Spring 2009
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Thursday, 7-10 p.m

James Moiso

Jana Childers

Course Description
This course is designed to introduce students to the nature and practice of worship and the sacraments in the Reformed Tradition.  Using a case study approach, worship and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are studied biblically, historically, and theologically; and then in contemporary settings.  Worship and pastoral issues attendant to the celebration of weddings and funerals are examined.  Skills necessary to leading worship effectively are rehearsed. 

Student Learning Outcomes
At the conclusion of the course, the student will be able:

  • To describe the biblical, historical, and contemporary contexts of congregational worship in the Reformed Tradition:  the nature and purpose of worship, the celebration of baptism and communion.
  • To articulate a sense of the impact of cultural and political situations on the worship of the Church.
  • To analyze historic and contemporary tensions inherent in the theology and practice of congregational worship.
  • To evaluate the significance of elements present in worship (ritual, time, space, music, language, gesture, symbol) and to begin to use these evaluations to order liturgical choices.
  • To demonstrate knowledge of Reformed worship and sacraments required for the Presbyterian Church (USA) standard ordination examination in worship

Measuring Student Learning
Achievement of student learning outcomes will be assessed as follows:

  • The ability to describe the Tradition in its various contexts as assessed by the quality of the student’s work in the two visitation papers.
  • The ability to articulate the impact of culture and politics on the worship of the church is assessed in terms of the accuracy and completeness of observations made (in class discussion and in the four papers).
  • The ability to analyze tensions in the theology/practice of worship is evaluated on the basis of the breadth of description and identification of significant issues in the ‘tensions paper.’
  • The ability to evaluate the significance of the elements of worship is assessed in the construction of the Lord’s Day Liturgy.  Of particular interest is the student’s ability to apply his/her knowledge of the Reformed Tradition to contemporary liturgical formats.
  • The demonstration of general knowledge of the Reformed Tradition in worship will be assessed on the basis of participation in classroom discussion and mock ordination exams.

Required Texts
Burkhart, John, Worship:  A searching Examination of the Liturgical Experience.  Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1982.  ISBN 0-664-24409-2
Van Dyk, Leanne, ed.  A More Profound Alleluia. Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing, 2005.  ISBN 978-0-8028-2854-5
Long, Thomas G, Beyond the Worship Wars:  Building Vital and Faithful Worship.  Alban Institute, 2001.  ISBN 1-56699-240-0
Calvin, John, J.T. McNeill, ed  F.L. Battles, trans.  Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960.  ISBN 0-664-22028-2
Bower, Peter C. ed.  The Companion to the Book of Common Worship.  Louisville:  Geneva Press, 2003   ISBN 0-664-50232-6
Presbyterian Church, USA.  Book of Order, 2007-2009.  www.pcusa.org/marketplace

Recommended Texts
Presbyterian Church, USA, Book of Common Worship. (Office of Theology and Worship PCUSA)  www.pcusa.org/marketplace
Revised Common Lectionary:  Consultation on Common Texts
Old, Hughes Oliphant, Worship that is Reformed According to Scripture.  Atlanta:  John Knox Press, 2002.  ISBN 0-664-22579-9.
Vischer, Lukas, ed.  Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing, 2003

Course Requirements

  1. The class meets on Thursday evenings, 7-10, except March 26 (spring break) and April 16 (TV Moore Lecture).
  2. The written assignments include:
    • Two visitation reports (7-9 pages each)
    • One annotated Lord’s Day Liturgy (the service plus 5-7 pages of annotation)
    • One Tension Paper (10-12 pages)
    • Hard copies of papers are to be submitted on the dates each is due. 
  3. Lectures, presentations and discussions address the topics indicated in the schedule for the week.  Readings are always to be prepared prior to the particular class.
  4. Instructors will use your email address as the means of communicating with you electronically if necessary.  As needed, please use our seminary email to communicate with us.  (jchilders@sfts.edu; jmoiso@sfts.edu)   Instructors do not normally respond to emails after hours or on weekends.
  5. If you need special arrangements for meeting course requirements, please speak with an instructor at the beginning of the semester so that such arrangements can be made.

Class Calendar
February 5            Why worship?  The nature and purpose of worship; the motivations for and elements of worship.

February 12            Overview of the Service for the Lord’s Day
                                    Companion, pgs 2-81
Van Dyk pgs 1-54
                                    Book of Order, Directory for Worship, Ch. 1

February 19            Introduction to sacraments:  definitions, theological approaches, contemporary issues and significance.
                                    Van Dyk pgs 55-80
Vischer pgs 311-323
Calvin 4.14 and 4.19

February 26            The Lord’s Supper
                                    Van Dyk, pgs 109-132
Burkhart, Ch. IV
Old pgs 103-142
                                    Book of Order, Directory for Worship, Ch. II
                                    1st Visitation Report Due

March 5            The Lord’s Supper           
                                    Calvin 4.17, esp. 4.17.10

March 12            Baptism           
                                    Burkhart, Ch VI
Old pgs 9-27
Companion pgs 155-172
                                    Book of Order, Directory for Worship, Ch. III

