In 1983, the two largest bodies of the Presbyterian Church united into one denomination to form the Presbyterian Church USA. This is the seal or the symbol of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.
Even without the words “Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” around it, this symbol is a visual statement of Presbyterian Church heritage, identity, and mission. The symbol acts like a mini confession of faith.
To understand the Presbyterian Church Symbol, one needs to closely examine the Art. It is here we learn the many teachings and beliefs of the Presbyterian Church…..
The Cross is the dominant structural and theological element in the design. The cross is the universal and most ecumenical symbol of the Christian church. The cross represents the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ, and his passion and resurrection.
Now looking at the cross more closely, we see that the top portion of the cross is transformed into the shape of a descending dove which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The spirit is almost always portrayed as descending, because God’s Spirit comes from Him in heaven.
The most noticeable things in the symbol are the burning flames at the base of the cross. They are a symbol of God’s refining fire of judgment. They are a symbol of how the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of flames given on Pentecost. But one symbol we should see is that these flames are a symbol of revelation in the Old Testament when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. At that time God told Moses His Name “I AM”.
Now let us notice an implied triangle. This triangle is formed by the Cross, the Dove and the Flame. The triangle is a traditional symbol of the Trinity. Therefore at the heart of our Presbyterian Symbol is God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Central to the Christian Faith in general and to Presbyterians in particular is God’s Holy Word of the Bible. Therefore in the Presbyterian Symbol look directly beneath the dove and note the contoured line and shape of an open book, the Holy Bible. This integration of the horizontal dimensions of the cross with the book highlights the emphasis which Presbyterians (often called People of the Book) have placed on the role of Scripture as a means of knowing God’s word.
Looking more closely at some of the visual components of the design, one discovers elements that seem to fuse with some of the more obvious theological symbols. Central to the Presbyterian Church’s Worship and Life are the Two Holy Sacraments. Now, looking at the center of pulpit design, one discovers a Baptismal Fount, and a Chalice, or Cup of Communion, seated on top.
Finally, look within the shape of the descending dove and discover the image of a fish. The fish reminds us of one of the Lord’s greatest miracles, the feeding of 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. So too it reminds us that we are called to feed the hungry & be as servants to those in need.