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Sacraments and Occasional Services

This resource guide is designed to orient researchers to materials held at the society that can inform and document a study of the historic forms of the administration of the sacraments and occasional services in American Presbyterian churches. Related resource guides cover Presbyterian common worship and hymnody. These guides are not intended to cover the theology and forms of worship used in contemporary churches. For information about current PC(USA) doctrine and practice, contact the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of Theology and Worship.

Overview
For a good survey of this topic, see:
 
Melton, Julius W. Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1967.
Call number: JKPRESS 1967-26
 
Journal articles
Winter, Robert Milton. “American Presbyterians, the Directory for Worship, and Changing Patterns of Sacramental Practice.” American Presbyterians 71:3 (1993): 141–158.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
 
Bynum, William  B. “‘The Genuine Presbyterian Whine’: Presbyterian Worship in the Eighteenth Century.” American Presbyterians 74:3 (1996): 157–169.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
 
Ramsey, David A. and R. Craig Koedel. “The Communion Season: An 18th Century Model.” Journal of Presbyterian History 54:2 (1976): 203–216.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
Dictionary and encyclopedia articles
For brief descriptions of Presbyterian and Reformed sacraments, see:
 
McKim, Donald K., ed. Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Entries: “Sacraments,” “Lord’s Supper.”
 
Davies, John G., ed. The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986.
Entry: “Baptism 14: Reformed.”
 
For other occasional services see:
 
Davies, John G., ed. The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986.
Entries: “Blessing of a Marriage,” “Marriage 13: Reformed,” “Burial 13: Reformed,” “Ordination 13: Reformed.”
 
McKim, Donald K., ed. Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Entries: “Confirmation/Admission to the Lord’s Supper,” “Marriage, Theology of,” “Ordination,” “Sacraments.”
 
Primary Sources
Denominational Records
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
0.5 cubic feet
Call number: RG 65
 
The committee was appointed by the 1902 General Assembly (PCUSA). The collection contains minutes, reports, publications, correspondence and manuscripts relating to the work of the committee. The services include: infant and adult baptism, first communion, regular communion, marriages, funerals, ordination, dedication of churches, special occasional services, and regular services for weekdays and Sundays.
 
Please note that PHS holds a number of unprocessed archival collections that are not described in the publicly accessible catalogs and indexes listed here. Access to these materials may be restricted. Please contact the reference staff for more information.
 
Congregation Records*
The “session” of a Presbyterian church is the governing body of the local church that has overall responsibility for the administration of its worship. Matters relating to church property, such as pew rents, organs, and building funds are usually (depending on state law and local custom) found in the minutes of the trustees—usually a separate board with separate records. Local church records are cataloged solely by the city which served as the church’s post office location. You may use CALVIN, our online catalog, to locate church records, or contact  the reference staff for assistance. 
 
*Access note: It is the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to restrict access to all official records on deposit at the Presbyterian Historical Society that are less than 50 years old. This restriction applies at the national, mid council, and congregation level. If you wish to access official records less than 50 years old, you must secure written permission from the records' owners. Please consult with the reference staff for further details.
Bibliography
Nichols, James H. Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968.
Call number: WESTPR 3912
 
Old, Hughes Oliphant. Worship that is Reformed According to Scripture. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984.
Call number: BX 9427 .O425 1984
 
Schmidt, Leigh Eric. Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.

(Second edition reissued as: Scotland and the Making of American Revivalism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001. Call number: BX 9189.C5 S36 2001)
 
Searching PHS Holdings

Researchers are encouraged to consult the society’s online and card catalogs and confer with reference staff to locate additional resources pertinent to their topics of interest. Please note that we hold a number of unprocessed archival collections that are not described in the publicly accessible catalogs and indexes listed here.

Guides to Archival Collections

CALVIN, our electronic catalog

  • Holdings are cataloged using Library of Congress Subject, Name, and Geographic headings. The following Library of Congress subject headings may be useful in locating works on sacraments and occasional service:

    Sacraments
    Communion
    Lord’s Supper
    Baptism
    Book of Common Worship
    Responsive Worship
    Occasional Services
    Easter Services
    Weddings
    Confirmation
    Ordination

Pearl, our online digital repository

Card Catalog: most published and manuscript materials cataloged by PHS prior to 1980 can be located using the card catalog in our reading room.