Chapter 3. The Ordering of Christian Worship

3.1 Principles and Sources of Ordering

3.1.1 Scripture and History

Those responsible for ordering Christian worship shall be faithful to the authority of the Holy Spirit speaking in and through Scripture. Beyond Scripture no single warrant for ordering worship exists, but the worship of the Church is informed and shaped by history, culture, and contemporary need. Thus the worship of the Presbyterian Church should be guided by the historic experience of the Church at worship through the ages, especially in the Reformed tradition.

3.1.2 Word and Spirit in Ordering Worship

i. Form and Freedom

The Church has always experienced a tension between form and freedom in worship. In the history of the Church, some have offered established forms for ordering worship in accordance with God's Word. Others, in the effort to be faithful to the Word, have resisted imposing any fixed forms upon the worshipping community. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand acknowledges that all forms of worship are provisional and subject to reformation. In ordering worship the Church is to seek openness to the creativity of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church toward worship which is orderly yet spontaneous, consistent with God's Word and open to the newness of God's future. While respecting time honoured forms and set orders, the Church reshapes them to respond freely to the leading of God's Spirit in every age.

ii. Guidance of Session/Parish Council

Manifestations of the Spirit in worship edify the whole Church. When actions in worship are present only for personal expression, call attention to themselves, or are insensitive to the congregation at worship, they are not in order and call for the counsel and guidance of the Session/Parish Council.

3.1.3 Participation and Leadership

The ordering of worship should also reflect the richness of the cultural diversity in which the Church ministers, as well as the local circumstances and needs of its congregations. While the authority for ordering worship belongs to those so designated and leadership in worship is assigned to those with gifts, training, and authorisation, the order for worship should provide for and encourage the participation of all.

3.1.4 Children in Worship

Children bring special gifts to worship and grow in the faith through their regular inclusion and participation in the worship of the congregation. Those responsible for planning and leading the participation of children in worship should consider the children's level of understanding and ability to respond, and should avoid both excessive formality and condescension. The Session/Parish Council and minister should ensure that regular programmes of the church do not prevent children's full participation with the whole congregation in worship, in Word and Sacrament, on the Lord's Day. Christian education should facilitate participation in worship.

3.2 Days and Seasons

3.2.1 Days

God has appointed one day in seven to be kept holy, set aside as the occasion for the people of God to worship corporately. God has also commended daily worship by the people, whether gathered in assembly or at home.

3.2.2 Church year

God's work of redemption in Jesus Christ offers the Church a central pattern for ordering worship in relationship to significant occasions in the life of Jesus and of the people of God. The Church thus has come to observe the following days and seasons:

Advent, a season to recollect the hope of the coming Christ, and to look forward to the Lord's coming again;

i. Christmas, a celebration of the coming of Christ;

ii. Epiphany, a day for commemorating God's self-manifestation to all people;

iii. Lent, a season of spiritual discipline and preparation, beginning with Ash Wednesday, anticipating the celebration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ;

iv. Holy Week, a time of remembrance and proclamation of the atoning suffering and death of Jesus Christ;

v. Easter, the day of the Lord's resurrection and the season of rejoicing which commemorates his ministry until his Ascension, and continues through

vi. Pentecost, the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

The Church may also observe other days such as the Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration of the Lord, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, and Christ the King.

3.2.3 Other Seasons

Human life in community reflects a variety of rhythms which also affect Christian worship. Among these are the annual cycles of civic, seasonal, agricultural, school, and business life; special times of family remembrance and celebration; and the patterns of a variety of cultural expressions, commemorations, and events. The Church in carrying out its mission also creates a cycle of activities, programmes, and observances. While such events may be appropriately recognised in Christian worship, care shall be taken to ensure that they do not obscure the proclamation of the gospel on the Lord's Day.

3.3 Service for the Lord's Day

3.3.1 Appropriate Actions in the Service for the Lord's Day:

i. Scriptures

The Scriptures are read and proclaimed. Lessons are generally read from both Testaments. Scriptures are interpreted in a sermon or other form of exposition.

ii. Prayer

Prayer is offered. Prayers may be offered to lead the congregation in its prayers. The congregation's participation may be affirmed by a corporateresponse, "Amen." Prayer forms may encourage the participation of the worshippers through unison and responsive, bidding and spontaneous prayers. Times of silence may be provided for prayer and meditation.

iii. Music

Music may serve as presentation and interpretation of Scripture, as response to the gospel, and as prayer, through psalms and canticles, hymns and anthems, and spiritual songs.

