Presbyterian Reformed Church of RI
By Rev. Michael Ives and Vin Gebhart
In John 4:24 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The Presbyterian Reformed Church of Rhode Island (PRC of RI) which meets at the Rocky Hill Grange on Route 2 in East Greenwich seeks to follow this Biblical mandate in a profoundly unique way by today’s standards and has done so here in East Greenwich, RI for over 40 years.
The question, What is true spiritual worship?, is often asked in the church. We admit that it is a question which might require a fair amount of Reformed theology and Biblical analysis to develop the answer, and even then, a searching student may discover a number of potential answers. But the PRC of RI answers this question in a way which to many is quite striking and significantly different than most 21st century churches. And in so doing, we are following some very old, well-worn Christian paths. We invite you to come “test” our answer to the question with a personal visit to one of our services. But be prepared to take a step back in time!
There was a day not that long ago when in all of New England nearly every Protestant church worshipped as we do. For example, our Pilgrim Fathers would feel perfectly at home in our assembly. As it was then and so continues now, in true spiritual worship God’s Word is primary. And so, we read the Bible regularly and in course through chapters in the Old and New Testaments each week. We sing exclusively Psalms and that a capella or without musical instruments. This practice contributes to the centrality of God’s Word in our worship, as the Psalms are divinely inspired poetry and were originally designed for singing praise in the worship of God.
This simple liturgy was the universal practice of the old Pilgrim and Puritan churches of New England. We believe this practice is agreeable to the teachings of God’s Word, where we are taught that God only approves of worship that He has clearly commanded in Scripture. We may not invent or borrow our worship practices from the heathen (Deut. 12:28-32). This is also called the ‘regulative principle of worship.’ We would direct you to our website, prcofri.com if you are interested in learning more about the “regulative principle”.
Sound Biblical preaching rounds out the four simple elements of the worship service (Scripture reading, Psalm singing, Prayer and Preaching). Our sermons are generally expository, sequentially studying a book of the Bible, verse by verse. This has often been called the practice of lectio continua in the history of the Church. It binds the preacher to study each verse in context, to find the grammatical and historical meaning. It keeps him from the danger of reading into the text what he wants and requires him to speak the whole counsel of God to the people of God. We cannot cheapen God’s Word by ‘cherry picking’ what we like and leaving the rest.
However, our afternoon messages are sometimes topical, on practical subjects. Even then, it is our concern to anchor the lesson in the Word of God, that our minds may be shaped by the mind of the Spirit speaking in Scripture. All faithful preaching should be faithful to the text, sound in doctrine, and applicable, touching the hearts and lives of God’s people. We embrace the godly ‘experimental’ or ‘experiential’ tradition of our Presbyterian and Puritan forbearers. We aim for conversion and true godliness in heart and life. All of our messages can be found on sermonaudio.com or by visiting our Facebook page, PRC of RI. Prayer is conducted at various times throughout the service and is lead by the Pastor with a degree of solemnity and respect which is fitting to the Infinitely High and Holy God we are addressing.
Another special element of worship where you will clearly observe the old paths is in our practice of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We usually celebrate the sacrament three times per year, on the 3rd Lord’s Day (Sunday) of January, May, and September. On the preceding Lord’s day, we have a ‘preparatory’ service, where members are urged to examine and prepare their hearts for the sacrament. At the observance, we invite the ‘communicants’ to a common table at the front of the church. The celebration involves a shared loaf of broken bread, as well as a common cup of wine. Both are distributed in turn to each member seated at the table.
All those who are full members in good standing of this or any other congregation of the Presbyterian Reformed Church are welcome to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us. Members of other churches that confess the same Gospel and who visit with the elders in advance are also welcomed to participate. This practice is often called ‘close communion.’ It aims to welcome any and all true believers to partake of their Lord’s feast of love, yet it is concerned not to allow those who are ignorant of the Gospel, who live in an openly non-Christian manner, or who are not under the care and oversight of a local church.
Further to our worship practice, we believe in the Christian Sabbath, a day wholly dedicated to the Lord for public and private worship as congregations, as families, and private believers. It is not to be abused by unnecessary work or frittered away in common recreations that are allowable on other days. Our Lord tells us to “call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable” (Isa. 58:13-14). As our Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and as the apostles set an example for worshipping on that day, we believe that the Lord has shifted the Sabbath to the first day of the week, fittingly naming it the “Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).
Our local pastor, Rev. Michael Ives, has been with us for over 14 years. He and his wife Aubrey and 4 children moved from Iowa to serve in this congregation. In addition to his duties pastoring the existing flock which meets in East Greenwich the pastor is fully committed to an outreach in the community. Most recently his efforts have focused in South Providence where he engages in door to door evangelism. This is a hard labor, but truly done in love for the lost and the unchurched who abound all around us. He has been warmly received on many occasions by this direct approach and a number of these friendlier contacts have come out to our church services over the years. Clearly, the work is challenging but the congregation is supportive of it as an outreach of our small congregation doing the work of Christ in the highways and byways of our little state. “The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few.”
If any of this brief review of the PRC of RI, or if our unique understanding and practice of spiritual worship has peaked your curiosity, please contact us or better yet, come by and visit our Sunday morning service at 10:30am held in the Rocky Hill Grange 1340 S. County Trail in East Greenwich. For questions or further information, you can reach either Pastor Michael Ives at firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Vin Gebhart at email@example.com.