What does “Presbyterian” mean? What’s different about a Presbyterian Church than any of the other churches?
The strange name comes from a Greek word that means “elder.” So, most simply, it means we are a church led by elders; not simply those of advanced age, but those recognized by the church and called by God to particular service in the community of faith.
The Presbyterian Church has a representative form of government; it is both bottom-up and top-down. Our church is led by the session (“a sitting”), composed of Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders (pastors). Representatives of our session, and other church sessions, make up a presbytery. Representatives of multiple Presbyteries make up a Synod. Representatives of all the presbyteries gather every two years and together form the General Assembly.
Historically, we trace our roots back through the British Isles all the way to Geneva, Switzerland. In that city in the 16th century, a man named John Calvin (the second guy from the left in the picture above) served as pastor and teacher. From his teachings the Reformed tradition was formed, of which Presbyterianism is a part.
Presbyterians believe in the historic teachings of the Christian church. We affirm both the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. We also, however, tend to stress some particular aspects, namely: the sovereignty of God over all things, the unmerited grace offered to us in Jesus Christ, and living a life of gratitude in response to God’s grace, mercy, and love.
Our particular church, First Presbyterian of Jesup Iowa, belongs to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). This denomination traces it’s roots back to the 1600’s in America.