March 19            Baptism
                                    Calvin 4.15,16, esp 4.15.21
                                    2nd Visitation Report Due

March 26            Spring Break, no class           

April 2                        The use of Music in Worship  (Dan Hoggatt, guest lecturer)
                                    Long, Beyond the Worship Wars


April 9                        Practicum on the Sacraments
                                    Review Companion, pgs 2-81
Burkhart, Ch I-III

April 16            Class attends TV Moore Lecture
                                    Annotated Lord’s Day Liturgy Due

April 23            Weddings, Funerals and other pastoral occasions
                                    Companion, pgs 208-272
                                    Book of Order, Directory for Worship, Ch IV

April 30            Liturgical Year; Lectionary
                                    Companion, pgs 82-154
                                    Van Dyk, pgs 133-153

May 7                        Worship as Spiritual Formation
                                    Van Dyk, pgs 83-108
Calvin, 3.20
                                    Book of Order, Directory for Worship, Ch VII

May 14            Practicum:  Use of Space and Movement in Worship
                                    Vischer, pgs 348-414

May 18, Monday            Tension Paper Due



Due:  Report #1 due Thursday, February 26
          Report #2 due Thursday, March 19

What:  7-9 pages each
Grading:  Based on reading, learnings from class discussion, observation and personal reflection.  This is both an academic and a practical-reflective exercise.

Christian corporate worship is an integrating practice at the center of the Christian life.  It both reflects and shapes our view of God, the world, and their relations.  It grounds, sharpens, and humbles the work the church does in every sphere of ministry, including education, pastoral care, evangelism, and justice.  And it gathers up every facet of our lives before God’s face—at work and play; at home, school, and marketplace; in times of joy and sorrow—and then sends us out to live in obedience and joy.  (Van Dyk, A More Profound Alleluia, ix)

Assignment:  Participate in and observe two worship services, one in the Reformed tradition  (Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church); and one in a less familiar tradition (i.e., Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Episcopal; Pentecostal, Quaker, emergent, non-denominational, Baptist, Lutheran)

This is an exercise in “seeing” worship from two traditions, in reflecting on readings and class discussions, and in communicating your thoughts.  We will have general class discussions about your visitation experiences.

Some guidelines:
Attend the main service of the week, often Sunday morning.  For some Roman Catholics, an early Saturday evening mass is the “main” service.  Arrive early so you can observe people gathering, leadership entering, etc.

You need not attend “in secret.”  If you are asked, introduce yourself as a seminary student with a class assignment.  If you have a chance following worship, express your appreciation to appropriate people for the opportunity to worship with them.  After worship, feel free to ask people questions.  Do not assume that something familiar means the same thing to them as it does in your more familiar worship experience.

Participate in the service.  You are there to worship God, through both a familiar and an unfamiliar tradition.  Do what is asked of guests:  name tags, etc.

You may attend a service with other classmates.  If you do, you may want to divide up the sample questions and then get back together to share what you saw/experienced.  It might be helpful not to sit together as a group.

The length of this paper is 6-8 pages.  Observations based on your reading and on your own visual, aural, olfactory, and kinesthetic participation are central to your paper.  Submit with the paper a copy of the bulletin or order of worship (if there is one—not just announcements, etc.).

As you prepare your paper, the following questions are meant to assist you.

1.  Worship Space.  Describe the physical worship setting.  Perhaps, include a small sketch of the floor plan.  Note its general appearance and your impression upon entering.  How does sound behave in it?
How is the space used?  Where is the focus (foci)?  Where are the most important places, the least?  What draws your attention?  What are the primary symbols?  Who and what are the primary agents of worship (people?  Organ?  Drum set?) ?  How do they relate to each other?

  1.  Liturgical Time.  What proportions of time are spent in various aspects of worship?  Does the worship acknowledge the church year, and if so, how?


  1. What Happens?  How do worshipers interact among themselves, with worship leaders?  Are there patterns in the way people enter and exit?  What is the relationship of people of various generations? 

Who are the worship leaders?  How do you know?  How are they organized spatially?  How do they interact with the congregation?  What do they do besides talk?  How are they dressed?
What was there to enable you to participate in the service (bulletin, people, hymn board, electronic screen, announcements)?  How important were these to your ability to worship?  Describe the congregation’s active and passive participation.

  1. Worship Parts and Flow.  What pattern, shape, or order do you see in the service—that is, what happened?  What are the important parts and how do you know?  How does worship begin and end?  Can you find out why worship is arranged that way, and how it compares with other traditions?


  1. “Holy” Connections.  What in the service helped people connect with the holy?  What mediated God’s presence?  How did you know?  Were any sacraments celebrated?  How?
  1. Sensory Connections.  What senses were engaged (including the intuitive/mystic one)?  Was there physical movement?  What kinds?  Who was involved?  What was the place of silence?  What about sounds and smells?


  1. Theology.  Looking at the whole service (and knowing it is only one and may not necessarily represent the congregation’s/clergy’s complete understanding), what did this service communicate about God?  The Trinity?  God’s relationship with people, the world?
  1. Anthropology.  What did the service communicate about human nature?  That is, what did you pick up about the relationship of humans to each other and to God-in-Christ?


