What to Expect

What to Expect

Welcome to Covenant Presbyterian Church!

There are a handful of things ministers are supposed to say, all of them encouraging and true: “grace not works,” “community not isolation,” “love not hate,” “hope not despair.” As a church and as individuals, we pray and work toward these things. But something ministers rarely say, even though the Bible says it frequently, is “God, not you.” Humankind has a place in God’s creation, and it is a humble one. Jesus said it in Matthew 16 when he told the disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him; Moses said it in Deuteronomy 30 when he told Israel to choose life, not death (really a choice between worshiping God or themselves); and Paul said it when he spoke in Romans 1 about the fundamental error in all human history as “worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.”

One of our goals as a body of believers is to be intentional about loving God in a way that embodies His idea of us as “living sacrifices,” to whatever ends he may choose for us. Our tradition has a famous question and answer: “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We take that seriously, so we seek to preach and to know Christ and him crucified, to contribute to the health and growth of his kingdom, and to rest in the joy of our God-centered existence.

About Our Worship

This information is also available on pew cards in our sanctuary.
Hearing devices are available from the sound booth.

When the heavens and earth are renewed, we will worship God with full hearts as naturally as we breathe. Yet even now in worship we come to “ innumerable angels in festal gathering” and to “ God, the judge of all… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb.12:22-23). So our worship is characterized by reverence: “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (v.28). Our liturgy (order of worship) has a variety of influences, including the early church and Calvin’s Genevan liturgy. Our intent is not tradition merely, but to do all things “for the praise of his glory” (Eph.1:6,12). This is how we view worship: it is because of God and for God.

Why are kids with us?
The simplest answer is there is nothing in Scripture that would have us do otherwise. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14). Parents are charged with teaching the next generation to walk with God (Dt. 6:4-7, 20-25), and since worship is at the heart of walking with God, our kids learn “reverence and awe” by watching us worship. While we gladly abide with any extra commotion this creates, there are materials for kids (paper, lessons, crayons) in the shelf near the main entrance to the sanctuary, a cry room at the back of the sanctuary, and a nursery for ages up to 36 months.

Why do we kneel during confession?
Nearly everyone in the Bible either kneels, stands, or falls on their face to pray. Daniel gets down on his knees three times a day to give thanks to God (Dn. 6:10), Peter kneels to pray that Tabitha would rise from the dead (Ac. 9:40), Paul kneels to pray with the Ephesian elders for the last time (Ac. 20:36), and most powerfully, the Lord himself kneels before the Father in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:41). The Lord has given us bodies, and we use them to speak of “reverence and awe” for God.

Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week?
We love God and naturally want to participate in the body and blood of Christ, to commune with Him. There is participation in the “cup of blessing” and the loaf that makes us one as often as we gather together (1 Cor. 10:16-21). This was the practice of the apostolic church (Ac. 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:20). As Paul describes in 1 Cor. 11, the Lord’s Supper is the household meal of the family of God. Along with this, we speak of the sacraments (Baptism, Lord’s Supper) as “means of grace”—that is, ways that God imparts grace to His people. This is how we understand Paul’s usage of the words “partake” and “participate.” There is a bond that we have in Jesus Christ in this meal. We do not want less of grace, but more of it.

Why do we have both wine and juice in the Lord’s Supper?
We use wine because that’s what was used in the early church. The New Testament indicates this by exclusively using the word for the fermented drink. Outside of certain extraordinary measures, juice could not be kept without fermenting. In the history of the Church, juice did not come into usage until the mid-1800s when Thomas Welch figured out how to pasteurize it. We serve juice along with wine because many have grown up using juice in the Lord’s Supper.

Why do we use confessions and doctrinal statements in worship?
Truth is often easily accepted, taken for granted, then forgotten. In verse 3, Jude writes that while he had wanted to speak about “our common salvation” he found it necessary to urge his readers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” You might not think that in such an early hour, when the gospel was first being proclaimed, the faith would have had to be contended for, but that was the case. Truth is something that must be guarded and cherished. It’s fair to ask why we don’t use Scripture exclusively, rather than the occasional confessional restatement of Scripture. There are at least three reasons.

  • First, we often rephrase the statements and meanings of Scripture in our conversations and thoughts. We quote the Bible, but we also say things intended to capture its meaning. This is exactly what theology does and what confessions do. If we are going to do this—and we all do it—we ought to do it carefully and well.
  • Second, doctrinal statements guard us against our own biases and favorite teachings. The Westminster Confession of Faith (which is our doctrinal standard) was written by a group of men from various Protestant traditions. It is more balanced than any single believer or any small group of believers.
  • Third, the Bible itself contains doctrinal statements. The Greatest Commandment is a doctrinal statement that both Jesus and other rabbis of his day recognized (Mk. 12:28, Lk. 10:25). There are other statements as well, including 1 Cor. 15:3ff, 1 Tim. 3:16 and Php. 2:6-11. All this being true, we know the Westminster Confession is flawed (it says so itself in XXXI.iv) and never a replacement for the Bible.

What about the music?
Psalm 150 galvanizes us with its wide use of instrumentation, calling on all that has breath to praise the Lord. On a given Sunday you may hear everything from the majesty of our organ to the cadence of percussion and acoustic guitars. Whether we sing a hymn from the 4th century or a newly written song of praise, our aim is to reflect not only the breadth and language of Scripture, but the richness God has granted his people across 2,000 years. We strive for musical excellence, yet our highest hope is for the church to “shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Ps. 47:1), that the voice of his redeemed would resound long after instruments, styles, and genres fade.

What about the architecture?
It all has meaning. Everything in front (traditionally known as the chancel) speaks of Word and Sacrament. At the center of our worship is the Communion table, which says our worship of God is possible through the mediating work of Jesus Christ. He is the Head and heart of His Church. The pulpit is off to the side (as is the baptismal font), but raised higher than the table in order to indicate a balance of Word and Sacrament. Along with this, the curve of the pews becomes a room gathered around a Communion table and beneath a cross. The entire room is acoustically “bright” because worship is not a performance by the leadership of the church, but an act of God’s people. With a cement floor, the congregation is literally the loudest voice in the room. When we sing, when we read in unison, when we say “amen” to corporate prayers, we overpower the sound system, which is exactly what we wanted.