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This first book in the Grow Stage explores the core of Christian belief in greater depth through the Nicene and Apostles's Creeds. This second book in the Grow Stage explores in greater depth how Christians know and worship God. This seventh volume, the third title in the Grow stage, explores the Bible: what it is, how it was given to us and how we should read it.
This eighth volume, the final title in the Grow stage, explores what it means to live as a child of the kingdom of God and to follow in the way of Christ each day as a member of his Church. Turning to Christ Book 1 What do Christians believe? The only exceptions were the Psalms and the Lord's Supper, both of which had scriptural basis, and possibly the covenant by which individuals joined the congregation. Sabbath services were held twice on Sunday; in addition, sermons were often given on Thursdays, and as occasion demanded, Days of Thanksgiving or Days of Fasting and Humiliation were proclaimed.
These latter were movable weekday holidays called in response to God's Providence. Both were observed in a manner similar to the weekly Sabbath, with morning and afternoon services.
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The approximate times were from AM to noon and from to to PM. In Plymouth Colony, according to the famous passage from Isaack de Rasiere's letter:. They assemble by the beat of drum, each with his musket or firelock, in front of the captain's door; they have their cloaks on, and place themselves in order three abreast, and are led by a sergeant without beat of drum. Behind comes the Governor, in a long robe, beside him on the right hand comes the preacher with his cloak on and on the left hand, the captain with his sidearms and his cloak on, and with a small cane in his hand; and so they march in good order, and each sets his arms down near him.
Once they reached the meetinghouse, the men and boys sixteen and older sat on one side; the women and children sat on the other side.
John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, attended morning and afternoon Sabbath meetings while on a brief visit to Plymouth in October While de Rasiere described the manner in which the Pilgrims progressed to worship, Winthrop provides details on the order of worship. He pays special attention to prophesying. While no examples of prophesies have come down to us, it seems to have been similar in nature to a mini-sermon, consisting of a reading or quoting of a text and an exposition of its meaning and spiritual application, with some discussion of Christian doctrine:.
On the Lord's day there was a sacrament which they did partake in, and in the afternoon, Mr.
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Roger Williams according to their custom propounded a question, to which the pastor, Mr. Smith, spake briefly. Then Mr. Williams prophesied; and after, the Governor of Plymouth spake to the questions; and after him the elder, them some 2 or 3 more of the congregation.
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Then the elder desired the governor of Massachusetts and Mr. Wilson to speak to it, which they did. When this was ended, the deacon Mr. Fuller put the congregation in mind of their duty of contribution; whereupon the governor and all the rest went down to the deacon's seat and put it into the box, and then returned. Ruling Elders were responsible for the government of the congregation, but as they were laymen and not ordained ministers, they could not deliver the sacraments.
Elders were often referred to as the "eyes of the church," governing and admonishing the congregation.
In the absence of Pastor Robinson, who remained in Holland, Brewster preached and taught the in Plymouth. In memorializing Brewster after the Elder's death in , Governor William Bradford also supplies additional details on aspects of worship in Plymouth:. In teaching, he was very moving and stirring of affections, also very plain and distinct in what he taught; by which means he became the more profitable to the hearers.
He had a singular good gift in prayer, but public and private, in ripping up the heart and conscience before God in the humble confession of sin, and begging the mercies of God in Christ for the pardon of the same. He always thought it better for ministers to pray oftener and divide their prayers, than be long and tedious in the same, except upon solemn and special occasions as in days of humiliation and the like.
His reason was that the heart and spirits of all, especially the weak, could hardly continue and stand bent as it were so long towards God as they ought to do in that duty, without flagging and falling off.
Prayer, in keeping with Separatist belief, was completely extemporaneous. The Lord's Prayer was considered a model to be followed, but not slavishly copied. I see the temptation to begin with the follow stage, and then some 18 months later publish the grow booklets. But I suggest it might have been better to publish first the second stage, so that existing groups could be led into the next stage.
The problem will cease to be a problem in , of course, when the last booklets are published. Meanwhile, in the session that I led I did tweak the readings shortening the discussions on the Prodigal Son, and adding some thoughts of Corrie Ten Boom to make the session a little more complex. I was encouraged in this by whoever tweets on behalf of Pilgrim, who reassured me that it is essential to tailor the sessions to those attending. I worried that punitive lightning might strike, appalled at my temerity, but in fact the session went quite well and the heavens took it in good grace.
There was considerable enthusiasm about the course in a restrained, Anglican sort of way. The mixture of bible reading, discussion, and audio and video clips, ensured that the sessions remained lively. Good stuff. Thank-you for commenting, Phil. Would you mind telling us which courses you picked, and in which order?
Each session has so much material that we only used the first half, but it encouraged great discussion and sharing. Apart from anything else, it has stimulated a desire to study the Bible in groups.
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I adapted the questions for discussion a bit, choosing those which seemed most relevant and adding things as I went along and generally they were fine. So, for example, on the last session I asked the group, in twos and threes, to brainstorm what their perfect service of worship would be like, letting them be as specific as they liked. We gathered their words and phrases together and realised what an impossible task it would be to keep everyone happy , which engendered sympathy for the parish priest!
Perhaps the Pilgrim organisers could start some sort of forum for sharing these ideas? This had the advantage of promoting fellowship, but it did mean the quieter, more reserved participants said very little even with encouragement. On one occasion, we sat in two concentric half-circles with the leader facing us, and made mini-groups by talking to our neighbours and then reporting back.
Although it was happenstance, rather than deliberately arranged, I think this jumble of physical layouts from week to week was quite effective — and any deficiencies in one grouping were compensated for by subsequent sessions. Most of them want to do another course in the summer — unheard-of! And both newcomers want to be baptized and confirmed. At its best, Alpha can work like this, with the longstanding Christians doing what they signed up to do, that is spreading the good news.