All About Us
If you are new to our church, just visiting or even a long time member, you may have questions about what we believe as Presbyterians, and why we do the things we do during our worship services. If so, we invite you to read and learn:
As Presbyterians, we believe in one triune God, manifest as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe that this God, whom we have the privilege of calling Father because of the work of Jesus Christ, creates, redeems, sustains, rules and transforms all things and all people.
We also believe that this one God is incarnate in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, lived in the world as a man during which time he announced the nearness of the Kingdom of God by teaching about deliverance and redemption, healing and love. We believe that he was crucified, died and was buried for this world, and that he was raised again to new life. We believe that his sacrifice for us was planned from the very beginning of creation. Just as a parent watches when their child consistently makes wrong choices, knowing where this path will lead them, so also God, knowing where our path of rebellion would lead us, made a way through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, to reconcile us to himself. Paul says in Romans 5: 18 – 19:
Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
As Presbyterians we also believe that the Church, as Christ's representative on earth, participates in God's mission to transform all of creation and humanity. We believe the Church is the Body of Christ, is under the authority of Christ and is called and equipped by Christ, who is the Life, Hope and Foundation of the Church. We are Christ's hands, voice and mouth on this earth and are called to holiness, compassion, kindness and many other acts that will further the Kingdom of God and bring others into the fold.
We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, written by man and inspired by God, and that in it we find words that lead to life and healing. We come together as a community to worship God our Father, His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is our deposit and teacher until the day that Christ should return. Ephesians 1: 13 – 14 tells us:
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit: this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.
Actions included in the Order of Worship
Christian worship is a means of acknowledging that God is present both in the world and in our lives. In worship, we respond to God's redeeming grace through the action of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is active in our worship as our eyes and hearts are opened to God's claim on our lives and we respond by calling on Him and recommitting our lives to Him. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Each service consists of five major actions that are centered on the Word of God. These are:
Our Order of Worship
Prelude: An introductory piece of music, played while the congregation is assembling for worship.
Welcome and Announcements: We share news of what is going on in the church and stand to greet one another, welcoming each other as Jesus has welcomed us.
Introit and/or Call to Worship: An Introit is a piece of music sung or played at the beginning of worship, with its first known use in the 15th century. The Call to Worship is either sung or read, individually or in unison and is for the express purpose of focusing our attention on our reason for gathering....namely to worship God and gather around His Word.
Invocation, Silent Confession and Assurance of Pardon: This is a time of both led and silent prayer, asking the Lord for guidance and blessing, reassessing our actions during the past week, confessing any wrongdoing, and being assured of pardon because Christ died and rose again for us.
Song of Gathering: A hymn or song sung together by the congregation which reinforces the spiritual truth that we are one in Christ and are now gathering from all of our different walks of life for one unified purpose – to worship God.
Unison Reading: A reading led by someone with a congregational response. It is usually taken from the readings located in the back of the hymnal, but can be from other sources. This is a time for focusing our attention on the truth of God's word.
Response to God's Word: Glori Patri
The Glori Patri (meaning, Glory be to the Father) is a “lesser doxology,” sung in response to the reading of the Word. It affirms our belief in the triune God and in the recognition that it is God and God alone who has been, is and always will be. It is a short song of praise to God, the words of which are:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen. Amen.
Children's Time: At this point in the service, the children ages 3 – 5th grade are called to the front of the church where they receive a short teaching on the central topic for this day's gathering. The children aged 3 to second grade are then dismissed for Children's Church, held across the street in the Family Life Center. The other children return to pews. There are bags available in the back of crayons, etc. in order for them to remain engaged during the rest of the service.
Hymn: A song of praise, refocusing our attention on our purpose for gathering and preparing us to receive the Word.
Offering of Tithes and Gifts: This is a time of offering our gifts up to God to be used for the furthering of His Kingdom. It is also a way of responding to God and all that He has done for us. A prayer is said blessing the gifts given, and the congregation is encouraged to sign the Friendship Pad, which is located at the end of all pews. The tithe is considered to be 10% of our income, but it is more than that. Tithing is representative of stewardship and the recognition that all that we have and are is from God, and we are simply borrowing it for a time. The offering of tithes is our way of acknowledging this. Stewardship is a deeply spiritual matter, and it is for each person to decide for themselves where they are on this issue, but all are encouraged to tithe as they are able.
Doxology: After the offering, the congregation stands and sings the Doxology. This is another short hymn of praise to God, acknowledging that all we have, are and see comes from God. The words are:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Anthem: This is a time of praise offered to God by individuals, the Praise Team or the choir. It is also a time of quiet reflection for the congregation as they listen to the music being offered.
