The reformed service
of worship and the sacraments

The central part of the service of worship was the sermon, based on a text from the Bible. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were celebrated during the service, the latter four times a year.

The church service of worship

  • Lyons (69), interior of the Paradis temple (1564) © Fonds B.P.U. Genève

On Sundays, the Lord’s Day, Reformed Protestants must stop working and gather to listen to the Word of God ; they worship him – in French – “in spirit and in truth”. People gathered in the church, and two church services were held each Sunday.

Morning worship was held according to Calvin’s liturgy. The pastor presided over the service, focusing on reading of the Bible and preaching on chosen texts. Many of Calvin’s sermons were kept. The congregation sang psalms in unison, with the wording of Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze.

The afternoon service, for both adults and children, was based on Calvin’s catechism, presenting religious truths.

Baptism of young children – who thus entered into God’s covenant – was celebrated by the pastor at the end of the service, in the presence of the whole congregation.

According to the Geneva custom, the Lord’s Supper held four times a year : on Easter Sunday, on Whit Sunday, in September and at Christmas. The bread and the wine were distributed to the worshippers who had been taught the meaning of the sacrament. Those guilty of severe sins were momentarily refused the sacrament.

Family worship

  • Protestant family reading the Bible and singing in the 19th century © S.H.P.F.

A new religious practice developed by Coligny and included in the Church discipline as from 1565, was characteristic of Reformed Protestants : morning and evening family worship.

The father of the family gathered all the members of the household together for prayers, saying thou to God. They sang a psalm and he read a chapter from the Bible.

Bibliography

  • Books
    • CARBONNIER-BURKARD Marianne et CABANEL Patrick, Une histoire des protestants en France, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1998

Associated notes

  • Jean Calvin (1509-1564)

    A generation after Luther, the Frenchman Jean Calvin became the organiser of the Reformation : he organised the Church, shaped the doctrine and defined the role of the Church in state government.
  • Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605)

    Theodore Beza was one of the most prominent figures in the Reform movement. He supported Calvin and succeeded him as moderator, i.e. president, of the Company of pastors in Geneva....
  • Gaspard de Coligny (1519-1572)

    Gaspard de Coligny born in the influential Châtillon family, was naturally at the service of the King of France. However, after being made prisoner at the siege of Saint Quentin,...
  • Clément Marot (1496-1544)

    The famous 16th century French poet put into verse the biblical Psalms that were to be sung all over France and become the well-known Huguenot Psalter.
  • Reforms : theological debates

    The desire to reform the Church was very widespread in Europe in the 16th century, but there was no agreement on what changes to promote: how to reform, how far?...
  • Church organisation

    Initially, Reformed Churches were not institutionalised, but as from 1555, throughout Kingdom of France, they progressively conformed to the pattern Calvin had organised in Geneva.
  • On being a Protestant in 16th century in France

    During the second half of the 16th century, many reformed churches were created in France. Calvinist catechism and discipline brought about a new kind of person: a Protestant person.

Associated tours