The Life of Faith
Of first importance to us is the idea that Christianity can only exist within community; one cannot follow Christ by oneself, but must take the journey with others. At the same time, we also recognize that each individual has their own relationship with God and that there is a need to include all of our perspectives and experience of God within the Church. It matters more to us how one lives than what one believes. And it matters most that we come together in common prayer before our God. Unlike many other churches, the Episcopal Church does not have a confession or belief statement unique to itself that defines Episcopal belief. Instead, we summarize our purpose in the Baptismal Covenant, in which we affirm the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as One God in the words of the ancient Apostle’s Creed and also commit ourselves to godly living.
There are five areas of practice or personal discipline which form the foundation of the life of faith. These are Worship, Prayer, Service, Study and Generosity.
Committing to the practice of regular attendance at worship is important. Of course, God is present and accessible everywhere and anywhere. We don’t gather because this is the only place where God can be experienced. We gather because we cannot go it alone. In community we are held accountable to one another, and we learn to live together for the greater good. But your presence is not about what you get from worship, but what you offer. Praise to God, of course, but also strength for others on their own journeys. Your presence supports your fellow Christians in their own commitments to Christ.
We are invited to have a relationship with God. Like all relationships though, it can’t be a one-way street. Prayer is that opportunity to be with God and to listen for God’s still voice amidst the noisy distractions of life. All Christians should aspire to daily prayer practice. It can be something as formal as Morning Prayer from the prayer book, or reading from a daily devotional like Forward Day by Day (available from the church), quiet meditation, or conversation with God while you walk the dog. Whatever works best for you, just do it. Commit time and intention to nurturing your relationship with God.
The example of Jesus’ life as well as his teachings point to the importance of serving others. We serve not because we expect reward, but because life is cooperative and the more we serve and work together the closer we come to life in the kingdom of God. An important corollary to serving others, though, is to allow others to serve us. Refusing help isn’t a sign of self-reliance, but a denial of God’s action in our lives and a prideful rejection of God’s ways and will for us.
It is difficult to be in a relationship with someone we hardly know. The same is true of God and through study of the Bible and the traditions of faith we learn who God is, what God has been doing in human history and we learn where God is inviting us to go in our own lives. The encounter with the living Christ is transformational, and through study we deepen that transformation as we conform our lives to God’s will for us. Christians should commit themselves to study of the Bible and other works. It is especially helpful to do this with others when possible.
God invites us to see the abundance of Creation and to emulate that divine generosity in our own lives. This includes how we use our money, our time, our relationships, our knowledge, and our talents or skills. God asks us to devote some portion of resources to the furthering of God’s mission through the church, but not just there. We are invited to be Monday to Saturday Christians as well Sunday Christians, embodying a generosity of spirit in every aspect of our lives.
By committing to effort in these five areas of practice, we grow in faith, more closely aligning our lives with God’s will, and move the world that much closer to the kingdom of God.