This week, you’ll start noticing two key changes in our order of worship. The first is the addition of corporate recitation of the Apostles’ Creed just prior to our Scripture readings. I was delighted to hear that a number of you had requested this, since this ancient summary of the faith serves as a useful corrective to anything else that might be said during worship. It is a way to remind us that though we may disagree on any number of issues (including how to best interpret and apply the Scriptures), and though the pastor might err in the way she presents the text, we still agree on the key aspects of the Christian faith.
Though stories about the Creed’s origin vary (and many are suspect) we do know that the Creed originated sometime prior to 341 AD. It was broadly embraced by Christians as a faithful summary of the teachings of Jesus’ closest followers. This is a belief which (almost 2,000 years later) continues to be held by believers around the globe and across denominations. As Presbyterians, we included the Creed in our Book of Confessions as a reminder that though we may differ from other Christian sects in our specific doctrines or form of government, we are still one with them in Christ. It is the God described in the Creed who calls us to live in unity and love.
If you’re familiar with the Creed from your childhood, you’ll notice that we’re using a slightly updated translation. The goal here is to ensure that the statements we are making will be easily understood by anyone standing with us on any given Sunday morning. We want visitors to know what we believe and our children to understand it.
The second key change you’ll notice is the addition of a children’s sermon. Though many congregations use this as an opportunity to teach a condensed version of the adult sermon, I’ve decided to leave that work to BJ and her Sunday School volunteers. Instead, we’ll be working our way through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – one question and answer each week.
Written in 1648 and consisting of 107 questions, the catechism was intended as a teaching tool to help young members of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) develop a fuller understanding of their faith. Today, it remains a part of our Book of Confessions and is actively studied and memorized by children and adults in Reformed denominations throughout the world. I’ve chosen to use it as the focus for our children’s sermons since it serves as good preparation for future confirmands.
You’ll notice that, as with the Apostle’s Creed, I’m using some updated language for the catechism. Again, the intention here is to ensure that readers understand what the original writers were attempting to convey. These edits will focus primarily on providing more commonly used synonyms in place of the original wording and more inclusive language. (I will provide both the original and the simplified versions for comparison.) You’ll also notice that several Scripture references will be provided for each of the questions to help everyone quickly identify at least a few of the reasons we believe the Bible is teaching each answer as God’s truth.
It is my hope that both of these changes will help us become better rooted in our shared faith and open the doors for deeper discussion about what we believe and why.
If you’d like to actively pursue discussion, this week marks the start of “Talk Back” (or perhaps “Back Talk”). This is a weekly invitation to join me in the Board Room (right off the meeting house fellowship hall) following the service to discuss questions raised by the sermon, to share stories that illuminate our understanding of the text, or to simply argue with the pastor’s theological interpretation. Everyone (including the youth) are welcome to attend at any time. I look forward to seeing you there!
Rev. Anna C. Gheen
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia