The Worship Services

In this article we hope to give you an impression of the worship services conducted by the Reformed Churches (restored) RCR.
The RCR consistories assemble ‘their’ congregation two times every Lord’s Day. In addition to these ‘regular’ worship services extra services are convened on ecclesiastical feast days e.g. Christmas Day, Good Friday, Ascension Day etc, as well as for the solemnisation of a marriage.

‘Order of Worship’

All of these worship services are structured according to one of the accepted ‘orders of worship’. Either the one of ‘Middelburg’ (1933) or the one of ‘Kampen’ (1975). These ‘orders of worship’ were named after the town the Synod convened at which a certain ‘order of worship’ was accepted. In the ‘Church Order’ we have agreed to keep to these two only (compare: in the widely used Canadian Book of Praise these are referred to as ‘A’ and ‘B’).

The worship services are conducted exactly as ‘prescribed’ by one of the above mentioned ‘accepted’ ‘orders of worship’. To many readers this might not be regarded as something special, yet, to us this is. The reason therefore is the ‘malpractice’ developed during the years preceding the Liberation of 2003. During those years, in many congregations, ministers and church councils experimented with al kinds of changes to the ‘order of the worship’. They did so mainly to keep the peoples’ interest. In Liberating, also from these practices, peace and uniformity were restored to the worship services throughout the country. Thus maintaining the worship services to be observed ‘decently and in good order’.

In this the worship service was also restored to the former structure. It is structured like a ‘covenantal dialogue’ between the ‘LORD and ‘His people’. He speaks to us in His Word and with His blessings. The people respond to His Voice by singing and praying.
Thus the services commence with the ‘Votum and Salutation’. To this the congregation responds by singing. In the morning this is followed by the reading of the ‘Covenant Law’, in the afternoon by the ‘Apostolic Creed’. To this the congregation submits itself by singing. This is followed by: the reading of the Scriptures, prayer, collections, singing, the reading of the text, the preaching and singing. The service is ended with: prayer, the closing psalm or hymn and the ‘Benediction’ (=blessing).
Usually the church-council-announcements are read before the church service commences.

Place of Worship

As yet, we have no church buildings of our own to conduct the services at. Therefore, in some places, a vacant church building was available and could be rented. Yet, such a location is not always at hand. Thus, in most places, the worship services take place in either, a ‘school building’, a ‘town hall’, or even in a ‘sport hall’. This often requires careful organisation and a lot of work. The seats, pulpit, organ, sound system etc. quite often need to be arranged the day before the worship services and ‘cleared up’ afterwards.

Certain Components

With just two ministers serving the entire ‘bond of churches’ more needs to be said about the subjects of preaching; the reading of sermons; and the administration of the sacraments.

The Sermon

We believe that the preaching of the Word –‘the Ministry of Reconciliation’ - ought to be at the centre of the worship service [see also the article ‘Acts of the Synod of Mariënberg’ by H. Griffioen]. This ministry is entrusted only to those holding the special office of Minister-of- the-Word. With just two ministers it often occurs that a sermon is to be read by an office-bearer or a thereto appointed member of the congregation. The sermons chosen for this purpose are selected with care. According to an ecclesiastical agreement these sermons should originate from ministers that endorse the Liberation of 2003, or from reformed ministers who are deceased.
Before the Liberation we were unaware of the vast amount of written sermons at hand. It really is a tremendous wealth! Even though most of these sermons date back quite some time, they are still very applicable today. By means of these rich, reformed sermons the church members are nourished and built up spiritually every Sunday.

Administration of the Sacraments

The two Sacraments, ‘Baptism’ and the ‘Lord’s Supper’ are administered by the minister only. As there are only two ministers, the continuity of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, in the various congregations throughout the country, requires a thorough coordination. Yet, because of this schedule it is still possible for every congregation to celebrate this sacrament four times a year. We are very grateful for this.

As there are also many young families spread across the various congregations baptism needs to be administered quite regularly. Unlike the ‘schedule for the Lord´s Supper’, a schedule for the ‘administration of baptism’ cannot be created a year in advance. Thus it cannot always be avoided that this sacrament is administered some period after a baby is born.

Joh. Houweling,