As a new church plant from a tradition that is unfamiliar to many in our region, we frequently receive questions about Redeemer, the Anglican tradition, and our approach to worship. These questions are critical, whether you have been a member of a church for many years, visiting a new church for the first time, or completely new to christian worship, because it is important to understand what a church believes and why we do what we do.
On this page you will find a growing database of answers (in the form of videos and written essays) to questions you might have about Redeemer, our tradition, and our more ancient approach to worship.
All Anglican worship services are ‘liturgical’ (meaning that our services are structured, fairly traditional, with set forms, and are filled with ‘calls and responses’). Why do we go through all of this? Why do we use Liturgy in worship and not simply ‘wing it’?
Until rather recently in Church history, the majority of Christians (including Protestants) used liturgical forms in worship. Though it may surprise some people, free-form worship is (mostly) an American innovation of the last forty years or so, and itself follows a basic liturgical form. While we don’t ‘knock’ the free-form expressions of worship, we think that biblically grounded, theologically rich Liturgy is profoundly helpful. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Liturgy Connects. Our Liturgy (from the Book of Common Prayer) connects us with the historic, world-wide Church. Christians have used this particular Liturgy for well over 400 years (actually, some elements of our liturgy go back to the 1st century). And good Liturgy connects us with millions of Christians from all over the world, some of whom are (even at this moment) saying the same prayers to the same God. Locally speaking (that is, congregationally speaking) liturgy helps to connect with one another in worship. Our individual voice is united with the whole as we say, in union with our brothers and sisters in Christ, prayers, confess our sins, express our faith, and respond to God’s word as one body.
2. Liturgy Teaches. Good Liturgy enriches the mind and heart with truths about God. Our liturgy was shaped by thoughtful Christians over the centuries who had a profound and deep understanding of the Bible and, as such, we can trust that these prayers say true things about God and what he’s done for us in Jesus Christ. Because of their solid and rich content, our prayers and creeds have stood the test of time, informing the hearts, souls, and minds of millions.
3. Liturgy Focuses. Liturgy can lift our eyes, taking the focus away from our selves and onto something and someone ELSE. Put simply, a common and set Liturgy can direct our thoughts Vertically – that is, toward God, who for our sakes became enfleshed. Utilizing historic liturgical forms also draws us out of the many distractions continually assaulting us in our modern lives by drawing us into a form of worship that has been developed over millennia throughout much of the world.
Some will ask, “Can’t people ‘go through the motions’ with Liturgy and not really mean it?” Well, sure—though people can ‘fake it’ through almost anything in life. But we think that if you get past the ‘learning curve’ of Liturgy (that is, stick it out for a month or so in order to get used to it), you’ll begin to appreciate the Liturgy and find it helpful and meaningful. Liturgy, when it brings us close to Bible-ideas that are good for our spiritual diet, offers a substantial and nutritious meal. And when the Liturgy frames the Gospel-Word preached and the Sacrament administered, Liturgy helps to satisfy the spiritual stomach.
During most Anglican services we recite an ancient ecumenical creed together, which is uncommon within many contemporary forms of worship and may feel a bit odd within our current cultural context. So why do we continually recite these creeds as a congregation every Sunday?
- It connects us to the faith and worship of those before us: Corporate profession of creeds has been part of the church’s worship for most of its existence. The Nicene Creed, which we recite during every communion service, was finalized around 381ad and has been used in the church’s worship ever since. But, the reciting of creeds in worship goes back much further (most scholars recognize 1 Corinthians 15 to be an early creed used by the Church in worship dating back to the late 30’s – early 40’s ad!) The creeds we recite are summaries of foundational biblical teachings that christians in all places at all times have always believed. So reciting creeds such as the Nicene Creed every Sunday connects us with the belief and worship of the church throughout time and reminds us that we did not invent our faith, but have received it as a precious gift handed down to us.
- It connects us together through a shared faith: Proclaiming something in unison can feel odd to most modern Americans, well, except for when the Pledge of Allegiance begins. We say the Pledge in unison to mark us corporately as Americans. The collective reciting of the ecumenical creeds was understood by the early church in a similar way. Around 400ad St. Augustine of Hippo said that the creeds were like a symbol (or an emblem) through which we recognize each other as Christian. We say the creed in unison because it reminds us that the faith that marks us is a faith that belongs to all of us. Despite our myriad of differences, we are one body because of our shared faith in what WE believe.
- It reinforces the foundational beliefs of all orthodox Christians: This may come as a shock to you, but some times some preachers will go off on personal tangents and even go so far as to proclaim things that are contrary to scripture (I know, its hard to fathom.) That is why within our liturgy the Nicene Creed is always placed immediately following the sermon. The location of the creed within the liturgy is to allow the congregation to respond to the sermon by proclaiming the core foundations of what they believe, even if the sermon they just heard deviated from that belief. In other words the proclamation of the Nicene Creed by the church is a bold reminder that the belief of the church is not dictated by whoever happens to occupy the pulpit that Sunday.
- The creeds are biblical: Some people push back against the use of creeds claiming “none of the creeds are found in the Bible.” Which is true if you mean that the exact wording is not found in scripture. But, that can be said of any theological claim. Nevertheless, like any good theological belief, it is only good if it is derived from and faithful to the teaching of God’s inspired Word. As Anglicans we believe that scripture is the only final infallible authority regarding doctrine. Hence, we hold to these early creeds because they encapsulate the foundational teachings of scripture. We recite the creeds because they are biblical and represent core beliefs held by the church over millennia that were formed through faithful Christians wrestling together with Gods Word. If the creeds we recite went against God’s Word we would not profess them.
These are just a few reasons why every Sunday after the sermon we respond in one voice confessing our faith with the words “We believe in one God….”