What is a Presbyterian?

This is a question we ask ourselves as well. For us, denomionations are less important than being a Jesus follower. When you come to Westminster Prez, you'll find a bunch of people just trying to figure out life together. Enjoy each other's company while we seek the answers to questions about God, and faith, and living - together. However, being a Presbyterian is way simpler than the common perception. Here are some of the basics.

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What Is Said

"Westminster Prez. one of the friendliest and most welcoming churches we have ever visited"

- almost everyone who visits.


Westminster Prez is on an island, so it makes sense that we would do a lot of "ministry" on the beach!

On Galveston Island

About two blocks from the water's edge, we gather to worship, study, have fun and most everything is accompanied by some kind of eating of great food, and ocassionally some really good coffee! (ok more than ocassionally)

From the Inside

A picture of the worship center, while it was decked out for Christmas. We had a great celebration, all that was missing was you, come join us!

Bibles Classes

Sundays 9:30 am class is currently talking about living as a community of believers and bearing one another's burdens. COME JOIN US!

Coffee & Such

Refreshments are served every Sunday in the fellowship hall, and more we get a chance to just hang out. Join us!

There Are Blessings

"I sometimes go days at a time, pushing through, one foot in front of the other, and I look up and I see the reality of the blessings that were there all along."

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What is a Presbyterian?

The word Presbyterian comes from the ancient Greek word, Prebuteros, which quite literally means "old one." That's not to say Presbyterians are old, but that the form of government the Church follows is based on the leadership of "elders", that is, those men and women who have been equipped by God for service, and are elected for a period of service. So the name has to do with the form of government.

This form of Church leadership traces its roots back to the early Church and is an especially vivid model of the Scripture's teaching of "one body made up of many parts" (1 Corinthians 12). We believe that just as there are may parts making up the human body, and that each of these parts are indispensable for the healthy functioning of the body, so too in the Church, God calls all peple to service and bestows different gifts on each person for the good of the whole. Those called to service as Ministers, Elders, and Deacons, are elected by the congregation and exercise a model of servant leadership, following the servant leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who said, ". . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). In addition to its form of leadership, being Presbyterian also encompasses a particular theological outlook.

Presbyterians are considered "Reformed" Christians, which means that we identify with the affirmations of the Protestant Reformation. The focus of these affirmations is the rediscovery of God's grace in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. the Protestant watchwords--grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone--embody principles of understanding which continue to guide and motivate us in our life of faith.


How to Speak Presbyterian

What is all this Presbyterian lingo?


It has been estimated that 58 percent of the members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) did not grow up in the denomination. For readers in that category, here is a short rundown of the lingo you are likely to hear in a Presbyterian church that you may not have heard in another church.

Communion table or Lord’s Table 
This is the table at the front of the sanctuary that holds the bread and the wine for Communion. Sometimes other items are placed on this table, such as the Bible, a cross or candles.

The reason this is called a Lord’s Table rather than an altar is that on the night in which he was betrayed, when Jesus was eating the Passover meal with his disciples, they were sitting at a table (Luke 22:14).

An altar is a place for making sacrifices. In the Reformed tradition we believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient once for all. This sacrifice does not have to be repeated with a Mass or other Communion on an altar.

Lord’s Supper 
This is the meal we share from the Lord’s Table. Some churches call this meal Communion or the Eucharist.

Eucharist is from the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” which is what Jesus did before he gave the bread and wine to his disciples.

This is a house owned by a congregation that they let the minister live in. In some denominations this is called the “parsonage.” The word manse comes from the Latin word mansio which means “dwelling.”

This is the group of people, elected by the congregation, who make the decisions for the running of the local church. In some churches this group is called the “church council.”

The session is composed of elders. This doesn’t have to do with age so much as those who are considered competent and wise enough to make good decisions. There are two kinds of elders, “ruling elders” and “teaching elders.” The ruling elders come from the congregation and are elected to serve in three-year cycles. The teaching elder is the pastor. This person is called a teaching elder because a pastor has to go to a lot of school to get the education to preach and teach proper doctrine.

The pastor is often also called the minister or a “minister of the Word and Sacrament.”

The presbytery is made up of a group of churches usually in a certain geographical area.

The presbytery meeting includes “presbyters,” both ruling and teaching elders, who gather to make decisions affecting the presbytery. By having their representatives gather together as a group congregations both support each other and are held accountable to each other.

This is the person who runs a meeting of elders or deacons or a presbytery or committee meeting. In a club or other gathering he or she would be called the “chairperson” or perhaps “president.”

While the moderator of a board of deacons is usually a deacon, the moderator of a session is a teaching elder. The moderator of a presbytery may be either a teaching elder or a ruling elder.

Book of Order 
This is the rule book for the Presbyterian Church. It contains the guidelines for church life, including structure, worship and collective action. It not only tells us how to do things but also explains why. It was developed and can be modified by the General Assembly, with the ratification of a majority of the presbyteries.

General Assembly 
Every two years all the presbyteries in the country elect commissioners or representatives to a meeting of the General Assembly. The General Assembly makes decisions for the church as a whole. This is where Presbyterians become a national rather than a local church.

These are the folks, a proportionate number of ministers and elders, elected by the presbyteries to go to General Assembly.

Rather than being instructed in how to vote at the Assembly by their presbytery, the commissioners as a body seek to discern the will of the Holy Spirit.

No, this doesn't refer to how commissioners are selected to go to the General Assembly. It is a theological term that means God makes the first move in acting to redeem sinners. People within the covenant of faith are called “the elect.” Reformed (or Presbyterian) theology teaches that we are incapable of saving ourselves from our sins, and that God “elects” or “chooses” to save us.

This word, similar to election, often raises questions for people of other denominations. Basically predestination means that our election by God occurred not only before we were born, but so far back in time that it happened “before the creation of the world” (see Ephesians 1:4).

Debts and debtors 
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we use the words debts (“forgive us our debts”) and debtors. Some Christians say “trespasses” or “sins.” This is because the Lord’s Prayer is found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, and in the original Greek they used two different words that mean “to sin.” In Matthew’s version the word used means “to owe a debt,”" but a debt of sin, not money.

Calvin and Knox 
In the Presbyterian Church you will hear “Calvin Church,” “Calvin this-and-that,” as well as “Knox Church,” etc. John Calvin was a French Reformer who followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther in the 1500s. He gave us the theological foundations for our church, so we have named a lot of things after him. John Knox was a Scottish preacher who brought the teachings of John Calvin to Scotland and got the Presbyterian Church going in that country, so we have named a lot of things after him too.

This is just a start to understanding Presbyterian lingo. If you hear a word that is new to you and want to know what it means, ask your teaching elder (pastor or minister) to explain it to you. And don’t let him or her off the hook until you have an answer!


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