GCSE Philosophy and EthicsFull Course The Nature of Belief Module Two
Key Areas… • Private and public worship • Christian prayer and contemplation • The importance of food and fasting • The architecture of Church buildings • The use of music and art in worship • The use of symbols
Worship • The word ‘worship’ means ‘worthiness’. Christians believe that in their worship, they are offering something that is worthy and precious to God – because He is worth it. • Worship is important to Christians because God, the almighty creator of the universe, should be praised. It is also important because it gives each worshipper that opportunity to say and show how much God means to them. God is loving and so Christians should respond by loving Him in return – and also by loving their neighbours to express their love for God.
Private Worship • Many Christians set aside a time each day when they read their Bible and pray quietly. Some Christians refer to this as their ‘Quiet Time’. They will use this time to pray for: • Anything in the world that concerns them. It might be something that they have read about or seen. • The needs of their family and friends. Someone might be facing a decision about their future or their health • Themselves and their own needs. Jesus encouraged people to pray for themselves but only after they had prayed for others. Christians feel that this time of private worship gives them a solid foundation on which to base their lives day by day
Liturgical Worship This follows a written pattern set down in a prayer book. While the Bible readings and hymns vary each service to suit the theme of the worship, the basic structure of the service stays the same each week. The familiarity of the service provides comfort, as does the continuity of the text being unaltered over centuries. Anglican, RC and Orthodox churches mainly follow a set liturgy. Non-Liturgical Worship This type of worship does not follow a set order of service / liturgy. While the services may have a general structure, the form it takes varies each week. Non-Liturgical worship is likely to be Bible-centred, with an emphasis on modern hymns. There is a stronger feeling of freedom and emotion in the service. The emphasis is on participation, and anyone can lead the congregation in spontaneous prayer. Public Worship Most Christians belong to a local Church and attend services in their place of worship on Sundays. Church services mostly fall into one of two categories:
Worship • Non – Liturgical services, however, are not all the same. Far from it!! Many different Pentecostal groups, for example, participate in highly emotion-filled services while the Quakers, an older group going back to the C17th, spend their time worshipping in almost unbroken silence. Baptist and Methodist Churches do not have a regular structure to their services but they are non-liturgical since their services do not follow a prayer book.
Sermon: sometimes called the ‘homily’ – is a talk given by a minister. It explains the meaning of a passage from the Bible and how people might apply it to their lives. Prayers: they play a very important part in all Christian worship. The worshippers add ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer. Sometimes people speak the prayer out loud. What do you find in most Church Services? Hymns: these are poetry set to music. By singing them together, worshippers are expressing a spiritual fellowship with each other. Bible readings: this is where a Bible passage is read aloud, often by a member of the congregation.
The Lord’s prayer (Our Father - RC) is the most important of all Christian prayers. This is because it is the only one that Jesus actually taught his own disciples to use. Our Father in Heaven Hallowed be your name Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from the evil one. Matt 6.9-13 The Lord’s Prayer
Church Services • There are many different kinds of services of Church service. For the majority of Churches, the most important service is Holy Communion – also known as Eucharist (Anglican) and Mass (RC) and the Lord’s Supper (Non-Conformist). This is the service at which worshippers share the symbols of bread and wine to help them share spiritually in the death of Jesus. By taking part in Communion worshippers are re-enacting the Last Supper. • There are 2 major Christian Churches that don’t celebrate Communion • Salvation Army • Quakers
Infant Baptism: This involves sprinkling holy water over the head of a young baby to indicate that he /she is being welcomed into the fellowship of the Christian Church. RCs, Anglicans and Orthodox Churches baptise babies. Believer’s Baptism: Baptists and a few other Non-Conformist Churches baptise adults who have come to believe in Jesus Christ as their saviour. Those baptised are fully immersed beneath the water. This is why the service is often called ‘baptism by immersion’. Baptism In some Churches, services of baptism are very important. This can take 2 different forms:
Christian Prayer and Contemplation • Prayer is the basic way in which they communicate with God. • In any family, it is important that the children speak openly to their parents as Christians are part of God’s family (God the Father) • They believe that God loves them and wishes to look after/support them. • Christians believe that God listens and answers their prayers. • When they pray, they are following the example of JC in the Gospels. • JC put a big emphasis on prayer in his own life and encouraged others to do the same. • Christians feel that when they pray they are entering into God’s presence where they receive divine strength and guidance.
Intercession: praying for other people who are in need Adoration: praising God for his greatness Petition: praying for their own needs Christian Prayer Includes: Thanksgiving: thanking God for all His good gifts. Christians believe that everything comes in/directly from God Confession: Christians believe that they are sinners who need to ask for God’s forgiveness before they pray
Meditation and Contemplation • Meditation is an important spiritual activity. • When some Christians meditate they try to focus their thoughts quietly on God. • They might do this by thinking about a particular Bible passage or by focusing on a piece of music or art(icon). • They might simply go and sit in their favourite place or in their place of worship and know that they are in the presence of God. • Contemplation is a slightly different form of this in which believers find themselves taken up with God. This is a form of prayer that some Christian saints did in the past.
The Jesus Prayer • As well as using icons in their spiritual devotions, Christians in the Orthodox tradition also make use of the ‘Jesus Prayer’. This prayer can take several different forms but it basically says: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me’ • More than just a prayer, this is really a cry for help. Many Christians use it as an ‘arrow’ prayer, one that they use when they do not have time for anything longer. The Jesus Prayer recognises 2 things: Who Jesus is – the Son of God. This means that Jesus had the power to help because he is divine – God himself. We are all sinners and so need God’s help – we cannot enter God’s presence unless we have His forgiveness. Many Christians use this prayer as a basis for their spiritual meditation, thinking deeply on the depth of meaning in each word. They say the prayer in rhythm with their own breathing so that it is muttered many times a day – almost without the person being aware of it
Christians believe that Jesus is God’s own Son and very close to Him. The favourite name that Jesus applied to God was that of ‘Father’ and he encouraged his followers to think of God in the same way. He told his disciples: Ask and it shall be given unto you • Jesus is not telling his disciples that all of their prayers will be answered in the way they want /expect. That clearly does not happen. Christians believe that God will answer their own prayers in His own way and in His own good time. Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened. (Matt 7:7-8)
Food and Fasting • Unlike many other religions, there are no rules about what a believer may / not eat. • We read in the NT (Mk 8:1-13) about JC feeding a large crowd of people with just a small number of loaves and fishes. • He encouraged his followers to use the symbols of bread and wine to remember, and celebrate, his death on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) • One incident in the life of Peter (Acts 10:9-16) suggests that they were allowed to eat all kinds of meat as the animals were given by God to ‘enjoy’.
Food and Fasting • In many religions, fasting – going without food – is an important religious discipline. Many people believe fasting is important because it is a form of self-denial and discipline. • It leads the worshipper to realise some things are more important than physical needs. • Fasting is not a widespread or important discipline for the vast majority of Christians today. • A few people may give up some luxury during Lent, but this is not real fasting.
Churches dominated by the altar. Most churches were built in the shape of a cross with the alter at the far end of the building. This was to make God seem distant, remote and Holy. A rail was placed around the alter that only the Priest could go within. The same is seen in an Orthodox Church where God’s holiness is conveyed by a screen called the iconostasis, which hides the alter from ordinary eyes. Holy Communion is at the centre of of RC, A & O services. Churches dominated by the pulpit. The alter in modern churches is now centred in the middle of the congregation and the emphasis has changed to the pulpit from the alter. This a raised platform from which the sermon is given . Non-conformist churches tend to be very simple as the preaching of God’s word in the Bible is at the centre of their worship. These are often called ‘chapels’. Architecture Christians have been building churches since C3rd C.E. The design was intended to help worship and suggest certain ‘truths’ about God.
Music This has always played an important part in most act of Christian worship. Vocal music going back to C15th, and sung by a choir, plays an important part in services in larger churches. Hymns have long been one of the most important forms of music in the western world. Traditionally hymns were accompanied by an organ although now it’s more likely to be guitars, drums and pianos. Art Many Christian Churches are richly decorated with art in various forms Stained glass windows Statues Icons These are used to illustrate Bible stories and different symbols that Christians might find useful in worship. Statues of the Virgin Mary are very common in RC Churches. Icons are characteristic of Orthodox Churches. Music and Art
Christians often use symbols as language is inadequate. Over the centuries many Christian symbols have been used and they can still be seen today in many places of worship. Cross: this is the most well known and important symbol. It reminds people of Jesus’ death on the cross and that Jesus brought them forgiveness and everlasting life. The Chi-Rho: this is an old Christian symbol taken from 2 Greek letters, the 1st two letters of the word ‘Christ’. Four Important Christian Symbols The Fish: in the earliest days of Christianity in the empire, Christians were persecuted and killed. The fish was used as a sacred sign so that Christians would know that other believers were around. Alpha and Omega: these are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The were used to speak of God at the beginning and end of time.
Icthus is the Greek word for fish. The fish symbol was adopted by early Christians as a secret sign, due to persecution. The fish symbol was chosen because, in the original Greek, the letters stand as an acrostic for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour."