The Genevan Psalter
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 for use in the
 Reformed Churches

The following liturgy for the Lord's Day is adapted from the forms prescribed by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, and draws on a number of other sources, including the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services. This particular liturgy is intended to demonstrate the various uses of the Psalms in the course of worship. In accordance with the wishes of John Calvin and the near universal practice of the church catholic in the first millennium, the ordinary weekly Lord's Day liturgy comprises both word and sacrament. The words of the congregation are in bold letters.  At the beginning of the liturgy all rise at the entrance of the ministers and elders.

Minister:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
People: Amen.
M: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made the heaven and earth. Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from Jesus Christ our Lord.
P: Amen.
M: And now as our Lord gives to us his peace, so let us pass the peace to each other, saying: The peace of the Lord be always with you.

At this point all pass the peace to each other in the name of the Lord, after which a psalm or hymn of praise is sung.


M:  God is light and in him is no darkness. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Let us therefore confess our sins before almighty God.

All kneel or sit for the general confession of sins.

P:  Most holy and merciful Father, we confess to you and to one another that we have sinned against you by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength; we have not fully loved our neighbours as ourselves; we have not always had in us the mind of Christ. You alone know how often we have grieved you by wasting your gifts, by wandering from your ways, by forgetting your love. Forgive us, we pray you, most merciful Father, and free us from our sin. Renew in us the grace and strength of your Holy Spirit, for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son, our Saviour. Amen.

[Instead of reciting the above general confession, all may sing the first two stanzas of Psalm 51 (Genevan) or a similar penitential psalm:


                  Your righteous judgement I have surely earned,
                  nor could I hope to flee your harshest sentence.
                  Guilty from birth and needful of repentance,
                  I to my sins have constantly returned.
                  Yet you desire that I your truth should know;
                  teach me your wisdom that I may live rightly.
                  Make me as pure as freshly fallen snow,
                  cleanse me with hyssop that I may shine brightly.


Lord have mercy upon us.  Christ have mercy upon us.  Lord have mercy upon us.]

M:  To all who confess themselves to be sinners, humbling themselves before God and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, I declare this sure promise: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


To be sung to the proper tune from the Strasbourg Psalter of 1539 or the Genevan Psalter of 1542.

M:  Therefore, as God's forgiven people, let us thankfully hear and obey his Law, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to live the new life.

All sing:     

                   No graven image shall you make,
                   nor to the lifeless idol pray.
                   Take not God's holy name in vain,
                   nor from his paths shall you stray. (Kyrie eleison.)

                   Joy in the sabbath rest he gives,
                   laying aside your daily cares.
                   Father and mother shall you love,
                   and render them what is theirs. (Kyrie eleison.)

                   Harm not nor hate the woman or man
                   whom God has granted life's sweet breath.
                   Keep faith with those whom you have vowed
                   to love and cherish till death. (Kyrie eleison.)

                   Take not another's earthly goods.
                   From all deceit your tongue must flee.
                   Seek not what is your neighbour's own,
                   nor covet his property. (Kyrie eleison.)

                   Teach us, O Lord, to love your Law:
                   write all its precepts on our heart,
                   that we may live obediently
                   and from your ways not depart. (Kyrie eleison.)



The reading of the Word outlined here presupposes the use of the three-year common ecumenical lectionary in choosing scripture texts.  If a lectio continua is used instead, the following format will be altered accordingly.

M:  Let us pray.
Almighty God, grant us your Spirit, that we may rightly understand and truly obey your Word of truth. Open our hearts that we may love what you command, and desire what you promise. Set us free from private distractions that we may hear, and from selfish pride that we may receive the promise of your grace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
P:  Amen.

Old Testament lesson:

Reader: This is the Word of the Lord.
P:  Thanks be to God.

At this point a psalm is sung or said.

The Epistle lesson:

R:  This is the Word of the Lord.
P:  Thanks be to God.

At this point a psalm is sung or said.

The Gospel lesson:

R:  The Gospel of our Lord.
P:  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

A psalm, canticle or hymn is sung at this point (e.g., a stanza from Psalm 119) in response to the reading of the Word of God.


A sermon is preached based on one or more of the scripture texts read above. Following the sermon another psalm, canticle or hymn is sung.


M:  Let us together confess the faith of the church at all times and in all places.

All:  I believe in God, the Father almighty....

