Why We Do What We Do
Written by Ps Vernon Quek
When the pandemic hit last year, we as a church family had to change many aspects of how we did church. While that season of change was challenging, it also presented us with a much-needed opportunity to carefully think through why we do what we do as a church. I’m sure the Lord grew many of us as we thought through how and why we do many different things in church – helping us realise what is essential, and helping us really cherish some of the things we’ve lost in this season (such as singing, church camp and wider church gatherings).
One of the most noticeable things that changed were our Sunday Services. Besides the obvious decrease in size and resultant increase in number of Services, the Services themselves had to be shortened and therefore certain Service elements, some of which Zion Bishan has had since our founding in 1994, had to be removed. Although our time-limitation remains, the recent relaxation of safety measures when it comes to singing means that we can re-introduce some elements, such as the Gloria Patri.
If you are unfamiliar with the Gloria Patri (or the ‘Glory Be to the Father’ as it is also known in English), it is a doxology, a short hymn of praise to God that has been sung by gathered Christians for at least five centuries. The term doxology comes from the Greek δόξα (doxa) meaning ‘glory’ and -λογία (logia) which means ‘saying’ – so it’s a saying or declaration of glory to God. Here are the words of the Gloria Patri that we used to sing together in Services:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen.
I must admit that I’m personally hesitant about most things that we ritually do in church. This hesitancy comes from a concern that such practices can become overly-familiar and lose meaning – becoming something we simply do every week without understanding. Not to mention in this particular case, there’s a pretty archaic reference to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost – not a term we use much today!
So why do I find the Gloria Patri helpful? Let me give you three reasons:
Firstly, it helps us look up. This doxology is a great reminder of what our big purpose in life is, and what we hope will come from every time we gather together: the glory of our great Triune God.
Secondly, it helps us look sideways. Singing this doxology together reminds us that God is most glorified by what we do together as one Body. Thirdly, it helps us look forward. The great hope of a world without end – the New Creation – where God will be eternally glorified as He was at the start of Creation is something I need to be reminded of as often as possible!
As we are able to slowly bring back some of the things we did pre-COVID, let’s take the opportunity to ensure we’re not doing them simply because they’re comfortable and familiar, but deliberately because they are things that build us up in Christ. May the spirit behind the Gloria Patri be realised in us as a church family: glory be to our God!