What follows is a sample liturgy of the Hungarian Reformed Church as posted here. It reflects a Hungarian usage put into English which is very similar to what Hungarian Reformed Churches in the Unites States and Diaspora practice. It’s roots go back to the Reformed liturgies of Strasbourg and Geneva which have similar structures.
Another point about the following liturgy must be made. As noted by the Synod Presbyter, Lehel Deak (Calvin Synod, term expires 2010),
“The Confession of Sin and the Absolution are practiced in the Transylvania (Erdélyi) Reformed Churches. I have the Liturgical Compilation of the Reformed Church of Hungary,the first edition of which was published in 1985, – it does not have these two elements as part of a regular liturgy.
In the First Hungarian Reformed Church of New York City, US, we use the Confession of Sins, where the congregation prays in unison Calvin’s prayer, during our Repentance Services, held the Friday before any Sunday when we would partake in Holy Communion.”
Others, like Dr. Edwin Elliott, publisher of the Calvin Synod Herald – echoing Synod Presbyter James Ballas (Calvin Synod, term expired 2007), have noted significant variations in worship practice by region. Depending on the region, the liturgy may be relatively simple and composed mainly of Psalms, scripture reading, sermon and prayer after a form of the “votum” or “our help” from Psalm 124:8 – “Our help is in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” followed by an invocation prayer said in unison with the congregation standing (per Ballas). In this regard some Hungarian Reformed services are more akin to the Reformed worship of the Scots Presbyterian Westminster Directory.
At the other end of the spectrum, one might consider the worship at Synodical gatherings to be a relatively “high” form of the Hungarian Reformed worship, if only because such gatherings are composed of individuals who presumably love the worship of the church, who are skilled in song, and who are accompanied by well trained organists. In such instances, Americans familiar with a variety of worship styles would consider it somewhat “higher” than the simple format mentioned in the preceding paragraph. It would approach in solemnity and dignity a service conducted with a strict adherence the rubrics as found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Lacking would be the vestments, making the sign of the cross, the signing of the entire service, and other additions to the BCP rite never mentioned or authorized in the rubrics, but often employed in modern Anglican churches. Though by liturgical standards the Hungarian Reformed services are relatively “low” church, to many American evangelicals, they will likely seem “high” and solemn, yet edifying, if the worshiper attends to hear the Word of God read and preached and sing substantial songs instead of being entertained.
The Order of Worship in the Hungarian Reformed Church
Invocation (the congregation stands for the Invocation and responds as always loudly with: Amen.)
Pastor: Our help comes from the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the holy Trinity, the one true God. Amen
Apostolic Greeting (with hands lift up high)
Pastor: Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father, and from Jesus Christ, who gave himself on behalf of our sins, to deliver us from the present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. Glory to him for ever and ever. Amen.
Pastor: Let us sing for God’s glory hymn no. …. , stanzas… The stanza … of the song … begins as follows:…
Lesson (the congregation may be seated to listen to the reading)
Pastor: Dear brothers and sisters, listen to the Word of God, as is written down in … (book, chapter and verses):….
(From time to time it is advisable to read the 10 Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, respectively the Greatest Commandment.)
Pastor: The God of grace may bless his word, so that the words of Christ might generously dwell in us and that we might bring forth fruits to his glory. We pray.
Confession of Sin (The congregation stands and recites in unison with the Pastor)
Lord, God, our eternal and almighty Father! Behold, we have come together here and in the communion with saints, together with the angels and all souls faded, we bring our sacrifice before your throne. We confess and acknowledge before your holy sovereignty, that we are poor sinners, caught in sin and ready to do all evil, and we never cease to break your holy commandments. When we act like this, we incur according to your just judgement. Nevertheless, our Lord, we pity that we insulted you and condemn ourselves and our sins, with true repentance, with ask you, that your grace may come to help us. Humbly we ask you, our loving and gracious Father to have mercy upon us. Cast away our misdeeds, enlarge and increase the gifts of your Holy Spirit day by day, so that our true repentance might bring forth fruits of conversions, that are pleasant in your eyes. Therefore, we confess before you, that we will put all our faith and hope in your only son, our Lord Jesus Christ, alone, so that we participate through faith in your grace, which you declared (?) in Him. In your name, give us this grace here today and in eternity. Amen (Prayer of John Calvin).
Pastor: After we have confessed our sins and testified our faith, we listen to God’s gracious response in his words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Amen (John 3:16) (In the interest to emphasize the Absolution, the Pastors lifts up his hands with a gesture of blessing.)
Song of the Congregation (The congregation sits)
Pastor: Dear brothers and sisters, let us sing our song no. …. , stanzas… The stanza … of the song … begins as follows:…
Prophetic Prayer (standing)
Exalted God. Humbly, we bow down before you and pray to you, our gracious Father, in the name of your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, how could we appropriately thank you, eternal exalted God, that you allowed us, weak and sinful human beings, to use your threefold name on our lips. We approach you with trust like small children approach their father. Be blessed, our good Father, because you, in your fatherly grace, opened up mercy to us in your holy son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on whose name we stand before you and reach out to you.
We ask you, our good Father, to kindly accept our worship, our thanksgiving, with which we thank you for your caring mercy, that is around us every day of our lives, and also was during the previous week. Bless us this hour, so that through your grace, it might calm down our hearts, cleanse and strengthen our soul. Talk to us gracefully. Show us the way and the commandment of Christ through your Holy Son, who came down from heaven to become wisdom, truth, holiness and salvation to us.
Grant us, our God, that the proclaimer of your holy word will not stray into vain human wisdom, but that he, as he proclaims purely your protecting gospel, enrich all our hearts and souls. Clease the lips of the preacher. Let your inspiration sanctify his heart. Let your grace substitute his lacks, so that his souls and his life might be a testimony. Our God! Together we are of one will. We lift up our eyes to you. Protection, help, consolation and renewal, they only come from you. Do not hide your face from us. Make us listen with obedient hearts, so that we take your life giving speech into our hearts and serve you in being obedient to your holy word and in proclaiming the protection in you. Hear our prayer through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we ask you. Come, Lord God with Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn before the sermon (congregation remains seated)
Pastor: To prepare us to listen to the Word of God, we sing stanza … of the hymn …. The stanza … of the song … begins as follows:…
Scripture Reading (the congregation stands while listening)
Pastor: Let us hear the Holy Word of God, through which he talks to us this hour, as is taken from….
Hymn after the sermon (congregation stands)
Pastor: Let us sing for God’s glory hymn no. …. , stanzas… The stanza … of the song … begins as follows:…
Great Prayer (the congregation stands; old and sick people may be seated)
The silence is opened and closed by a vote, e.g.:
Pastor: Enfold your hearts in trust before God.
(the congregation sits down; everybody prays silently by him-/herself)
Pastor: Blessed be God, who hears the words of our pleas. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer (congregation stands, aloud in unison)
Appeal to collection and announcements (the text should be appropriate for a service, preferably Biblical.) I propose this collection to the helpful kindness of my brothers and sisters, whereby I recall the good deeds of Christ, who became poor for our sakes though he was rich, so that we might become rich through his poverty.
I propose this collection to the helpful kindness of my brothers and sisters, whereby I recall that the Lord loves and blesses a cheerful giver.
Announcements of a proposal:
Gladly, I announce to the congregation that the following couples registered to be married in front of the congregation:….. They announced the first time….., the second time…., the third time…. Let us pray for them, that the Lord’s blessing be with their future marriage.
Announcement of the Lord’s Supper:
I announce to the congregation, that next Sunday (the …. Advent or else), if the Lord will not consider our sins and keep us alive, we will prepare the Lord’s table. The faithful might prepare themselves with repentant worship that they may be worthy guests at the Lord’s table.
At the day of the distribution of the Supper:
I announce to the congregation, that, as promised, the Lord’s table is prepared and the Lord’s Supper will be distributed. Those, who are appropriately prepared and who wish to partake in the good of the holy table, might stay in the church.
Let us sing for God’s glory song no. …. , stanzas… The stanza … of the song … begins as follows:…
The Apostolic Creed (or the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism)
Pastor: Finally, let us give testimony of our faith in reciting the confession of the one Christian holy Mother Church (or the testimony of the Heidelberg Catechism).
Apostolic Creed or
Answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Confessional Hymn (recommendable are nos. 346, 90, 461, 159, 254a or 254b).
Pastor: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turns his face towards you and give you peace. Amen. (4 Moses 6:24-26)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
(Compiled in Budapest in 1997 for the Consultation Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Churches by the liturgical commission, chaired by Bishop D. Dr. Kálmán Csiha)
Translation: Heike Ernsting