Presbyterians follow their past all the way back to the Protestant Reformation as well as to the 16th century. Their heritage and a great deal of what they accept as true and have faith in began with the French Lawyer we know as John Calvin whose writings made clear of a lot of the Reformed thinking that came before his time. A lot of the early Presbyterians in America originated from England, Scotland and Ireland. The first Presbyterian movement in America was in Philadelphia around 1706. The first assembly of the movement was also held in the Philadelphia except it came many years later, in 1789, it was called together and assembled by the only reverend/minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, Rev. John Witherspoon. The Presbyterian religion and the Presbyterian followers are individual in two major ways: one is they stay with a outline of religious thought called Reformed theology and two is they have a form of government that emphasis’ the active, figurative leadership of both church leaders, ministers and church members/followers. Reformed theology is a certain way of thinking of god’s existence and how god has to do with the world itself. The reformation theology believes that god is the supreme ruler over everything and that human’s main purpose in life is to please god and enjoy his presence. A major difference between Presbyterians and other religions is that they believe in total equality for all people and they give the woman of their communities their own work and even their own lives. Presbyterians as I have learned are very much into doing what they believe. They are doers as well as believers. They believe the deliverance of helping all of humankind with shelter, nurture, as well as the spiritual need of god. They also believe in the continuation of worship and the
Reservation of the truth, to keep on helping what is right in the world. Not only do they believe in preaching to help others but they also follow through with their beliefs through their actions. Through there structures of synods, presbyteries, and their General assembly, they do missions to help others. The general Assembly are people who coordinate and provide services for others for example Mission Support Services, Congregational Ministries Division, National Ministries Division, Presbyterian Investment and Loan program and things like that. Not only do Presbyterians give themselves to serve god, they give themselves to serve others whom they are needed by. The very purpose of the Presbyterians is to share their love of god and Jesus with their words as well as their actions all throughout the world. Presbyterians take on in mission activities, look for ways to improve hunger, encourage self-development, take action to disasters, support mission works, preach the gospel, heal the ill, and educate the younger generations for the future. The Presbyterian Church that I went to is called the Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church. They also share the location of their church with the Valley Iranian Church. The Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church is a biblical church where they are taught and preach the Holy Scriptures. It’s through those Scriptures that they come to know and love Jesus Christ. They encourage their congregation to study and read God’s word thoroughly in, which I presumed they meant the bible. The goal of the church is to follow Jesus Christ who is both their lord as well as the person who saved them. They believe that following Jesus Christ is the most important decision a person can and will ever make.
II. Presbyterian worship
Many different things determine the arrangement of worship in a Presbyterian church on a Sunday. For one, the Pastor for two, the members and followers of the church that are present, and thirdly it also is determined the church’s influential majority. Like most Presbyterian churches, the Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church includes its service with prayer, music, reading the bible, as well with a sermon at the conclusion of the service that was based upon the scripture that had just been read. There was something I found particularly interesting and it was called the Sacraments, which by definition is “outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification“. When it came time for Sacraments in the church it gave the congregation an opportunity for individual and private reaction and response as well as a time for the sharing of the community concerns to be brought up as part of the worship. The foundation in which the Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church implies that worship and praying is to be structured of five major events based on the word of God. These five major events based on the word of god are gathering around the word, proclaiming the word, responding to the word, the sealing of the word, and bearing and following the word into the world. However all though they follow these five events based on the word of god they also realize and distinguish that there are other ways of worship that may fulfill the needs of other people’s faith and beliefs.
III. Prayer, Music, Scripture, Preaching, Sacraments, and Offering
The way the Presbyterians was very different from how I’m used to praying within my own religion. It was different and quiet the experience to understand what they where doing. Prayer Is just not praying to them, it’s a way of life, it’s part of their soul and is at the center and main part of their worship. Through prayer and through the holy spirit (whom I think I have learned to believe is what they believe to be one of the three parts of god) people try to find and are often found by the one person whom they believe is the “true god” and that person has been exposed to them as Jesus Christ. While praying the Presbyterians wait for god, they listen for him to speak to them to connect with them. I remember thinking it was weird that they call god by name and actually talk to him. They also when they pray remember all the things that god has done to help save them, that he has sacrificed in order for us to be of a happier place. The strangest thing to me was when they offered themselves to god, because in Judaism we don’t do that. There were different ways they used to express there prayers, at times they just read and spoke the prayer, or sang, or just a moment of silence for private reflections. The Word of God in scripture helps to form prayer, however I learned that prayer is often the center of the Presbyterians life and of there own personal spiritual beliefs.
