For John Greydanus, pastor of Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Shiprock, N.M., the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism brought back memories of a trip to the city of Heidelberg.
“The middle of the city is dominated by the Holy Ghost Church where Caspar Olevianus, one of the two authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, preached,” said Greydanus. “We received a deeper appreciation of the confession upon visiting both the Holy Ghost Church and Heidelberg Castle, [where he was given] the task to author what we know as the Heidelberg Catechism.”
Greydanus, whose congregation includes many Navajo people, noted that the Navajo people were introduced to the teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism more than 100 years ago and are still learning and living it today.
To celebrate the catechism’s anniversary, the Bethel congregation recited question and answer 1 of the catechism, and Greydanus showed slides of Heidelberg.
Bethel CRC was not alone in reciting Q&A 1. On Sunday, September 15, congregations across North America from both the CRC and the Reformed Church in America were asked to mark the occasion with the recitation.
At South Grandville CRC in Grandville, Mich., the Heidelberg Catechism is the theme of a sermon series tied to the book Body and Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechismby Craig Barnes, published by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
In addition to the six-week sermon series, church members are discussing the book in small groups after worship. About 30 people, ranging from young teens to seniors, took part in the first week’s study, said Molli Brunsting, the church’s adult education director.
In addition, new banners tied to the anniversary have been hung in the sanctuary. The banners feature a background of DNA molecules. “DNA symbolizes the fabric of our bodies and life, just as the Heidelberg Catechism is part of the fabric of our faith,” said Daniel Mouw, South Grandville’s senior pastor.
In Holland, Mich., Central Avenue CRC is doing a number of things to commemorate the anniversary. A September sermon series examines Q&A 1 in four parts: Comfort, Set Free, Assured and Willing, and Belonging.
“We go through the catechism quite regularly,” said Chad Steenwyk, senior pastor. “Every time we do, there is a great appreciation [from the congregation], especially for this question and answer, since it is so foundational for the rest of the catechism, and it resonates so well.”
Q&A 1 was also used as a devotional during the elders’ annual visitations to each household. “It was a really a blessed time,” Steenwyk said.
Students in 6th grade begin memorizing the first Q&A at Central Ave. This year, in conjunction with the anniversary, all Sunday school students, from Kindergarten through 5th grade, will also memorize it.
Steenwyk tries to impress upon his high school catechism students why. “I always say, ‘I want you to know this so that when you’re on your deathbed—and no matter what you’re going through in life—I want you to remember that you are not your own. You are his.’”
Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.