Being a member of the church involves belonging to God through Jesus Christ. It means belonging to the family of God. And, for us, it means belonging to a particular branch of God's family called the Reformed Church in America.
The Reformed Church is Christ-centered and biblical. The Reformed Church in America stands within the mainstream of the Christian church. It has sought to avoid extremes and to focus on the central truths of the Christian tradition. It is ecumenical and evangelical, socially engaged, biblically grounded, and mission focused. Above all, howere, it is Christ-centered. Christ is our starting point. The words of Christ are our charter and guide, his life is our pattern, his death and resurrection our only hope. It is in the living Christ that we find help for every human need and a future that is sure. The final authority in Reformed faith is the Bible. We believe the Bible is God's Word for every person, made understandable and alive through the Holy Spirit's ministry. It is more than a textbook; it is the living Word of God, the source of all revelation of God's will, and the norm by which all teaching must be checked. In a recent poll, members were asked why they chose to belong to a Reformed Church congregation. Three answers emerged:
The Reformed Church is a confessional church. Along with most Christian churches and believers of all ages, the Reformed Church accepts the three universal creeds that arose in the early church: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed (fourth century), and the Athanasian Creed (fifth century), the latter of which is rarely used in public worship today. In addition to these creeds there are three confessional statements that set forth the faith of the Reformed Church. The best known of our confessions is the Heidelberg Catechism. It was written in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1563, by two young ministers. Its language is warm and personal, its spirit mild and gentle. It has a devotional tone.
For more than four centuries the catechism has formed part of the teaching and preaching of Reformed Churches. It is concerned with the practical application of what we believe and with how we experience God in our daily lives. For example, question and answer 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism says: What advantage comes from acknowledging God's creation and providence? We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move.
The Reformed Church is part of the historic church of Jesus Christ. The Reformed Church in America is part of the church of Jesus Christ. Its roots fo further back than the 1600s, when it founded its first North American congregation on the island of Manhattan. Its history can be traced to the Netherlands in teh seventeenth century, to Germany and Switzerland during the Protestant Reformation. The individual generally identified as the father of the Reformation was a German monk named Martin Luther. Luther, like other early reformers, never intended to start a new church. He wanted to see the church renewed, or "reformed," according to the Word of God. Quite independently of Luther in Germany, a reformation took place in Switzerland. Among the names associated with this movement, perhaps none better known than John Calvin (1509- 1564), a native of France whose ministry took place primarily in Geneva. John Calvin combined many gifts as a minster of Jesus Christ. He was not only a scholar and theologian, but an outstanding biblical preacher and faithful pastor. The teachings of Calvin quickly spread beyond Geneva into France, Hungary, Scotland, and into the Netherlands. The Dutch played a key role in opening North America to European settlers. Henry Hudson's explorations begain in 1609. It was the Dutch who originally settled New Amsterdam Colony (now New York City), and a worshiping congregation was organized there in 1628. That congregation continues today. The Reformed Church in America is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the United States. Today Reformed Church congregations are found throughout the United Sates and Canada, and are make up of people of diverse cultural backgrounds who have found a place to belong within the family of God. The denomination currently has 950 congregations and about 300,000 baptized members.