For the people at Woodland Hills Presbyterian Church Song and Music is a way in which you able to put your whole entire self into it, your mind, body and soul. The music in the church I could see with my own eyes was a time you where able to connect with god in a totally different way. Song brings even more unity to a community, which is already closely nit. The church encouraged its people to sing along with the choir and with the other musicians that they had. I don’t remember the name of the instruments but they had a couple of things other then the keyboard assisting them with there. Although music is allowed in the church it is used only for praying and worship purposes only, if the music is used for anything other then that such as entertainment, it is considered disrespectful to both the congregants and to the church, and to god himself.
The scripture is what confused me the most about reaching out and learning about a new religion, I was most confused by what exactly the scripture was, I mean I had a vague idea but it still confused me. From my understanding the scriptures are believed to be the Word of God that is actually written and in which it is a witness to god’s self-revelation. It is here in which we learn that Jesus Christ, the living form of God himself is an hidden witness of the holy spirit. The scripture itself are a main focus and a main importance for not only Christian worship and praying but also for Presbyterian followers. When it comes to the scripture to be read for a particular service the minister
or pastor in the case of this church to decide on which scripture will be selected for the service. Usually the complete variety of psalms ought to be used during the worship. For some reason which I’m not entirely sure but the pastor told me that the sections that where chosen to be read are usually directed by the season of the church year, which I don’t quiet understand.
The sermon or what the pastor/minister is preaching in services is based upon the written word; it’s the declaration of scripture in the confidence and belief that through the Holy Spirit Jesus is present in our lives. Not only is it preached that but it is also taught and told that Jesus Christ offers grace to all and is asking for a certain degree of obedience from us in which we must obtain. Sermons are not mean to be any glorious and out down speech, they are meant to be simple, and down to the point.
The Sacraments in which I mentioned earlier is a way to show on your outside grace which was organized so to speak by Christ in order to show the followers dedication. The purpose of this part of the ceremony or well rather of the service on Sundays is to able the members of the congregation and the follows a chance for both private responses to their dedication and love for Jesus Christ as well as for the communities overall consensus as well as concerns that need to be brought up during worship. It seemed like all religions their where people who questioned parts of what they were learning and this was one of the appropriate times to address them or to think about them privately.
Through everything I’ve learned and research the Presbyterian community is a very tight community in which they believe in giving of themselves to better the community and to show their true dedication and love to god and Jesus. By offering themselves to Jesus and to god and their life style they believe they where devoting themselves to being better people and I believe that that is true.
From the moment I entered into the church building I felt immediately comfortable within the surroundings and with the pastors who happened to be married. There was also a missionary in residence in which I arrived I had no idea what it was but then learned that it was basically someone who was in charge of making all the activities and in charge of planning church events. While I was there I talked to a couple of the members and one of them kind of offended me, not in she was rude or anything just in how she was shocked that I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. She then continued on trying to not necessarily convert me but to force her beliefs on me. Personally I was kind of uncomfortable and found this a bit weird because although I have my own beliefs I would never try and change someone’s mind about there’s. Maybe educate them but never go out intentionally trying to convert someone to become Jewish. The church took place where the pastors sat up on a podium like thing and there was a stand in the front where they
gave their sermon. The congregation sat in seats facing the podium so that they could hear and see the pastors. The building itself was to put it honestly, quiet simple yet nice.
- Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt: A Theological Survival Guide for Youth, Parents, and Other Confused Presbyterians by Ted V. Foote, P. Alex Thornburg
- Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers: Exploring Christian Faith by Donald K. McKim
- Presbyterian Polity for Church Officers by Joan S. Gray, Joyce C. Tucker
- Presbyterians, Their History and Beliefs by Walter Lee Lingle, John W. Kuykendall