iv. Baptism

The Sacrament of Baptism is administered as people present children or themselves for initiation into the Church.

v. Lord's Supper

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is celebrated regularly and frequently as determined by the Session/Parish Council.

vi. Tithes and Offerings

The tithes and offerings of the people are gathered, received, and dedicated.

vii. Special Times

Times for gathering, greeting, and calling to worship; for sharing common concerns; and for blessing and sending forth are provided at points in the service suitable to the life of the particular congregation.

viii. Special Services

Services of receiving new members; of ordaining, inducting, and commissioning; of making and renewing covenants; and of recognising and sharing life's transitions are provided as called for in the life of the congregation.

3.3.2 Ordering the Actions

i. Setting an Order for Worship

In setting an order for worship on the Lord's Day, the minister with the concurrence of the Session/Parish Council shall provide opportunity for the people from youngest to oldest to participate in a worthy offering of praise to God and for them to hear and to respond to God's Word.

ii. A Suggested Order

The order offered here is a logical progression, is rooted in the Old and New Testaments, and reflects the tradition of the universal church and our Reformed heritage. Other orders of worship may also serve the needs of a particular church or occasion and be orderly, faithful to Scripture, and true to historic principles. All worship should be theologically structured and have dramatic movement. Orders of worship may be presented in terms of the two basic movements of Word and Sacrament, or the three movements of Approach, Word, and Response. However the order is presented, the basic components and dramatic movement remain the same.

The order that follows is presented in terms of five major actions centered in the Word of God;

a. gathering around the Word;

b. proclaiming the Word;

c. responding to the Word;

d. demonstrating the Word;

e. bearing and following the Word into the world.

3.3.3 Gathering Around the Word:

Worship begins as the people prepare for worship and gather. One or more of the following actions are appropriate: People may greet one another; people may prepare in silent prayer or meditation; announcements of concern to the congregation may be made; or music may be offered.

i. The people are called to worship God. Words of Scripture may be spoken or sung to proclaim who God is and what God has done.

ii. A prayer or hymn of adoration and praise is offered.

iii. A prayer affirming faith, acknowledging our humanity and confessing the reality of sin in personal and common life follows. In a declaration of pardon, the gospel is proclaimed and forgiveness is declared in the name of Jesus Christ. God's redemption and God's claim upon human life are remembered.

iv. The people give glory to God, and they may at this point share signs of reconciliation and the peace of Christ.

3.3.4 Proclaiming the Word:

In preparation for the reading, proclaiming, and hearing of God's Word, a prayer seeking the illumination of the Holy Spirit may be offered.

i. Scripture lessons suitable for the day are read by a minister, by a member of the congregation, or by the people responsively, antiphonally, or in unison.

ii. Psalms or anthems, and other musical forms or artistic expression which proclaim or interpret the Scripture lessons or their themes, may be included with the Word read.

iii. The Word is interpreted in a sermon preached or in other forms. This proclamation concludes with a prayer, acclamation, or ascription of praise. It is appropriate also to call the people to discipleship.

3.3.5 Responding to the Word:

i. Responding: Affirmation

The response to the proclamation of the Word is expressed in an affirmation of faith and commitment. A common affirmation may be offered by the congregation in spoken form or through singing a hymn or singing a creed of the Church. The choir/singing group may lead the congregation with an anthem or other musical form of affirmation. An opportunity for personal response may also be provided during this time.

ii. Affirming and Reaffirming Commitments

Response to the Word also involves acts of commitment and recognition. The Sacrament of Baptism may be observed. Baptised believers may be received as members of the particular parish as they make public their profession of faith for the first time, or as they reaffirm that faith or transfer their church membership. It is also appropriate to offer opportunities for individuals or the gathered congregation to engage in reaffirming the commitments made at Baptism.

iii. Other Acts of Commitment

Other acts of commitment which may appropriately be included as response to the Word are

 a. Christian marriage,

 b. ordination and induction of office bearers,

 c. commissioning for service into, and through, the Church.

iv. Acts of Recognition

It is appropriate as a response to the Word to recognise and give thanks for life and life's transitions,

 a. commemorating significant events in the lives of individuals and in the life of the community,

 b. celebrating reunions, and bidding farewell,

 c. noting and remembering the lives of those who have died.

v. Mission Concerns

Witness to faith and service and interpretation of the mission and programmes of the Church may be included in the service as a response to the Word. They should be presented in such a way as to reflect this response and may prepare for the people's prayers of intercession and supplication, as well as for their self-offering and gifts in support of the ministry of Christ and the Church.

vi. Prayers

As the people respond to the Word, prayers of intercession are offered for

 a.   the Church universal, its ministry and those who minister, that the world might believe;

 b.  the world, those in distress or special need, and all in authority, that peace and justice might prevail;

 c.  the nation, local communities, and those who govern them, that they may know and have strength to do what is right.

