The Reformed Tradition in the Netherlands
- Harry KlaassensHarry KlaassensIndependent Scholar
Dutch Reformed liturgy started with Dutch refugees in London, where they used a Dutch translation of Martin Bucers’s liturgy at Strasbourg as well as the liturgy that John à Lasco brought back from Emden, Germany. When these refugees fled again, this time to Frankenthal, Germany, they formed their liturgy and theology at Heidelberg University. So Dutch Reformed liturgy was born outside its own boundaries—in Europe!
In The Netherlands itself, Dutch Reformed liturgy was grounded at the National Council of the Dutch Reformed Church at Dordrecht, in 1674 and 1678. Here the national synod made several decisions on liturgical practices as well of the use of the psalms. They also took initiative to begin a Dutch Bible translation: the famous Statenvertaling.
The 17th and 18th centuries of the Dutch Reformed liturgy are characterized by a long sermon as the heart of the liturgy, extended with the reading of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and a prayer of confession of sins. Only psalms were sung in a 1773 translation, and without an organ, because it was seen as a pagan instrument.
Another national synod in 1817 dealt with the liturgy; now the he singing of a hymn became obligatory, a decision that led to many quarrels and the first schism in the Protestant Church of The Netherlands. Also the synod decided that the ministers should wear black gowns. But instead of set rules and forms, liturgical freedom was absolute.
At the beginning of the 20th century, new attention was directed at liturgical practices—many parishes started to experiment. A Dutch version of the ecumenical ordinarium came up, based on the Missale Romanum and the Book of Common Prayer. New hymn books saw the light in 1973 and in 2013, when several Protestant churches took part. However, there are still two mainstream liturgies. The first one, Liturgy A, is the orthodox liturgy with set forms, use of psalms only, reading of the Ten Commandments, and the Heidelberger Catechism with emphasis on the sermon and the Scripture reading. The second mainstream liturgy, Liturgy B, is the ordinary ecumenical with liturgical acclamations, the use of hymns, and the participation of a scholar or choir.
The Lord’s Supper has both an A and B form: didactic form or worship prayer based on the classical form of the mass.
A Service Book was published in 1998 (part 1) and 2004 (part 2), consisting of all liturgical texts and forms for both liturgies A and B. There is still liturgical freedom, as the Dutch are not amused by obligatory items of any kind!