Religious Practice

Most denominations use a prayer book during worship. A prayer book is a series of liturgy with additional prayers which provides structure and formality to congregational worship. The Church of England or Anglican Communion places a great deal of authority on the Book of Common Prayer, originally prepared by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), and its succeeding editions. Most churches also use some form of hymn book.

There is a necessary relationship for Christians between belief and action. To profess to be a Christian means professing to act like a Christian and this involves adhering to the Christian ethic of love. In the same way that a person loves another human being and must act upon this love, so a Christian must act upon their beliefs. Thus Jesus’ example of service, even unto death, is the template for Christian action. Accordingly, a Christian will consider the best way to follow a vocation by asking God, through prayer, what it is that they should do as a career. Jesus had a lot to say about politics and finance, much of it being both radical and thought provoking.

It has been argued that the Christian ideal would be the institution of the Kingdom of God on earth. i.e. an earthly theocracy where the rule of love is seen in the equality and freedom of all human beings. As this is not apparent in the world today, many Christians see their role as helping to bring about this state. Some Christians, for example in South America, promote the principle of Liberation Theology which believes that Christians should physically fight against poverty, exploitation and lack of human rights. Other Christians choose to enter politics in order to bring about social change. The World Council of Churches, which includes Orthodox, Protestant and Pentecostal churches, is a platform for the churches of the world to talk and work together for a better future. Alongside this, it funds long-term development programmes and promotes dialogue with other faiths.

Christian pro-activity has resulted in all areas of social concern being addressed, from individuals, to society and to those of world concern. Action against suicide, action for urban renewal, health care, support for the aged, action against weapons which kill millions and nuclear weapons are all causes which have been supported by Christians.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor and theologian. He was an active participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. He was involved in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged just before the end of the World War II. What is notable about Bonheoffer’s life and writings is his willingness to follow Jesus’ example for the good of the world whilst supporting violent action in order to stop the spread of Nazism.

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