Prayers of supplication are offered for

 d.  the local church, that it have the mind of Christ in facing special issues and needs;

 e. those who struggle with their faith, that they be given assurance;

 f.  those in the midst of transitions in life, that they be guided and supported;

 g. those who face critical decisions, that they receive wisdom;

 h. those who are sick, grieving, lonely, anxious, that they be comforted and healed;

  i.  all members, that grace conform them to God's purpose.

Prayers are offered commemorating the faithful departed, thankfully remembering those who have died in the faith.

Prayers of confession may be included at this time. When the service does not include the Lord's Supper, prayers of thanksgiving are offered and the prayers are concluded with the Lord's Prayer.

vii.   Offerings

The tithes and offerings of God's people are gathered and received with prayer, spoken or sung. Signs of reconciliation and peace may be exchanged, if this was not done as a response to the Word of assurance of God's pardon. When the Lord's Supper is to be celebrated, gifts of bread and wine may be brought to the Table in thanksgiving for God's Word.

3.3.6 Demonstrating the Word: Sacraments

i.  Introduction

The Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are God's acts of demonstrating and sealing the promises of faith within the community of faith as the congregation worships, and include the responses of the faithful to the Word proclaimed and enacted in the Sacraments.

ii.  Baptism as the rite of Christian initiation

The Sacrament of Baptism, the sign and seal of God's grace and our response, is the foundational recognition of Christian commitment. It is appropriately celebrated following the reading and the proclaiming of the Word, and shall include statements concerning the biblical meaning of Baptism, the responsibility to be assumed by those desiring Baptism for themselves or their children, and the nurture to be undertaken by the Church.

 a. Commitments and Vows

Those desiring the Sacrament of Baptism for their children or for themselves shall make vows that

    i.  profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour,

    ii.   renounce evil and affirm their reliance on God's grace,

    iii.  declare their intention to participate actively and responsibly in the worship and mission of the Church.

The congregation shall

    i.  profess its faith,

    ii. voice its support of those baptised,

    iii. express its willingness to take responsibility for the nurture of those baptised.

An elder/parish councillor may lead the congregation in these professions and affirmations.

 b.  The Prayer

The minister of the Word and Sacrament offers a baptismal prayer. This prayer

    i. expresses thanksgiving for God's covenant faithfulness,

    ii. gives praise for God's reconciling acts,

    iii.  asks that the Holy Spirit

attend and empower the Baptism,
make the water a water of redemption and rebirth,
equip the Church for faithfulness. 

 c.   The Water

The water used for Baptism should be common to the location, and shall be applied to the person by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion. By whatever mode, the water should be applied visibly and generously.

 d.  The Words of Baptism

The minister shall use the name given the person to be baptised and shall baptise in the name of the triune God. The baptismal formula is:

"__________________, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

 e.   Other Actions

Care shall be taken that the central act of baptising with water is not overshadowed. Other actions that are rooted deeply in the history of Baptism such as the laying on of hands in blessing, the praying for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, anointing with oil, and the presentation of the newly baptised to the congregation may also be included. When such actions are introduced, they should be explained carefully in order to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

 f.  Welcoming

Declaration shall be made of the newly baptised person's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. The welcome of the congregation is extended. Whenever the service is so ordered, the Lord's Supper may follow Baptism at the appropriate time in the service.

iii. Lord's Supper:

 a.  Preparation

The congregation shall prepare themselves to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. If the Lord's Supper is celebrated less frequently than on each Lord's Day, it is appropriate to give public notice at least one week in advance. When the Lord's Supper is celebrated, the Table shall be prepared and the elements provided to be placed on the Table before worship begins or during the gathering of the tithes and offerings.

 b.  Bread

Bread common to the culture of the community should be provided to be broken by the one who administers. The use of the one bread expresses the unity of the body of Christ. Bread for the congregation may be broken from the same loaf or prepared in some manner suitable for distribution.

