WHILE CATES HILL CHAPEL draws on the richness of the Christian Brethren tradition, we also find inspiration in other Christian traditions, particularly for our worship. Most of the decisions about how we do certain things in our church have been made by our elders or by all of us in our community meetings. Sometimes it is not apparent why we do certain things, so here are our answers to the following questions we are often asked:
We have followed the lead of the Christian Brethren and other Christian traditions in celebrating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. We understand that if you are not used to this, or if you are from a tradition which celebrated it infrequently, this weekly observance can seem too much. However, we think it is important to remember regularly our Lord’s death, resurrection, and promise to return. We also think it is important that the Gospel message of forgiveness and the opportunity of a new relationship with God be clearly presented each Sunday. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday allows for that. Also, the regular weekly invitation to examine our consciences before God, which is part of preparing ourselves to eat the bread and drink the cup, is important to the health of our spiritual lives. Further, we want to honour the sole requirement the church that helped found us (University Chapel) asked of us, which was that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.
If you have come from a more formal church background, our worship services will seem rather informal - that’s intentional. However, there is a liturgical backbone to our services. And since we have found rich resources in various Christian traditions, you will find variety within the various components that make up the liturgical backbone of our worship services. Our singing includes a mix of choruses and hymns. Choruses often include Scripture quotations; they tend to be more contemporary and are often more personally directed to God than hymns. They often use “I-You” language. Hymns usually contain more robust theological language and are often poetically stirring.
Every Sunday we want to read and hear the Scriptures so we can be shaped by God’s Word to us. So that we do not read only familiar or favourite passages, and in order to read most of the Bible during a three-year cycle, we follow the lectionary as presented in the Revised Common Lectionary. Different lectionaries, or lists of Biblical texts for reading in worship services or private prayer, evolved in the varied liturgical traditions of Christianity. The lectionary of the Anglican Church helps balance Biblical readings related to Sundays in the liturgical calendar with continuous Biblical readings from both Old and New Testaments so we are able to listen to or read much of the Scripture in our worship services over a three-year period. When we started our church, we committed ourselves to be as child-friendly as possible. In the first part of the service we try to include songs the children enjoy, invite children to participate as readers or do actions to songs, and provide a “kids’ time” which often relates to the theme of the worship service. The children then go to Kids Club, where the teaching is geared to their age level.
Prayer is an important part of the Christian life, both as individuals and in groups of two or more people. Each Sunday, in addition to prayers of worship or confession, we try to include a time of community prayer in which we can share our burdens with God, thank Him for what He has done for us, and pray for others. We ask different members to lead our community prayers. After the service, people can request personal prayer with a leader of the church. On a majority of Sundays we try to say a creed, or affirmation of our faith, as well as the Lord’s Prayer. The regular repetition of these foundational parts of our Christian life helps the words sink deeply into our souls, whether we are children, youth, or adults. In each service we set aside roughly 20 minutes for expository teaching through the Bible. Several people in our church are gifted in helping us think about the Bible and how God wants us to live. We regularly invite speakers from elsewhere to ensure that we receive a varied and broad perspective. Throughout the year the teaching is related to series in which we explore entire Biblical books or selected passages, a series of related topics, or Biblical stories. Each year we try to include series from both Old and New Testaments in order to keep well rounded in our Biblical instruction. In the summer we usually encourage speakers to choose topics in which they are particularly interested.
After the teaching we open the floor for responses. Questions, observations, discussion, and personal responses provide a way for us to consider and respond to the teaching more fully. We encourage honesty, respect for the opinions expressed, and humility that frees us from trying to force others to adopt our own perspectives. We close each service with a benediction, through which all of us receive the blessing of God as we go into the rest of our week. Probably you will find that some parts of our service are meaningful to you, while others may not be. Or some of the ways of doing things are comfortable and resonate with your background, while others make you feel uncomfortable or not at home. In working through your struggles, please remember that what is meaningful to you may not be meaningful to another person, and vice versa. Each of us is given the opportunity to give up our own preferences so someone else’s preference can be satisfied. Another time that person will be able to make a similar sacrifice of love so our preference is satisfied. This is one of the ways we can serve each other in worship.
We follow the liturgical calendar because it helps us remember the highlights of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. It also helps us share the story of Jesus with people who are new to the Christian faith. The liturgical calendar is divided into two parts, roughly equal in length. In the first part we remember our Lord’s arrival, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. In the second part we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, our sharing in the life of the Trinity, and our long discipleship with other saints under the overarching lordship of Jesus Christ. The liturgical calendar begins with the four Sundays of Advent during which we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and also remind ourselves to wait for His second coming (advent). After Christmas Day comes the season of Epiphany which starts with the Magi arriving in Bethlehem and Jesus being “shown” to them (Epiphany means “manifestation”). The Gospel readings often focus on the early years of Jesus’ ministry.
The season of Lent starts with Ash Wednesday in which we confront our sin and mortality. The 40 days of Lent (excluding the six Sundays which are feast days) honour our Lord’s 40-day fast in the wilderness. Christians from the seventh century on have used it as a time of preparation for the Easter festival, a time for repentance, denial of certain things (especially meat), giving money or food to the poor, acts of devotion, and special reflection on the meaning of Christ’s death. The Easter season begins with Palm Sunday in which we celebrate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem but also recall His tears over Jerusalem’s refusal to accept Him. On Maundy Thursday we recall our Lord’s final supper with His disciples, often by observing the Passover meal together. On Good Friday we remember Jesus’s death on the cross for us, and share the disciples’ grief and loss into Holy Saturday. When Easter Sunday arrives, we are ready to celebrate Jesus’s victory over death and sin, and cultivate our hope of resurrection. During the following five weeks the joy lingers as we read stories of how Jesus appeared to the disciples on different occasions, reassuring them that He had, indeed, risen from the dead. Then come the Sundays when we remember Jesus’s ascension to heaven, the Day of Pentecost when we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples in the upper room, and Trinity Sunday.
During the last five months of the liturgical calendar we celebrate the work of Jesus in heaven on our behalf, consider what it means to follow Him in this world, and wait for His second coming.
Even though we agree on the main components in our worship service, from Sunday to Sunday the style of worship changes depending on who leads us in worship. Several members lead occasionally, our pastor teaches three out of four weeks per month. We invite outside speakers to teach at least once a month. While there is a downside to the constant change, there is an upside in the increased number of people who can serve (remember we follow the participatory model of leadership in our church rather than the professional model) and grow as a result. We intentionally book approximately one-third of our visiting speakers from the mainland for two reasons: 1) they contribute to a high caliber of teaching in our church, and 2) because we are an independent church on an island, it helps us guard against becoming insular and in-grown in our thinking about the Christian life.