Or at this place a metrical version of the creed may be sung instead:


Prayers are here offered for the coming of the kingdom, for the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, for the denomination and for the local parish, for the needs of the world and of the nations, particularly of the poor, for an end to persecution, for the sick, for the distressed, for those in authority, for families, schools, teachers, for rain to water the earth, for those who till the soil, etc.  After each intercession the following may be said:

M:  Lord, in your mercy,
P:  hear our prayer.


M:  Lord, hear our prayer,
P:  and let our cry come to you.

At the end of the intercessions the Lord's Prayer may be said or sung.  Alternatively the Lord's Prayer may be placed at the close of the eucharistic prayer (see bracketed phrase below).

M:  And now, let us gather our prayers together in the prayer our Saviour Christ has taught us:




M:  Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospels tell us that on the first day of the week, the day on which our Lord rose from the dead, he appeared to some of his disciples and was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Come, then, to the joyful feast of the Lord.

  The Lord be with you.
P:  And also with you.
M:  Lift up your hearts!
P:  We lift them up to the Lord.
M:  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P:  It is worthy and right so to do.

M:  It is our joy and our peace, at all times and in all places to give thanks to you, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Christ our Lord. We bless you for your continual love and care for every creature. We praise you for forming us in your image and calling us to be your people. We thank you that you did not abandon us in our rebellion against your love, but sent prophets and teachers to lead us into the way of salvation. Above all we thank you for sending Jesus your Son to deliver us from the way of sin and death by the obedience of his life, by his suffering upon the cross, and by his resurrection from the dead. We praise you that he now reigns with you in glory and ever lives to pray for us. We thank you for the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth, defends us in adversity, and out of every people unites us into one holy church. Therefore with the whole company of saints in heaven and on earth we worship and glorify you, God most holy, and we sing with joy.

All sing the Sanctus:   

M:  We give thanks to God the Father that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, before he suffered, gave us this memorial of his sacrifice, until his coming again. For the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said: "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup after supper, saying: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

All sing:     Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:
                  Christ has died,
                  Christ is risen,
                  Christ will come again.

M:  Heavenly Father, show forth among us the presence of your life-giving Word and Holy Spirit, to sanctify us and your whole church through this sacrament. Grant that all who share the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ may be one in him, and remain faithful in love and hope. And as this grain has been gathered from many fields into one loaf, and these grapes from many hills into one cup, grant, O Lord, that your whole church may soon be gathered from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom. [And now, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray:

All:  Our Father, who art in heaven . . . .]

M:  The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
  We who are many are one body, for we all share the same loaf.
M:  The cup for which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.
P:  The cup which we drink is our participation in the blood of Christ.

M:  Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord has prepared his table for all who love him and trust in him alone for their salvation. All who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and who desire to live in obedience to him, are now invited to come with gladness to the table of the Lord.

All:  Holy Father, in thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in the joy of his resurrection, in the hope of his coming again, we present ourselves a living sacrifice and come to the table of our Lord.

M:  The gifts of God for the people of God.

At this point all come forward and take their seats around the Lord's Table to receive the bread and wine.  Psalms, hymns and canticles may be sung during the reception.

M:  Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for a complete remission of all our sins.
Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for a complete remission of all our sins.

After all have been served and returned to their seats, a thanksgiving psalm, Psalm 103 set to the Genevan tune, is sung.  (Psalm 113, which was used in Zürich at this point in the liturgy, may also be sung.)

M:  Congregation in Christ, since the Lord has fed us at his table, let us praise his holy name with thanksgiving.

All sing:     

                  He crowns your days with love and mercy tender,
                  to you in need his blessings he will render.
                  With eagle's vigour he renews your youth.
                  Justly the Lord will cancel all oppression.
                  As he to Moses sent his revelation,
                  so to his people he proclaims his truth.


                  Above all nations is the Lord
                  exalted and by all adored;
                  his glory far surpasses heaven.
                  Who with the Lord our God compares?
                  He is enthroned above the spheres,
                  he gazes down on earth and heaven.

M:  The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.
P:  Amen.

M:  Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
P:  Thanks be to God.

All sing the Nunc Dimittis at this point.  To be sung in either the Genevan version or to a common metre or double common metre melody.

All sing:     

                   For you’ve prepared in love
                   a Light sent from above
                   to shine on every nation;
                   a Light revealed to be
                   the glory that we see
                   and Israel’s consolation.




Versifications of Psalm 51, Decalogue, Psalms 103 and 113, and the two versions of the Nunc Dimittis © David T. Koyzis

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