The Directory for Worship
Explore the Proposed Revision to the PC(USA) Directory for Worship
- W-1.01: Christian Worship: An Introduction
- W-1.02: Time, Space, and Matter
- W-1.03: Language, Symbols, and Culture
- W-2.01: Sources and Principles
- W-2.02: The Worshiping Assembly
- W-2.03: Leadership in Worship and Ordered Ministries
- W-4.01: Services Claiming and Completing Baptism
- W-4.02: Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant
- W-4.03: Commissioning for Service
- W-4.04: Ordination, Installation, and Commissioning
- W-4.05: Marking Transitions
- W-4.06: The Covenant of Marriage
- W-4.07: Death and Resurrection
What is the Directory for Worship?
A Brief History of the Directory for Worship
Principles for Revising the Directory for Worship
Resources for Studying the Directory for Worship
News about the Directory for Worship
The Directory for Worship is the middle part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order. This section of our denominational constitution:
- describes the theology underlying our worship;
- establishes standards and norms for worship;
- outlines appropriate forms for worship;
- negotiates the relationship between freedom and form;
- suggests possibilities and invites development; and
- encourages the continuing reform of worship.
A Directory for Worship is not a set of liturgical texts (like an order of worship or prayer book); rather, it provides the principles by which such resources might be ordered and designed. Consider the analogy of a compass and a map. Like a compass, the Directory for Worship gives us our bearings and points to primary things; like a map, denominational worship resources (such as the Book of Common Worship and Book of Occasional Services) provide faithful, reliable paths for the journey.
In the context of disputes over the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in 1645 the Westminster Assembly produced the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. Among other things, this document sought to address abuses of the Anglican prayer book and to provide another model for ordering the church’s worship. The Church of Scotland ultimately adopted this Directory for Worship and passed it down to Presbyterians in North America.
Presbyterians in the United States used variations on the Westminster Directory for 170 years, making modest revisions from time to time. In the 1960s, first the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA) then the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) wrote and adopted new Directories for Worship to address new realities in a changing church.
In 1989, following the 1983 reunion that formed the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the former UPCUSA and PCUS Directories for Worship were combined and revised—leading to the Directory for Worship currently in use in the PC(USA).
In 2006, the 217th General Assembly of the PC(USA) asked the Office of Theology and Worship to work with the Office of the General Assembly in developing a revision of the Directory for Worship that would be "authentically Reformed," "culturally appropriate," "more accessible and helpful," "shorter and better organized." A staff team worked in consultation with a diverse group of pastors, professors, and mid-council leaders to develop a draft to send to the 221st General Assembly (2014). The General Assembly voted to send the draft revision to the church for a year-long period of study and comment, ending July 1, 2015. A second consultation was organized to review and respond to the many comments received, and further revisions were made to reflect this feedback from the church. At its February 2016 meeting, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved this latest revision. The document will now go to the 222nd General Assembly for its approval to send the Directory for Worship as a proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative vote.
The text on this website has been updated to reflect the latest draft of the proposed revision.
The proposed revision is not a new Directory for Worship. It seeks to preserve the spirit and strength of precursor documents—a tradition that has shaped Presbyterian worship from 1645 to the present, more than 350 years. At the same time, this is a thorough revision, seeking to speak clearly, authentically, and faithfully to this church in this time and place.
Certain principles shaped the work of revision:
- to uphold the essentials of Reformed faith, life, and worship;
- to respond to changing contexts, changing congregations;
- to allow for more flexibility and diverse cultural expressions;
- to use “we” language (vs. “they”) for the people of God;
- to streamline contents and provide user-friendly organization;
- to simplify language and rewrite in a more accessible style;
- to reduce verbiage and eliminate redundancy; and
- to enhance the Directory’s usefulness as a teaching document.
Download a study guide for the proposed revision to the PC(USA) Directory for Worship.
Watch the replay of our 30-minute webinar from October 28, 2014, “Revising the Directory for Worship: Bread, Bath, and Beyond,” in which presenter David Gambrell describes the purpose and history of the PC(USA)’s Directory for Worship; discusses the process leading to this revision; and details how the proposed draft seeks to build on the spirit and strength of the current document, while making it more accessible and useful for the church today.
Download a chart explaining the reorganization of the Directory for Worship (PDF file).
Read a 1989 issue of Reformed Liturgy & Music (23.4) describing the previous revision to the Directory for Worship, and providing helpful background on the history and use of this document in the Presbyterian tradition.
See the 1645 Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God (online at reformed.org).
"Worship," a column by Presbyterian Mission Agency Board Chair Marilyn Gamm [November 2014]
"Faithful Mission: The Directory for Worship," a column by Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Linda Valentine [March 2015]