Our Sunday Worship
Sunday worship at Plymouth, which begins at 11:00 a.m., uses traditional Reformed liturgy, including an emphasis on the central role of preaching. Plymouth is in many ways, as one member aptly described it, “the church of your childhood.” After an opening hymn and prayer, perhaps preceded by an introit from the choir, we join in a responsive reading, confession of sin, and assurance of pardon. We sing the Gloria Patri together, and we warmly greet one another with the peace of Christ. The passing of the peace is special at Plymouth, a lingering moment in which members take down their urban defenses, exchange hugs and handshakes with friends and newcomers, and prepare for worship. After brief announcements, the children come forward for the children’s sermon. Their joyful exodus is followed by a few moments of quiet prayer before we move forward with the offering, doxology, Scripture readings, and sermon.
Music plays a central role in our service. The Plymouth Choir is an accomplished group even by New York City standards, anchored by a core of eight professional singers. The congregation also sings with enthusiasm, which is fitting. Plymouth was the first church to encourage full congregational singing during hymns, having produced, in 1855, the first hymnal with words and music side by side.
To accompany our singing, Plymouth is blessed with a notable Aeolian-Skinner organ, which was built in 1937 and overhauled and modernized in the mid-1990s. We are equally blessed with a Minister of Music who plays it to full effect. Nearly all of our congregants remain quietly seated during the postlude. The overall effect of the music at Plymouth is one that truly lifts and opens our hearts to the Lord.
But the sermon is the main event. Indeed, our recent period of discernment has made clear that substantive, challenging, and inspiring preaching is something for which our congregation thirsts and to which it genuinely looks forward on a weekly basis. For many of us, this period is the eye of the hurricane of life in New York City—the calm yet forceful center that holds the rest of our frenzy together. Plymouth has typically followed the Revised Common Lectionary for our Scripture readings, but we are not bound to it alone.
Following our Sunday worship service, we join each other for “Fellowship Hour,” our version of coffee hour, in our social hall, which is graced by Tiffany stained glass windows. This is a time for members to catch up on the past week or make plans for the week ahead, and to get to know new faces. It is also a time for kids to enjoy some unstructured play, either in the gymnasium or on the playground.
In addition to this typical flow of worship, we observe Communion on the first Sunday of each month, alternating between having lay leaders serve members in the pews and having congregation members come forward. Given our congregational demographics, infant baptisms are a frequent and joyous occasion as well. Plymouth also holds a number of special services at Lent and at Advent, including a Sunday evening carol service that draws many from the community, as well as our Christmas Eve service, which draws a large crowd rivaling Easter morning.