Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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The weekend before last I was pleased to be a part of the installation of the Rev. Owen Stepp to be pastor at the Clairmont Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. As at all PC(USA) ordinations and installations, Owen was asked a series of questions. Here is the one I want to draw attention to:
Will you be instructed and led by [the] confessions [of the church] as you lead the people of God?
This question reminded me of another question that I ask whenever I have the chance to teach about these statements of faith that fill the Presbyterian Book of Confessions: are the confessions historic or contemporary?
The answer, of course, is both. They are historic in that they were each written at a particular point in time, answering particular concerns that face the church. For instance, the Nicene Creed was written in the 4th century to combat those who were saying that Jesus was not fully divine.
At the same time, the confessions are contemporary in that they speak to us today. They help us to understand scripture today. They communicate the Gospel to us today. They are not simply reminders of what the church used to believe; they tell us who and what the church is today, what it believes today, and what it resolves to do today.
The night before Owen’s installation I had a conversation with his sister-in-law Cauleen which only confirmed how contemporary the confessions are. Our conversation turned to the new president of Princeton Theological Seminary, Craig Barnes, and the book that he has written on the Heidelberg Catechism, Body and Soul.
Cauleen has been reading this book, and she said, “It’s like he is talking to me! It’s like the catechism is talking to me! I can’t wait to use this book for our young adults Sunday School class at church! They are going to love it!”
Her enthusiasm should not have surprised me, but it did. It seems rarer than it ought to be to have twenty young adults looking into the Heidelberg Catechism, because it speaks right to them, today.
Join me in checking out Heidelberg or any of the other confessions. Who knows what they will say to you, today?