Incorporating the New City Catechism into Sunday Worship

I am sure you noticed something different in our order of worship on Sunday morning. That isn't something you will see very often at Trinity since we maintain a simple and consistent (but hopefully robust, biblical, and historical) liturgry. But this past Sunday, we did make an addition that will continue on from here on out.

This past Sunday we incorporated a catechism question from the New City Catechism into the creedal confession portion of our service. So after we recited the Apostles' Creed together, the congregation was asked, "What is our only hope in life and death?" To which we responded, "That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ." Next Sunday, we will be asked the second question of the catechism, and we will continue this pattern for a total of 52 weeks until we complete it. (Hint: We will then start again at question 1)

Now since this is a new practice, it needs some explanation. As pastors, we don't want to confuse anyone or give the impression that this was a rash decision. We certainly are open to your questions or concerns about this practice. But first, listen to some of the reasons we decided to start this practice now.

First, this practice will further train us as a congregation in sound doctrine, morality, and devotion. The questions we will be asked and then answer each Sunday are rich theologically, drawing on the historic catechisms of the Christian faith, but aimed at our current historical and cultural context. Each moment and place faces its own temptations and trials, and so while the historic catechisms are rich, some of the content and certainly the language is not best suited for today. The New City Catechism was written as a collaborative project by many of the Reformed Evangelical leaders we learn from at Trinity Church.

Second, this practice introduces our church to yet another resource to teach the Christian faith to our children. The call to make disciples of all nations begins at home. We each have a responsibility to God and to our children to saturate our childrens' imaginations with the Christian story of creation, fall, and redemption and with the doctrines that flow from that story. We hope that by using this catechism in our service, parents in our church will begin using this tool with their children over the dinner table, at bedtime, or in the car. The New City Catechism application for the ipad and online website provide scripture references, video explanations, commentary, and learning tools to make the tool more effective.

Third, this practice will also provide further doctrinal context to the preaching of the word each week. One of the reasons we recite the creed and answer a catechism question each week is to provide a confessional background to our preaching. While Scripture alone is normative (it is the final authority and standard), creeds, confessions, and catechism outline what we as Christians have understood the Scriptures to teach. So they guard us against novel and unorthodox interpretations.

Fourth, this practice is beginning now because September is the start of new school year, and this always marks an unofficial yet very real "new" season in the life of every church in our context. Everyone's schedule starts getting more consistent, and new people who have just moved into town start settling into a church. So by beginning the catechism in September, we hope that those who may be with us for the next year will have a chance to go through the entire catechism.

There are many other biblical, historical, and pedagogical reasons we could give for why we are beginning this practice, but we hope that these three give you something to hold on to until you can talk more in depth with one of the elders. We are excited to begin using this catechism together as a church, and we hope you will begin exploring the New City Catechism online.