Creeds & Confessions
As a Confessional, Reformed church, we use confessions of faith and catechisms to study, in a systematic way, the truths taught in God's Word. A confession is a document that teaches basic biblical truths. It is usually divided into topical chapters. A catechism is also a teaching tool-it is written in question and answer form with the questions grouped in topics.
The Savoy Declaration of Faith &
The Heidelberg Catechism
The confession of New Hope Reformed is the Savoy Declaration of Faith and our official catechism is the Heidelberg Catechism. As official documents they are part of the constitution of our church which means that, while they are written by men and not inspired as the Bible is, we do believe they teach accurately the basic doctrines of the Bible and we have covenanted (promised and agreed) to follow them in our daily lives.
The Three Ecumenical Creeds
These ancient creeds defined the doctrine of God and of Christ for the ancient church. They are official confessions of our congregation.
The Constitution of our congregation is the covenant that we have promised to follow together. This constitution guides our church body life as we seek to live together as disciples of Christ. It also guides us as we relate to other congregations.
The Cambridge Declaration
The Cambridge Declaration, written by Congregationalists of Colonial New England in dialogue with members of the Westminster Assembly is an important historical document (although not an official confession of NHRC). It is probably the most definitive work on church discipline and order produced by Congregationalists. It represents those striving to be Biblical in every point of congregational life.
(provided by Mr. Peter Murdy who has updated the Cambridge into modern English for today's readers).
The Children's Catechism
The Children's Catechism, while not an official document of our church, is a useful tool that many families use in teaching and training their young disciples in the faith. This simple catechism is often used as soon as young children learn to speak. The version posted here was originally written in the mid-1800s. A modern version with updated language called the First Catechism is available on the church resource shelves.
As a discipleship tool, this and other catechisms are very powerful. They allow children from a young age to learn basic Christian teachings and doctrines (truths) and learn vocabulary and concepts that will allow them to better understand and participate in the life and worship of the church. At New Hope, most children that are learning a catechism work on their memory work at home, at their own pace. (Most of the younger children are working through the Children's/First Catechism. Some who have completed it are memorizing the Heidelberg Catechism or the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Each week in worship, there is a time of catechism recitation. Children who are prepared are invited to the front of the church (usually by family and accompanied by a parent). The pastor asks the child the question they've learned and the child recites their answer. Never a time of competition or stress, instead this is truly a time of discipleship. The child learns, grows comfortable conversing before the church, and everyone is encouraged and rejoices in the learning that is taking place. (And sometimes there are joyful giggles as a small child answers the question, "What else did God make?" with an answer like, "Ice cream"). Because our children are members of the covenant community, the whole covenant community aids in their discipleship and rejoices in their spiritual growth."
Discipleship and training within the church family and each individual family is key to each covenant child's spiritual growth. We do not hold confirmation classes for certain age groups. Rather, when parents and a child believe that they are ready to make a public profession of their faith, the child meets with our church elders. They will be asked questions about their faith and if the elders discern that the child has been given the gift of true and saving faith, the child will come before the congregation to take the same membership vows that all take when joining the church. This is, again, never at a designated age or a time of just completing a step or phase but a joyful time for ready children to publicly express their faith in Christ and for the congregation to rejoice in that confession together.
Aids to help children grow in faith and to help parents know what a profession of faith entails can be found here:
Questions to any session member are always welcome!