Frequently asked questions
What’s a Paschal candle? Who is responsible for choosing the hymns? Is it an altar or a table? Our frequently asked questions page seeks to demystify some of the basics of Presbyterian liturgical practice so that we may attend to the deeper mysteries of Christian worship.
The order of worship
- What is the order or shape of worship? What are the primary actions?
- Why do we have a confession of sin in worship?
Planning and leadership
- Who is responsible for planning worship?
- Should Presbyterian worship be traditional, contemporary or blended?
- Why can't I get the Book of Common Worship in an electronic format (ebook, PDF, smartphone app, etc.)?
The Christian year
- What are the liturgical seasons?
- Why does the planning calendar call May 25, 2008, the "8th Sunday in Ordinary Time" when there are no references to Ordinary Time in the previous weeks?
- Why is there a 50-day season of Easter?
The word in worship
- What is the lectionary? How do we use it?
- Do we need to include all the readings?
- Should there be a children’s sermon or other special worship activities for children?
- Where should we place the baptismal font?
- How do we baptize?
- What about rebaptism? Reaffirmation of baptism?
- What is christening and how does it relate to baptism?
- What is the Presbyterian practice regarding appointing godparents?
- Can someone who is not baptized be saved?
Sacraments: Lord’s Supper
- It is an altar or a table?
- Is it the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist or Communion?
- What is the proper method for the distribution of the elements in Communion?
- What is the Great Thanksgiving?
- How should we dispose of the Communion elements?
- Won’t more frequent celebrations of the Lord’s Supper make our worship services longer?
- What kind of Communion bread should we use?
- What items belong on the Communion table?
Pastoral rites and special services
- What is a service of wholeness and healing?
- How do we acknowledge a civil marriage in worship?
- Should the casket be open or closed?
- How do we use oil in services of wholeness and healing?
Signs and symbols
- What are the guidelines for the use of liturgical colors?
- What is the significance of the various clerical garments?
- Is it appropriate to have flags in worship?
- What is the history and use of the Advent wreath?
- What is the Paschal candle? When and how do we use it?
- Why is the seashell a symbol of baptism?
- What does "IHS" mean?
- What is the symbolism of palm branches?
Music, art and worship space
- What’s the difference between liturgical art and idolatry?
- Are there guidelines for what kinds of music are appropriate in Presbyterian worship?
- What should we take into consideration when arranging our worship space?