 c.  Cup

A cup and jug may be provided for the one who administers to use in presenting the cup. The use of a common cup expresses the communal nature of the Sacrament and reflects the consistent New Testament reference to a single cup. The use of the cup signifies the shed blood of Christ poured out for the world. The manner of distribution used by the particular community of faith may involve the provision of one cup or a number of cups suitably prepared for the people. The Session/Parish Council is to determine whether wine or grape juice is to be used. In making this decision the Session/Parish Council should be informed by the biblical precedent, the history of the Church, ecumenical usage, local custom, and concerns for health and the conscience of members of the congregation.

 d.  Invitation

The one administering shall invite the people to the Lord's Table. If the words of institution will not be spoken at the breaking of bread or included in the prayer of thanksgiving, they are to be said as part of the invitation.

 e.  The Prayer

The one administering is to lead the people in the prayer,

    i.  thanking God for creation and providence, for covenant history, and for seasonal blessings, with an acclamation of praise;

    ii.  remembering God's acts of salvation in Jesus Christ: his birth, life, death, resurrection, and promise of coming, and institution of the Supper (if not otherwise spoken,) together with an acclamation of faith;

    iii.   calling upon the Holy Spirit to draw the people into the presence of the risen Christ so that they

         a.  may be fed, 
         b.  may be joined in the communion of saints to all God's people and to the risen Christ, and
         c.  may be sent to serve as faithful disciples; followed by an ascription of praise to the triune God, and

    iv  the Lord's Prayer.

 f. Breaking Bread

The one administering is to take the bread and break it in the view of the people. If the words of institution have not previously been spoken as part of the invitation or in the communion prayer, they may be used at this time.

 g.  Presenting the Cup

The cup having been filled, the one administering is to present it in the view of the people. If the words of institution have not previously been spoken as part of the invitation or in the communion prayer, they may be used at this time.

 h. Distributing Bread and Cup

The elements are distributed in the manner most suitable to the particular occasion or custom of the local congregation determined in consultation with the Session/Parish Council.

 i. The Gathering

    i. The people may gather about the Table to receive the bread and cup; they may come to those serving to receive the elements; or those serving may distribute the elements to them where they are.

    ii. The bread may be broken from that on the Table and placed in the peoples' hands; people may break off a portion from the broken loaf or other bread offered for distribution; or they may receive pieces of bread previously prepared for distribution.

    iii. A common cup may be offered to all who wish to partake of it; several cups may be offered and shared; or individual cups may be prepared for distribution. Rather than drink from a common cup, communicants may dip the broken bread into the cup.

    iv. The bread and the cup may be served by ordained officebearers of the church, or by other church members on invitation of the Session/Parish Council or authorising governing body.

 j. Receiving the Supper

While the bread and the cup are being shared,

    i. the people may sing psalms, hymns, or other appropriate songs;

    ii. the choir/singing group may sing anthems or other appropriate musical offerings;

    iii. instrumental music suitable to the occasion may be played;

    iv. appropriate passages of Scripture may be read;


    v. people may pray in silence.

 k. Blessing After Supper

When all have communed and the remaining elements have been placed on the Table, the one administering leads the people in prayer, thanking God for the gift of Christ in the Sacrament, asking for God's grace to fulfill the pledges made by the people in the Supper, and making supplication for the coming of the promised Kingdom. The congregation sings a psalm, canticle, hymn, or spiritual song.

 l. Disposition of the Elements

When the service is ended, the communion elements shall be removed from the Table and used or disposed of in a suitable manner.

3.3.7 Bearing and Following the Word Into the World

i. Acts of Commitment and Recognition

 a. Acts of commitment to discipleship, declaration of intent to seek Baptism, and reaffirmation of the vows taken at Baptism are appropriate responses to the Word received in Sacrament. As the service comes to a close, other acts of commitment and recognition may be observed. People may make commitments to and be commissioned for specific corporate and personal acts of evangelism, compassion, justice, reconciliation, and peacemaking in the world.

 b. Those leaving the fellowship of a particular congregation

    i. to undertake these commissions; or

    ii. to move to another place may be recognised with a farewell. This also may be an appropriate time to remember those of the congregation who have died.

ii. Going in the Name of the Triune God

The worship concludes with a formal dismissal. This may include a charge to the people to go into the world in the name of Christ. It shall include words of blessing, using a trinitarian benediction or other words from Scripture, such as the apostolic benediction in 2 Cor.13:14. Signs of reconciliation and peace may be exchanged as the people depart.