  1. Church.  What did this service imply about the Church?  What is the Church, its role, its identity, its relationship with the world?
  1. Upon Leaving.  What implications did this service leave with people that might carry over into their everyday lives (ethics, relationship with God, social justice, outreach, personal faith)?


  1. Your Response.  What surprised you?  What was new to you, intrigued you, frustrated you?  What attracted or hindered your worship, in regard to the community or the liturgy?  What did you learn about worship, about yourself?

Due:  Monday, May 18
What:  10-12 pages

During this class, we will have explored, through readings, lectures and discussions, several of the many tensions inherent in the theology and practice of worship in the Reformed tradition.  In this paper, please identify one tension with which you would like to wrestle.  Using our readings, classes, and other resources, write an argument paper.  Identify the issues which create the tension (On the one hand….  On the other hand).  Then, make your case for a theology or practice which faces the tension, even while focusing on a particular direction.  Your discussion of both sides should include biblical and historical roots of the matter, the ways that scripture and tradition interact in this particular tension of worship, and its practical contemporary implications.

For example, Professor Dan Hoggatt will lead one of our classes, discussing music in Reformed worship.  The book by Tom Long deals with the subject.  Perhaps your tension question might be:  “What types of music are appropriate for worship?”  The paper would look at a number of issues:  the nature of worship in the Reformed tradition, aesthetics, theological content, worship context, relationships of harmony or unison singing, etc.  The paper would conclude with a music proposal by you, and why.

Here are some other examples.  The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather, indicative.  It is permitted to select an actual problem-tension in a congregation you know.  Or, you can choose something that interests you and explore it.


  1. In the purest sense, the focus of  Reformed worship is God.  Yet we live in a consumer society.  How do we understand and deal with this?
  2. Baptism is a sign of a person’s faith in Jesus Christ; yet infants cannot make that affirmation/decision.  So, what does baptism do?
  3. In describing the furniture on the chancel, many refer to the communion table as the altar.  How do we understand communion, and what difference does it make?
  4. We believe in “the priesthood of all believers.”  Yet we ordain particular people as clergy.  For many church members, this gives clergy a different status, especially in worship.  How do we deal with the oneness of our call in Christ and the difference in status?
  5. Most congregations in the United States have an American flag in the sanctuary.  Fewer have a Christian flag.  Explore the tension between citizenship in a particular nation and citizenship in the realm of Christ.

Feel free to talk with either class instructor about a particular tension issue you would like to explore.



Due:  April 16
What:  The liturgy plus 5-7 pages of annotations
      -Demonstrate familiarity with denominational resources, Reformed worship
      -Clarity and coherence of written expression
      -Integration of course content and readings

Part I:  The Liturgy
-Write an order of worship for a Sunday morning service—the main service of worship for your congregation.
-The service may be designed for your home church, for the congregation in which you are now working, or for an imagined congregation.
-The service should be representative of your denomination????? .  That is, lay persons and clergy of your denomination should recognize this service as one within your tradition.

The Order of Worship will include hymns or other opportunities for congregational singing:  name the source of the hymns (eg., Presbyterian Hymnal; Sing the Faith).  If they are not part of music normally used in worship at SFTS, include a copy of the words and music.

The Order of Worship will include prayers.  Write out the pastoral prayer (sometimes called the prayers of the people or bidding prayers, etc.  Written pastoral prayers are not necessarily part of every tradition (eg., Episcopal).  However, in this assignment, writing such a prayer is important.  The prayers should reflect the context of the church, in the midst of what is happening in the world when they are written.  Prayers of the day (collects) and of confession should also be written.

The Order of Worship will include scripture selections and also 3-4 sentences describing the possible focus of the sermon—how it will relate to the biblical texts, the congregation, the events of the world, and the rest of the service.

The Order of Worship will include all of the other parts of worship appropriate for your tradition:  i.e., sacrament(s), congregational responses, the offering, the sending and benediction.

Part II: Annotations

After you have designed the service, describe how you have done what you have done.  Comment on the context of the service, its theme, the season of the year.  In your step-by-step annotation, comment on the following.  They need not be in this order:

  1. What is the relationship between the individual and the community in this liturgy?
  2. How does this service relate to that particular congregation’s mission?
  3. Reflect on the various elements of worship in this service and how they contribute to its overall meaning and intent:  ritual, symbol, music, movement, language.  How did you make decisions about these elements?
  4. What particular leadership skills are necessary for this liturgy?
  5. How will the congregation be engaged in this worship service:  verbally, physically?  What is your reasoning behind such involvement?
  6. The physical space of worship.  Describe or diagram the place of worship:  pulpit and lectern, if any; chancel furniture; altar/table/font; pews/chairs; steps, aisles; gathering areas; musicians.  How does the space effect/shape that day’s worship?
  7. Sensory elements:  chancel/sanctuary art; incense; candles; bells, etc.


Footnotes are not necessary in this section, unless you use a specific source or quote a particular publication.

Finally, a concluding paragraph—A statement on the purpose of Christian worship.  If a friend, a non-churched person, asked you:  “Why do people go to church?  What is “worship” for, anyway?”, how would you respond, briefly?