JOINING GOOD SHEPHERD LUTHERAN CHURCH
Individuals join the fellowship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in three ways. First, members of a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod congregation simply need to request a transfer from their home congregation to Good Shepherd. Second, individuals from other Lutheran church fellowships who have been instructed using the Small Catechism are received into membership after a review of the doctrinal differences that distinguish the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and their previous Lutheran church.
Third, those who have no background in the Lutheran church participate in the Catechumenate.
The Lutheran church uses the term “catechesis” to describe the activity by which an individual becomes part of this fellowship which believes, confesses, and practices the catholic (universal) and apostolic faith. The word “catechesis” is based on a Greek word that means “to teach.” However, catechesis is about more than teaching facts. Catechesis is the beginning of a life long process of formation in the Christian faith as we live it in the Lutheran Church.
Catechesis takes place within the Catechumenate. Modeled on the practice of the early Church, the Catechumenate is a formal process by which individuals are gradually led deeper into the Christian faith and life. This is aimed not simply at education, but rather at forming people to live as Christ’s Church. A series of rites helps to mark the different stages as a person continues on in this process and grows in their commitment.
At Good Shepherd, the Catechumenate takes the following form:
I. Time of Inquiry
A time to answer questions that inquirers may have about what the Lutheran Church believes.
II. Catechumenate (Admission to the Catechumenate takes place in September).
Catechesis focused on the Lectionary (weekly Scripture readings) and Catechism
III. Preparation for Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism;
Confirmation and Reception into Membership
Catechesis focused on worship and living the Christian life during the season of Lent. The Rite of Holy Baptism and/or Confirmation and Reception into Membership takes place at the Vigil of Easter during Holy Week.
The Catechumenate begins with a Time of Inquiry. Individuals who are interested in the Lutheran Church are encouraged to attend the Divine Service because it is through the liturgy of Word and Sacrament that a person begins to learn about the Christian faith and to be formed by the Lutheran Church’s sacramental and catholic culture. They are provided a copy of the Small Catechism to read and invited to meet with pastor in an informal setting in order to ask questions and receive an overview of what the Lutheran Church believes.
Inquirers who decide that they want to become part of the Lutheran Church and members at Good Shepherd are admitted into the Catechumenate. This takes place during September. Catechumens are matched with a sponsor from the congregation. Sponsors pray for a catechumen, take part in catechesis with them, and serve as support and encouragement during the process of catechesis.
After entering the Catechumate, the individual begins catechesis, meeting once a week with their sponsors and the pastor. Catechesis is about formation in the faith. It is not simply education. For this reason catechesis occurs in the setting of a worship service (usually 7:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights). The catechesis focuses on the Scripture readings from the previous Sunday and on the Catechism (Ten Commandments; Apostles’ Creed; Lord’s Prayer; Matthew 28:19 [Holy Baptism]; John 20:22-23 [Holy Absolution]; Words of Institution [Sacrament of the Altar]) as explained in Luther’s Small Catechism.
Catechesis continues in this way until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The Church year teaches the faith and unfolds before us the saving work of Christ. The timing of catechesis allows the catechumen to experience Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. These seasons of the Church year become part of their formation in the faith and are integrated by the pastor into catechesis.
The beginning of Lent marks the final stage of catechesis as the catechumens prepare for Baptism or the Affirmation of Baptism; and for Confirmation and Reception in to Membership. The Enrollment of Candidates takes place in the Divine Service on the First Sunday in Lent. The candidates enter into Lent, which is a time of catechesis and growth in the faith that leads to baptism and the baptismal life.
During Lent, catechesis focuses on worship and living the Christian life. Candidates learn about how the liturgy is the setting for the jewels of the Means of Grace and about how the liturgy continues to teach the faith we confess. Through reflection upon the Scriptures, they also learn about what the Christian faith means for daily life in the world.
During Holy Week candidates attend the Triduum – the services that run through the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday. At the Vigil of Easter candidates receive Holy Baptism or approach the font in order to affirm their baptism. Baptism (and its affirmation) at the Vigil of Easter highlights the fact that Holy Baptism gives us a share in Christ’s saving death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). At the Vigil of Easter all candidates are then confirmed, received into membership and then receive the Lord’s Supper for the first time as they share in the sacrament of unity. The individuals are now members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and share in the fellowship at Good Shepherd.