For a great introduction to the Christian faith, have a look at rejesus.co.uk.
As members of the Church of England, we share in the faith held in common by Christians of all denominations throughout the whole world and for nearly 2000 years of history.
It's very important to realise that although different Christian traditions emphasise different aspects of this faith, what we have in common is very much more important than the details we might disagree about!
Lots of people have some sort of belief in God. But there are two really distinctive things about our Christian faith that mark it out from other religions:
- Christians believe that God is one God in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- Christians believe that in Jesus, God became a human being just like us
Let's look in a bit more detail at what we believe.
We Believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty...
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
We believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth. But we don't believe that this God has nothing to do with everything he has made. Rather, we believe that God is intimately involved with every aspect of his creation. God loves each one of us as a Father loves his children.
We Believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ...
Hark! the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
We believe that because of his great love for us, God sent his only Son from heaven. Jesus was born on earth and lived among us as a human being, performing miracles and teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God.
There is a green hill far away,
without a city wall,
where the dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.
Jesus' death on the cross is the central mystery of the Christian faith. Through his saving death, our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled with God. Through his death, we glimpse the best possible picture of the depths of God's love for us.
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son,
endless is the victory thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. After appearing to the disciples, he returned to heaven to be with his Father. For those who put their faith in him, Jesus has opened the way for us to share in his eternal life.
We Believe in the Holy Spirit...
Breathe on me, breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.
We believe that God has sent us his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. The Spirit of God is at work among us, guiding and teaching us, gradually changing us more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesu, be for ever blessed.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus become one body, his church. We are called to be saints, God's holy people - not because we are anything special in ourselves, but because the Spirit of God is at work within us.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
The Church of England
Here are some of the things that are particularly distinctive about the Church of England:
Our worship involves all the senses. Anglican churches are often attractive and ancient buildings of stone and wood, richly decorated with stained glass, carvings and vestments that appeal to the touch as well as to sight. We enjoy good music too - our musical tradition is rightly famous, including hymns like the ones quoted above. Flowers and occasionally incense appeal to our sense of smell, and of course our sharing in Holy Communion stimulates our sense of taste.
There is a balance in our worship between order and stability on the one hand, and freedom and variety on the other. Our worship follows largely fixed patterns or orders, but within this framework is quite a bit of variety according to the different seasons of the year.
In fact, the shape of the church year tells and retells the story of God. The birth of Jesus is celebrated at Christmas, and his death and resurrection are remembered on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The gift of the Holy Spirit is recalled at Pentecost. Throughout the year, the lives of the saints are commemorated on their own particular festivals.
We give particular emphasis in our worship to the sacraments, especially Holy Communion. The Eucharist (to use one of its other names) is our daily bread, our food for the journey, and we celebrate it frequently.
We also emphasise the reading of the Bible. Our worship is soaked in scripture. We listen to the Word of God whenever we gather together and we try to apply it to our everyday lives.
Anglicans value the place of reason and imagination. We believe that God has given us our minds to be used, and we try not to shy away from difficult questions.
Finally, Anglicans are not afraid of diversity. We know that God has created all of us as unique individuals, and so the church is called to embrace that variety. The worldwide Anglican Communion, and the Church of England in particular, include a wide range of different worship styles and theological opinions. But we still value our sense of family, our common history and our sense of connectedness with one another.
Prayer for All Saints
Most Church of England parishes are dedicated to one or more patron saints. Bakewell Parish Church is dedicated to All Saints, and this prayer is used on All Saints' Day on 1 November each year:
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.