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Being Presbyterian

Our Faith

Presbyterians profess their faith as a group of Protestant Christians whose church is founded on the concept of democratic rule under the Word of God.

Presbyterians share a set of core beliefs with other Christians:

  • God the Father, creator of the universe;
  • Jesus the Christ (Messiah), the only begotten Son of God, the incarnation of God on earth through whom we are saved;
  • The Holy Spirit, the presence of God in the world who indwells the believer;
  • The Church, a universal body of all of Christ’s followers;
  • Forgiveness of sin and everlasting life, made possible through grace by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ;

Presbyterians have two main sources of inspiration and guidance:

Presbyterians encourage the study of the Word and tend to be thoughtful people. Many institutions of higher learning within the United States (and throughout the world) were established by the Presbyterian church. Presbyterian Ministers of Word and Sacrament (pastors) are required to have a Bachelor’s degree and a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary. Sermons in a PC(USA) church encourage the congregation to think for themselves, question what needs to be questioned, and reach their own conclusions about their faith and beliefs.

Our Governance

There are two major distinguishing factors of Presbyterians, one involving theology and the other governance. Presbyterians adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology, and a system of governance which stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members. The Presbyterian church is organized as a Representative Democracy governed by a group of elders elected from (and by) the members of the congregation. The Book of Order states the following:

ruling elders, together with teaching elders (pastors), exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a congregation as well as the whole church, including ecumenical relationships. When elected by the congregation, they shall serve faithfully as members of the session.

(The PC(USA) Book of Order)

Elders who serve in office make up the church’s governing board, which is referred to as the session. The Pastor of the church moderates the Session, but is not the primary decision maker of the church; that responsibility resides with the session.

Our Sacraments

As a Protestant denomination, Presbyterians recognize and take part in two sacraments: Communion and Baptism.

Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, commemorates the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his death on the cross and resurrection on Easter.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote, Artwork: Leonardo Da Vinci's depiction of the Last Supper “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

For Presbyterians, communion is a service of remembrance. The body is bread, and the blood is juice. At First Presbyterian Church of Santa Clara, we use grape juice instead of wine, and all are welcome to join in the eating, drinking, and remembering. You don’t need to be a member of our church or a Presbyterian in order to celebrate Christ Jesus with us. Join us on the first Sunday of every month as we remember and celebrate what our Lord Jesus did for us all.

Baptism within the Presbyterian Church is a “covenant baptism,” which is to say that it acknowledges not that we have chosen God, but that God has chosen us. Because of this, Presbyterians are able to baptize infants if the parents choose to do so. We accept the baptisms of all other churches, because there is only one baptism which is by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

If you are interested in being baptized, have an infant / child you wish to have baptized, or would simply like more information about this beautiful sacrament, please contact us.

Our Church

The First Presbyterian Church of Santa Clara (abbreviated FPCSC) opperates as part of the largest Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, or PC (USA).

To learn more about the administrative structure of the church, please visit the online resources of our Presbytery and/or our Synod.

Our Pastor

Pastor Dennis Woodsmall offers insights during his sermons which have an overarching focus on the reason for Christ’s restorative ministry, which is to make people free, whole, and intimate with God. Pastor’s prayerful study of the Word and conversational preaching style have developed throughout his many years of service to Christ.

Each week, two readings are presented, one taken from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament. Each is selected with an eye towards the title of the week’s sermon, with sermon topics fitting into the larger subject study which is covered over a number of successive weeks. (To listen to Pastor’s sermons on various subjects, visit our sermons page…).

Pastor desires to see disciples being brought up and encouraged. A true Christian disciple is a believer in Christ who possesses new life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A Christian who loves Christ will be an obedient disciple (John 14:15). Paul describes the reality of being a Christian disciple in this way:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20)

Jesus himself directs us in this task:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

(Matthew 28:18-20)