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer: As the family of God, we have many members who are all experiencing many different things and come from many different walks in life. Some come with happy hearts, some with heavy laden hearts. Some of us are filled with praise, some are filled with sorrow. We lift these things both silently and corporately before God in prayer. This is a way of laying down our burdens so that we are open and teachable, able to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. We cannot hear God speaking if our minds are busy rehearsing past hurts or victories. At this point in the service, which is right before the teaching, it is appropriate to lay down anything that would undermine our reception of the Word meant for us. The prayer is ended with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer taught to us by Jesus in Matthew 6: 9 – 13:
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
King James Version (KJV)
Scripture Reading: This is a reading from the Bible. Here we are hearing directly from God, what God has to say to us.
Prayer for Illumination: A prayer offered up by a member of the congregation asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate both the speaker and the hearers of the Word.
Sermon: The main teaching for the day, based on the scriptures read previously. The scriptures are interpreted for the congregation by the Pastor, as led by the Holy Spirit.
Song of Response: A hymn or song sung in unison, acknowledging the Word spoken and received and giving praise to God for it.
Charge and Benediction: This is in order with the Great Commission ordered by Christ in Matthew 28: 16 – 20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them,”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The church, as the Body of Christ in the world, is charged with taking the gospel and what they have learned, each person according to their ability, out into the world. This proclamation that God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ Jesus involves inviting others to discipleship, acts of compassion such as feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners and befriending the lonely. We go in the power of the Holy Spirit, to further God's kingdom on earth.
After being charged to go forth, the congregation sings a choral amen in unison, and this concludes the service.
The Apostle's Creed
At different services, the congregation may recite what is called the Apostle's Creed. This is usually done during a service in which a baptism will be taking place, although it can be used at other times also. The Apostle's Creed is generally believed to have been developed in the first or second century and to have been later influenced by the much longer Nicene Creed. In a time when most Christians were illiterate, reciting the Creed along with the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments helped to create unity around what was believed. In the second century, when one wished to join the church and they were asked what they believed, it was the Apostle's Creed that was spoken. Almost every denomination uses the Apostle's Creed as a statement of faith, even if it is said differently in different churches. In Chestnut Level we say the Apostle's Creed as follows:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church (meaning universal Church); the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Two Sacraments
As Presbyterians we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (communion).
Baptism is celebrated to recognize Christian commitment. During this sacrament, the person being baptized (or the parents of children being baptized) take the following vows:
The congregation also participates by taking vows. These include
At this point, the person being baptized is sprinkled with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The person is then declared to now be a member of the church of Jesus Christ and the congregation welcomes them.
Baptism is an ancient practice that goes back way before Christianity. To ancient Jews, specifically the followers of John the Baptist, baptism was an outward sign of inner repentance and turning away from sin. The New Testament clearly states that the baptism of John was from heaven (Matt 21:25). Even Jesus himself received baptism at the hands of John before the start of his earthly ministry. Since that time, it has been used in the church to represent the new life that is bestowed upon us by confession of Christ as our Savior and the turning around of our lives to become followers of Him. Presbyterians believe that the baptism of infants is a way of having the church and parents both take responsibility in the spiritual upbringing of the child(ren). As the family of God and Body of Christ, we are responsible for the nurturance of each other, and the baptism of children is one way of reminding us of this.
The Lord's Supper (Communion)
The Lord's Supper, or Communion, is a solemn occasion based on the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion. In Luke 22: 19 - 20 it states:
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
We celebrate communion on the first Sunday in February, April, June, August, October, December and on Christmas Eve. During this sacrament, Christians worldwide take time to reflect on the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf, and to reflect personally on their worthiness (or unworthiness) to receive this sacrifice. It is a powerfully symbolic ceremony that portrays deep spiritual truths. Even when we feel unworthy of this unimaginable sacrifice that was planned since the beginning of the world and now made by one who was completely without sin and therefore did not deserve it, we can rejoice that it is because of this very sacrifice that we come before the Throne of God with full assurance that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. So, while it is a very solemn time, it is also a very joyous time because Christ has accomplished for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves.
This is what we believe. This is who we are. This is why we do the things we do. And we hope that you, whether a visitor or long time member, feel at home in our midst and will continue to worship with us for a very long time!
****All verses, except the Lord's Prayer are from the NRSV. "New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
****The Lord's Prayer is taken from the King James version, which is public domain.