As I worked this morning (drywall taper), I had a question on my mind. Or, to sound more spiritual, it was on my heart.
Am I Awe-Full? As in, am I full of a sense of reverence and awe? My mind, as I worked, was questioning the word awful, and I was confused as to its origin and how it came to mean, in common use, something terrible. That is a bit off track, but it led me to this place: Do I live in a sense of reverence of our Creator and Sustainer? Continue reading Awe-Full: Remembering a Catholic Service from 29 Years Ago→
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Whereas, the Church of _____, is no longer to be used for acts of worship, And whereas the Church building and the land upon which it is erected is about to be/being sold; now, therefore, we, by Divine Permission . . . do declare that the Church of ____ , once duly dedicated and consecrated to the Divine worship of Almighty God, has by virtue of this our sentence, lost said dedication and consecration. (U. S. Anglican rite) Continue reading When can a Rite be Wrong?→
For the past year the EMC community has gathered through The Messenger to think about the Apostles’ Creed—a great time of grounding ourselves in the core beliefs of the Christian faith. Now, how can we use the Apostles’ Creed as a resource for our churches and apply it in our individual lives?
We need to do the hard work of applying what we learn to our lives. As James reminds us,“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
In this article you will hopefully find both inspiring and useful ideas, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Let us all know what you are doing in your churches!
Ideas for the Worship Service
Consider adding a congregational confession of the Apostles’ Creed to your worship service. Historically, many Christian churches have recited the Apostles’ Creed as a regular part of the weekly worship service. Other churches confess the Apostles’ Creed monthly, quarterly, or during a special service. We recommend finding a practice that works best for your local context.
Recitation during a service can be an effective way to notice the many different voices in your congregation. Instead of always reciting the Apostles’ Creed together, ask an individual, family, or group to recite it for the rest of the congregation. If you have multiple languages in your church, this would be a great time to hear them. Ask a child or a senior to share.
Another way of incorporating the Creed into a worship service is to sing it. There are a few versions of the Creed put to music such as This I believe (The Creed) by Hillsong and We Believe by the Newsboys.There are a plethora of songs that encompass the various aspects of the Creed.A service could be divided into sections, each with part of the creed recited and then sung. Alternatively, an entire series of services could be devoted to the Creed, each Sunday focusing on a section.
The Apostles’ Creed lends itself naturally to corporate prayer. As confessional prayer: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty. Father, we confess that we are disobedient children. Help us to trust You and lean on Your everlasting arms.” Or pastoral prayer: “Come again to judge the living and the dead. God, we pray that people would come to know You. We believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints. Father, we pray for the global church….” Silence and reflection between the Creed and corresponding prayer would be particularly useful.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Ideas for Church Life
Sermon Series/ Curriculum
The earliest Anabaptists would frequently structure their teachings and discipleship efforts around the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed expressed and represented the essence of Christian faith and doctrine. It was not uncommon for many early Anabaptists to memorize the Apostles’ Creed by heart.
What if we returned to our historic roots and began to use the Apostles’ Creed as a resource once again for our churches? Pastors, are you looking for sermon material? Consider using the Apostles’ Creed for your next sermon series! It is a great resource for laying out the story, unity, coherence, and major themes of the Christian faith.
Sunday School teachers, why not spend twelve weeks unpacking each section of the Creed? A great resource for commentary would be our recent Messenger series. The magazine’s articles could be read out loud and then discussed in small groups in an older classroom setting.
Is your church planning a retreat weekend? The Apostles’ Creed could be a great resource for a weekend of study and reflection.
Art/ Prayer Room
Do you have a talented artist in your midst? Ask them to create a series of works (be it paintings, dance, song) around the Creed to share with the congregation in a service, around the church building, or on a special evening or weekend.
Art inspired by one or various sections of the Creed could be used in a prayer room to create stations for specific contemplation and worship. This is a great way to again encourage your less vocal congregants to get involved and share their gifts with the wider church body.
Teach the Children
Few things are as silly and delightful in church as children’s worship time. Teaching the Creed to our children is important in so many ways. Sunday School fills their heads with stories, but rarely are they taught the foundational truths of our faith in clear language. Speak it together, but also explain what it is we are saying.
Teach your older elementary and teens the theological terms (i.e., theories of atonement) so that they can enjoy sounding impressive! We do not have a catechism, but the Creed can function in a similar way and help children to understand what we agree about amidst all that we so enjoy debating.
Make it fun! Who knew the Creed could be a rap? Or recited in a variety of silly voices? Have the children create art or skits to share with the congregation. It is so important that our children contribute to our regular church life.
Putting the articles from the last year away; write your own. This could be done individually or in a small Bible study setting. Grab your Bible, a handy concordance (there are lots online), and get to work! What passages of Scripture back up the various parts of the Creed? What does God show us about Himself in these passages? “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).
God commanded the ancient Israelites to plant the Torah in both their hearts and their minds.“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut.11:18-20).
Even now, Christians in many parts of the world where the Bible is restricted still rely on memorizing great swaths of Scripture. Here in the West, we can pull up BibleGateway or grab Strong’s Concordance anytime we are looking for a verse, but that does not help God’s words to grow and bloom in our hearts.
While the Creed is not Scripture, it is useful to memorize as a guide to the Scriptures.Go further and memorize verses to correspond to each section of the Creed.If we are to be deeply rooted, we must put the words of God and the tenets of our faith not only on our laptops, but also in our hearts.
The Apostles’ Creed is perfectly designed for use in a congregational worship setting. The early church would often confess the Apostles’ Creed together before receiving communion, administering baptism, or as a public act of worship. This helped the church articulate and confess the faith once delivered.
To confess the Creed together with fellow believers is more than just mindlessly reciting a list of dusty facts. It becomes an act of worship when it is connected to loving God with our heart, soul, mind, strength, and loving our neighbours as ourselves. A worshipful use of the Creed should connect to the deepest part of our being and the heart of the Almighty God.
We, as the Worship Committee of the EMC, pray that the Apostles’ Creed will become a
great resource to help enrich your local church in the years to come!
Kimberly Muehling (Fort Garry) and Pastor Paul Walker (Roseisle) serve on the EMC Worship Committee under the authority of the Board of Church Ministries. Jessica Wichers (EFC Steinbach) is the committee’s third member.
At Christmas, Jesus will be praised within many worship styles. That’s great.
The EMC has increasingly diverse worship styles. As variety develops, are we thinking about why we choose what we do?
Certainly, the exuberance of some churches, expressing cultural or Pentecostal influences, can be contrasted with a quieter style elsewhere; and the formal liturgy of Fort Garry EMC differs from the relaxed style of the Endeavour Fellowship Chapel. We can expect even more of a range in the future.
Many shifts in worship styles have occurred in the EMC. Just ask elderly members. For instance, early Kleine Gemeinde (now EMC) ministers opposed four-part singing because, they said, it moved from unity and simplicity in Christ. Later, four-part singing became a mark of Mennonite spirituality.
Today four-part singing is considered by some people to be “old school.” PowerPoint, choruses, and praise bands are in. (Generations ago some First Nations communities had drums taken by missionaries; today some non-Native churches use a complete set.)
Does diversity in worship styles surprise us? There are variations in worship among Anabaptist churches around the world, charismatic and formally liturgical being only two. A one-style-fits-all form of worship is too limiting within the Anabaptist communion and the EMC.
To reach out, our conference—not every individual—is wise to become comfortable with many worship styles, including charismatic and formally liturgical. St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, as John Longhurst tells us, has been called the fastest growing Mennonite church in Winnipeg. Accurate or not, it challenges us to examine what we do in some locations.
Our larger churches need not keep dual services identical in format; varied styles reach a broader cross-section of society.
The Board of Church Ministries has developed a Worship Committee. This is more than a spot for musicians and singers. The committee will assist churches to look at their worship theology reflected, partly, within their order of service. Worship educates; and, in turn, education helps us in worship.
What are some possible issues and questions? These are my thoughts.
All EMC churches have a liturgy, an order of worship that is effective on some level. What enters, or doesn’t, into your church’s liturgy? How is this decided?
How is Scripture used, how much is used, how well read is it? Contact professors Patrick Friesen (SBC) and Christine Longhurst (CMU) for their analysis of the use of Scripture in evangelical church services.
What’s the difference between entertainment and worship? If worship leaders and a sound system overpower the congregation’s voices, where does leading stop and performing start?
Canadian middle-class white evangelicals have advantages of race, location, wealth, and power. Why are few current Christian songs about change, social justice, and peace in God’s world?
In reaching inactive mainliners might a pastoral prayer, use of the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a prayer of confession and an assurance of pardon, and a benediction each play a part? Ah, but these are my thoughts.
Praising God in a language I don’t understand helps me remember that God is infinitely bigger than the breath of my vocabulary and scope of comprehension. There is something mysterious and utterly marvellous in understanding the essence of what is being said—apart from the meaning.
When I stand in worship with the Malagasy believers, singing in their own language, the words and syllables trip up my tongue, so I just close my eyes and listen with my heart. I hear the love they sing to our Father.
I sense the submission and the expectation they have for Him to stir up the Spirit within their midst to change and guide them. I perceive the belief that He will provide for them even as He has done just recently with the new land that has been provided at just the right time for His church in Antananarivo.
I used to join the church in Liepaja, Latvia, on weekends to escape the confines of dormitory life in Lithuania. Sitting in the back of the draughty church building, the soothing sounds of Latvian praise and worship settling over me, I would ask with the utter conviction that it could happen for God to bestow upon me the gift of tongues—specifically those of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Russian.
Now I pray for the gift of French fluency and Malagasy comprehension. Yet even as I struggle to learn and absorb the vocabulary of these languages I marvel at how vast God is that He would create so many divergent people with multitudinous ways of perceiving and articulating the world around them.
I have grown to appreciate, even require, these friends of diverse cultures to show me more of who Jesus is, because I cannot comprehend the immensity of God with my own limited understanding. To quote Timothy Keller:
C.S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying [and worshiping] with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God, Tim Keller, Dutton, 2014, 119).
We are the church within our local communities, joined to the global church. She is a deep pool of wisdom and understanding of our Lord and Saviour revealed by the Lord Himself to his Bride of many cultures. She is so beautiful. He is making her beautiful for Himself, and it is glorious in my eyes.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference