In addition to the hymns that we sing in a service, there is also other music known as service music. In our Sunday service, the service music consists of the Introit, the Prayer for Illumination, the Doxology sung when the Offering is being brought forward, and the Choral Amen at the end of the service. Unlike hymns, service music generally does not change from week to week, although it can vary throughout the year.
The Introit can be either a doxology (a brief song of praise), such as “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name”, or a single verse of a hymn that relates to the theme of the day or the season of the year.
The Prayer for Illumination is a prayer asking God to speak to us through the scripture readings, theme time, and sermon. The Doxology is a brief song of praise that is sung as the offering is brought forward for dedication — which is appropriate, since the offering is an act motivated by our gratitude to God for his blessings. It’s traditional to use the words “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (which, in our hymnbook, is set to two different tunes), but any doxology (expression of praise) would certainly be appropriate.
The Choral Amen at the end of the service is a response to the Commissioning and Blessing. “Amen” is a Hebrew word expressing agreement; so by singing the Choral Amen, the congregation indicates that it accepts the Commissioning and Blessing that the minister has just spoken.
Some congregations have more service music in their worship than we do, while others have less, or even none at all. It is purely a matter of preference and taste.
Worship would be very “dry” without music! The singing of praises to God is a tradition that goes way back to Old Testament times. Actually, hymns can be not only expressions of praise to God, but also prayers to God, or proclamation or teaching — it all depends on what the words of the hymn actually say.
In the Middle Ages, the predominant style of singing was “plainsong”, also called “Gregorian chant”. During the Reformation, Presbyterians invented a new style of singing, the “metrical psalm”, in which biblical texts (mostly psalms) were paraphrased and set to tunes with a regular “meter” (a set number of syllables per line of music). Most of the first 108 hymns in our hymnbook are metrical psalms, and many of those texts and tunes go back to the 15- and 1600s, such as “All people that on earth do dwell”, #65 (= Psalm 100). Early Presbyterians frowned on the singing of anything other than metrical psalms (that is, any text that wasn’t from the Bible). It wasn’t until the 1800s that the singing of other hymns started to become acceptable in Presbyterian worship. Gradually, Presbyterians began adopting hymns from other denominations. Many of the hymns that are now considered “good old hymns” date from the 17- and 1800s. Hymns continue to be written and composed today, and the current edition of our hymnbook includes a number of 20th-Century hymns.
Early Presbyterians favored congregational singing as opposed to choral singing, so choirs didn’t become popular in Presbyterian congregations until the 1800s. In the 1800s as well, there was a great debate in the Presbyterian Church over whether it was appropriate to use pipe organs in worship. Many Presbyterians at the time felt that only unaccompanied singing was proper, since the New Testament never mentions the use of musical instruments in worship; therefore they considered the organ an unwelcome innovation. Others, however, felt that the use of organs would make church music more appealing to younger people! Nowadays, congregations have the same kind of debate over “praise bands”.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada published 3 editions of its hymnbook in the past century — all entitled The Book of Praise — in 1918, 1972, and 1997.
Presbyterians have traditionally considered the Sermon to be the highlight of the worship service. Some even go so far as to judge the quality of the entire service on the basis of the sermon! We believe that God speaks to us through the sermon, just as he speaks to us through the scripture readings. There should always be a solid link between the sermon and at least one of the scripture readings in any given service. Preaching is a time-honored method of communicating a message from God to people orally. It was used by both Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles — and by Jesus himself. Living Faith, our church’s statement of faith, says, in part: “The Holy Spirit enables God’s Word to be heard in the word of preaching. … Preachers must be servants of the Word; those who listen should pray for those who speak. They must be hungry to hear what the Lord has to say. The spoken word is food for all believers.” (Living Faith 7.4)
Two widely-used types of preaching are topical preaching and expository preaching. In topical preaching, the preacher chooses a topic, and then, finding one or more passages of scripture that speak to it, he/she addresses the topic in the light of what the biblical passages say. In expository preaching, the preacher chooses a passage of scripture, and bases the sermon on themes and insights found in that passage. A brief sermon is often called a meditation, a homily, or a reflection.
Similar to the sermon is Theme Time, which is addressed to the children of the congregation. Like the sermon, it is a part of the service in which God speaks to the people through the worship leader. Generally, Theme Time is more interactive than the sermon, and makes use of a visual aid or of some kind of experience in discussing a particular theme. Ideally, the theme of Theme Time should be related to one or more of the scripture readings for the day, and to the theme of the sermon.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
ANNUAL ROBBIE BURNS SUPPER
17 Royal Road South
Portage la Prairie
January 25, 2014,
The Norberg Brothers Pipers from Meadows
The McHarg Highland Dancers from MacGregor
$15.00 at the door