I begin this first letter of 2009 with a note of deep gratitude. So many of you responded generously in 2008, above any expectation, and this despite the economic downturn. Thank you ever so much.
This is our third newsletter devoted to John Calvin. I want very briefly to reflect on his approach to worship. May 21, 1536, the town of Geneva made an official decision “to live according to the Gospel and the Word of God.” Calvin lost no time in going to the heart of the city’s need. In January of 1537 he laid before the council some Articles for the organization of the church and its worship. It included the catechism of children, discipline, respect for the Lord’s Supper, and the singing of the Psalms in public worship.
Catechetical instruction would ensure the continuity of the church as an intelligent body of people down through the generations. Church discipline was a way to keep the preaching of the Word of God at the center, and also to guard against those who came to church only to pay lip service to divine forgiveness for immoral living. Calvin’s teaching of the Eucharist became a major Reformation statement: in it Christ was really present because of the preaching of the Word and the secret work of the Holy Spirit, not in a transfer of substance from him to the elements. Finally, the Psalms were sung as the prayers of the people, “so that the hearts of all may be aroused and stimulated.” Using beautiful and simple melodies, they had to be sung in the local language, never in Latin.
Although he would develop these points during his career, he would never stray from them. They are still the foundation for much of authentic Protestant worship today. See you in Geneva this Summer?
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President