St. Peters was started by people who realized The Episcopal Church (TEC) leadership had walked away from the clear teachings of Scripture. Sadly, many of the people in TEC chose to follow their leaders instead of Jesus. However, St. Peters decided to continue in the historic faith handed down to us by the Apostles. A healthy parish must continuously evaluate what we do through the lens of Scripture, or we may also go astray.
The challenge parishes often face is that each person was taught different ways of being the Church. Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to sit down and hear the stories and faith journeys of most of the people who worship at St. Peter’s. We have people who come from almost every major denomination in North America. This fact impacts how each of us views things like discipleship, evangelism, missions, and worship. Out of those, the one thing we all currently do the same is Sunday worship.
However, if we sat down and discussed what each part of the liturgy/worship meant to everyone in the parish, we’d discover that many of us place different value and meaning on each portion of Sunday worship. The reason for that is simple, we’ve been taught by others what to value and what is most meaningful, or we decide for ourselves. For a church to be unified, it must carefully consider what the Church believed and did when Jesus established it. Let me share what I’ve discovered.
Jesus chose to start the church with Jewish leadership. The reason for this is because they had God’s divine revelation and believed that they were God’s covenant people. In other words, they had a good foundation that influenced how they lived and worshiped God. Jesus knew that soon his followers would no longer need to go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. To prepare them for that day, he encouraged his disciples to join him when he worshiped at a synagogue. That proved to be very formative in the development of the Churches worship.
A careful reading of the Gospels reveals portions of synagogue liturgy. Moreover, historians have discovered the liturgy used in most first-century synagogues: “they had a call to worship, people were then asked to read prayers (e.g. the Shema and Decalogue), read from the Law and read from a prophet, teaching from a Scripture reading was given, the singing of a Psalm and a Benediction (pg. 41 Ancient Judaism and the New Testament). Sound familiar? In the Epistles, we see that the Apostles eventually added the Lord’s Table to be a part of their worship gatherings. As you can see, Anglican liturgy can trace its roots all the way back to Jewish synagogue liturgy.
When one reads the Book of Common Prayer (newer versions), you’ll discover a liturgy with guidance regarding who does what and when to do it, but you will not find some of the ceremonies that many of us have been taught. As Paul made clear in 1 Corinthians 1:12, we follow Jesus, not what others teach. Elsewhere Paul said, “follow me as I follow Christ”. When a church does that, greater unity occurs because what we do derives from God’s Word. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct us to be Anglicans who follow Jesus according to the clear teaching of Scripture.
Grace & Peace,
The Rev. Jamie George