Morning Service, Sunday 21st April 2013, 11.15am
Presiding: Peter (I didn’t learn his surname)
I’ve mentioned before that I find the Trinity a difficult concept to buy into. Think about it: if Jesus was/is God, then lots of things he says about God in the gospels make no sense, because he clearly isn’t talking about himself. Of course, Trinitarians have all kinds of proofs and arguments to show how the Trinity is implicit or explicit throughout the bible, including the Old Testament.
One of the daftest of these arguments cites the use of the plural form “Elohim” from the very beginning of Genesis. “See,” they will tell you, “even at the creation there was plurality in the godhead”, failing to recognise a) the singular verb, and b) the fact that the plural can be used to indicate greater magnitude or excellence as well as greater number. Okay, I’m no scholar, but this really is Hebrew 101 stuff.
The Christadelphians don’t buy the Trinity either. It simply isn’t in the bible, they say, and I’d concur with them. A summary of what Christadelphians believe explains their view of the status of Jesus and his relationship with God and with humanity, among other things. I can’t say I agree with them on biblical inerrancy, even with a caveat for transcription errors, or on other points of their doctrine, but it’s as valid a perspective as any other.
But unless you knew about the Christadelphians’ unique Christological stance, you probably wouldn’t detect any difference between their form of worship and that of other independent churches – four hymns (first piano accompaniment was a bit Les Dawson but things improved as the service went on), two bible readings, several prayers, an “exhortation” (sermon) and breaking of bread.
The wine was in a common cup with no napkin to wipe between recipients, which is all very well for the cosy couples who were holding hands at every opportunity, but rather less palatable for the rest of us. However, since non-members are not invited to partake I was spared that germ-laden peril. I’ve never understood the appeal of the common cup – other than to the church officer who would otherwise have to wash up all those little shot glasses – or of the over-handled bread. Do people believe that consecration removes bacteria?
The exhortation drew on the two bible readings, John 15 and John 16, and on various other passages of scripture, with references to Edinburgh’s road works (don’t get me started!), cycling, horticulture and swans along the way, but essentially the burden was that God treats us better than we deserve because he recognises us differently from how we recognise ourselves.
Everyone I spoke to was really lovely, very welcoming and friendly, full of enthusiasm and information about their various groups and activities and their charity work in Bosnia. I’ve noted before that the welcome or lack of it can really make a difference to how I feel about a church, so the Christadelphians get a big thumbs up on this score.
One of the things I’ve been realising, though, is that the format I’ve chosen for my Soul Search mission has some serious limitations. To get beyond the rituals and liturgies and the platitudes that make up most sermons and through to the stuff about what a particular denomination actually believes in would require more than attending public worship. I would need to dig into their catechisms and confessions and various brands of apologetics, attend their bible study groups, etc., and quite frankly I don’t have time for that. All I can do is take a snapshot, although the nice Christadelphians have said they’d be very happy to see me there again. Well, we’ll see.