September Newsletter

Formed in Faith

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. 

         ~Acts 2:44-47a

After the summer season, we go back to “normal” in the fall, and it seems fitting to ground ourselves back in our routines and traditions of our church. Sometimes we need to step back and remind ourselves who we are and where we came from. 

So this month I thought it would be helpful to look at five spiritual practices of the early church.  These practices formulate our worship style and the way our church is run today, these practices go back almost 2,000 years.

The Practice of Common Worship: Daily worship was the norm of that early community. Together they reflected on their experience of Jesus and stories they heard of him from the disciples, seeking to understand the meaning of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection—all seen in the light of the Hebrew Scriptures. They prayed together. Worship was both word-centered but also action-centered. They entered this community through water and the Spirit (baptism), and God was made known to them in the daily breaking of bread. 

The Practice of Hospitality: All were included in that early multicultural community. Experiencing God’s love and acceptance led them to offer that love and acceptance to all. There were serious differences of understanding, but a common experience of the Spirit led them into valuing the community and welcoming all.

The Practice of Sharing with those in Need: Having all things in common sounds pretty radical, but at minimum it is a discipline of caring for the “least.” This involved firsthand interaction and sharing with the widows and orphans, with all in need—not paternalistic charity. Through this practice, folks risked being changed by their giving. Having things in common also led to a life of simplicity, of a radical set of values in which people were more important than things.

The Practice of Gratitude and Praise: Just as children are taught to be grateful by learning to say “thank you,” the Christian community learns gratitude by naming its gifts. Intentionally beginning prayer with naming thanksgivings is a discipline that teaches children as well as adults gratitude. In worship and in daily life praise and awe can pour forth out of sheer gratitude for who God is and for God’s work in the world.

The Practice of Witnessing (Testifying): This practice too sounds rather strange, but we are called to speak of the presence of God in our lives, to name how God is at work in our lives and in the world. This naming gives insight and hope to the one who speaks, and others gain an awareness of God at work in their lives and can come to say, “Yes, that is my experience too.”

May we all spend the next month finding ways to nurture our own spiritual growth, and “practice” our faith learning from those who came before us.