifetime of dealing with those affectations in Baptist services, liturgy seems like a pretty good place to be.
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    No one ever complains about the offering being "rote" or "losing its special meaning."
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One of the ironies in the temptation for some people to see frequent communing with Jesus as "too Catholiky" is that medieval Catholicism didn't receive Eucharist all that often. The 4th Lateran Council made it mandatory to receive it at least once a year (or it may have been the Council of Florence). The only reason the Council would have made that mandatory is that people weren't receiving it.

    Therefore, if one wanted to be really anti-Catholic, historically, then one should argue for frequent communion. Even though Zwingli was horribly wrong for divorcing the Supper from the Word, ironically Zwingli's church probably communed more than the average Roman congregation.
  23. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    "...communion once-a-year is an invention of the devil..." -- Calvin

    Calvin wanted frequent communion; I believe he actually wanted it weekly, but the city council forbade it.
  24. Warren

    Warren Puritan Board Freshman

    If I remember this right, and I don't remember the source, Calvin and Farel found a middle-road in Geneva between the council. Their churches staggered the Eucharist, so that the city-wide church celebrated their mystical union with Christ every Sunday. They went as far as they could, to see the church take the Lord's Table every week.

    The reaction I typically hear against weekly Communion is never based on scripture, or even personal experience, but what may happen. When the church of Jerusalem met and took the Eucharist every Sunday, they were joyful worshipers, multiplying like rabbits. I wonder when the church divided the Lord's Supper from worship, so that this even became an issue, because I've never seen a scriptural basis for carving it out of regular worship.
  25. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    You are indeed right that the churches staggered when they served communion.
  26. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    There is no Scriptural basis for reciting these in worship so I would be concerned with this.

    Weekly communion may have been the wish of Calvin, but it has never been the practice of the Reformed church, anywhere, that I know of. For centuries since the Reformation the practice seems to have been that put down by the council of Geneva, with slight variations (i.e. congregations having it 4 times a year, twice a year). I didn't realise that it was staggered in Geneva. This has been the Scottish practice since the Reformation: for each congregation to have only one or two communion seasons a year but for different congregations to have their seasons in a staggered fashion to allow people to travel to other communion seasons. That, to me, seems the best approach. Allowing each congregation the time to hold the communion season as it should be, and allowing the people the opportunity for more frequent communion if they desire.

    We hear a lot today about Calvin wanting weekly communion. Maybe we should pay more heed to the fact the Reformed churches never implemented this. Why is Calvin's opinion on this matter held as superior to the position of the denominations, councils, sessions which disagreed? In many different denominations and countries. Maybe there's a wisdom there we should be heeding. There's a lot of cherrypicking going on nowadays of ideas and doctrines which were floating around at the time of the Reformation without due consideration of the history of the Reformed churches between the Reformation and now and considering why certain things weren't implemented and why certain things faded out of common thought.

    I would be concerned about this. Again, no scriptural warrant. Our congregations don't even have corporate "amens" after prayer.

    Worrying. Whether or not it is an academic gown, I wouldn't be surprised if the colour changes. I've seen this in so-called Protestant churches, with throws over the pulpit rather than the gown. It's empty ceremonialism.

    However, ministers should wear some form of clerical garment. The white collar, black shirt, morning coat seems the most appropriate: grave, sober, anonymous. Ministers are neither peacocks not CEOs so their clothes should not suggest they are.

    I think a lot of the interest in "liturgy" amongst Reformed folks nowadays is the same as the renewed interest in Lent: it's being used as a substitute for real, experiential religion. People seem to think if they fill their services with stuff- calls to prayer, confessions of sin, recitation of creeds, specific prayers for this and for that (instead of just actual prayer)- they can make up for a lack of vital religion. It won't work. I looked at the order of service of an OPC church the other day and there were 18 separate and different items on it! (And that's not including the intimations and the "prelude" and "postlude".) Christian worship is meant to be simple, pure. 18 separate parts to a service is not that.

    Calvin may have had a liturgy, but Calvin is one man and a lot happened after Calvin. For one thing, a number of the things he had in his liturgy were folded into one another. The worship service was simplified. Why are we wanting to make it more complicated again?
  27. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I have not studied the issue of reciting creeds in any detail, so I will pass on that one. As for the Lord's Prayer, not being Brownists Presbyterians should not have an issue with its regular use. It is one of the best means of avoiding vain repetition in prayer.

    It might not be your preference, but it is hardly something to complain about.

    Does this practice have any precedent in Presbyterian and Reformed history? If so, what is its biblical basis?

    On the issue of Christmas services, you are on firmer ground here. The Westminster divines condemn such things in the Directory for Public Worship.

    Be thankful you have a good church to attend. I am a Covenanter/Reformed Presbyterian, yet I am privileged to attend a good Anglican church. I don't agree with everything that goes on - I abstain from hymn-singing, services on 25 December, and a few other things - but I am a Puritan in the mold of Thomas Cartwright et al; I am not a separatist. Like Bruce, I hope you stay in this congregation and winsomely encourage their further reformation.

    Also, I would encourage you to avoid a reactionary approach. Many people shun infant baptism and other things because they look "too Popish", but we do not subscribe to a theology of reaction - leave that to Anabaptists and other extremists.
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Except for the fact that Reformed churches today are implementing it. And if antiquity, such as it is, is the authority, soon enough these practices will be established practices. I, for one, would want to eat with Jesus more than once a year.

    Where do we see communion seasons in the New Testament?

    As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes,

    ~Until Justice and Peace Embrace.

    Aesthetics doesn't mean flashy/pretty. Admittedly, nor is it the point of the NT worship, either. But the "reduce it down until it can't be reduced anymore" is a form of aesthetics.

    Anti-aesthetics has its own aesthetics.
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  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Bingo. I've felt the attraction of a "flashy" service given my long readings in the church fathers (not necessarily that they had such, but it was different from ours) but I have come back to the beautiful sobriety of the Reformed tradition. I just don't think that beautiful simplicity = overreactionary reductionism.
  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    “This sign [of the cross] was not only used in the churches in very ancient times: it is still an admirably simple reminder of the cross of Christ.”

    Martin Bucer, Censura, found in E. Whitaker’s Martin Bucer and the Book of Common Prayer, Alcuin Club Collections no. 55 (London, SPCK, 1974), 90.
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