FAQS ABOUT OUR WORSHIP
1. Why do we ring a bell before worship begins?
Beginning in the fourth century, bells were rung in cities loudly so the farmers in the fields would know when it was time to come into the city and worship. Bells were rung at various points in the day and it differed from city to city, but most Christians kept a fairly strict pattern of daily worship and prayer three times (Morning, Noon, Evening). The worship was corporate (public) and led by the priests and bishops of the city. We ring a bell as a reminder that we are beginning something important: the worship of the triune God.
2. Why do we stand for the reading of the Gospel? Isn't the whole Bible important?
While the whole Bible is important and is the written Word of God, we stand for the Gospel reading as a symbol of our belief that God's work through Jesus of Nazareth was unique, special, and critical to the salvation of the world. Jesus was not just another prophet, but the very substance of God made to be fully human. The Gospel accounts in our Bible reveal this Jesus to us and we stand to receive their testimony, acknowledging that God was doing something unique and decisive in the person of Jesus Christ.
3. Why does Rev. Novak wear a robe and a stole? Why does he wear a white robe sometimes?
When a doctor or a nurse or a dentist or a police officer arrives to work, they don vestments that symbolize their role in the community. Whether a white coat, scrubs, or a uniform, we depend on these vestments to help us know when the police officer is "policing" and when the doctor is "doctoring." In the Christian Church, vestments were used for the better part of two thousand years to symbolize those whom God has called to be ministers of the Word and Sacraments. It helps us know when ministers are leading the congregation in worship. Some robes/vestments are ornate, others are simple. Rev. Novak wears a simple black robe to keep with the Reformation practice of clergy wearing academic robes to indicate that faith and learning belong together. His stole changes color with the Church Year (see the next question).
On Communion Sundays, Rev. Novak wears an unbleached linen robe (alb) to express two things. First, it identifies with the person of Jesus Christ, who in the Gospel of John, wrapped a simple towel around his waist and served his disciples. Second, the white alb has been used historically to symbolize the Christian sacrament of baptism. Baptism in the name of the triune God is the sign and seal of entrance into the Christian church and is the only requirement Presbyterians have for those coming to receive Communion.
4. What do the colors in the sanctuary mean?
The colors in the sanctuary reflect the current season of the Christian Year (also called Church Year). For the Christian church, our new year begins with the season of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas) and ends the following November with Christ the King Sunday. During the course of the year, we tell two connected stories. From Advent through Pentecost, we tell the story of Jesus: his birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and his pouring out of the Holy Spirit. From Pentecost through Christ the King, we tell the story of the Church and explore what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Click here for a visual depiction of the calendar.
5. Where does Rev. Novak get the Scripture texts for his sermons?
Rev. Novak uses the Revised Common Lectionary to select the texts on which he preaches each Sunday. For centuries, the Christian church has recommended certain texts for certain seasons of the Christian year. The schedule of these readings is called a lectionary. For years, there were many different lectionaries in circulation. In the 1970s, following the Second Vatican Council, an ecumenical committee put together a standard lectionary called the Common Lectionary, which was then revised in the 1980s.
For each Sunday, four texts are suggested (an OT text, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel passage). Some weeks the four texts offer different perspectives on an event or topic and other weeks they are independent from one another. The RCL is divided into three years (A, B, C), and at the end of the three-year cycle, over 80% of Scripture will have been read aloud in worship.
For each year of the lectionary cycle, a different Synoptic Gospel (Year A: Matthew, Year B: Mark, Year C: Luke) is featured. The Gospel of John is used throughout all three years.