How the Divine Service Guide is created
The making of the divine services for 2017 has begun—at least for nearly 30 Apostles from around the world. They are the writers of the Divine Service Guide, which is distributed to nearly 200,000 New Apostolic ministers around the world. The go-ahead was given at a recent authors’ workshop.
The miracles of Jesus: Why were they so special and how should they be understood? The annual workshop began with some theological input. The Apostles and District Apostles who work on the monthly publication—which serves as a guide for the sermons—also use the knowledge that generations of biblical scholars have collected over the centuries, says Apostle Jürgen Loy. He is the chairman of the Divine Service Guide workgroup.
Between church year and topic series
And then the group began to draw up the so-called theme calendar. The framework is set by the church year—beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, followed by Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. New Year’s Day and Confirmation, the three services for the departed, Thanksgiving, and the Day of Prayer and Repentance are part of this too.
This was followed by the planning of the various theme series (this past June it was “God reveals Himself”) and setting varying focuses for each series (for example: Jesus, the bread of life; Jesus, the light of the world; Jesus, the good shepherd). Every issue of the Divine Service Guide also carries a youth service and—and this is still fairly new—a midweek service that puts the focus on a parable of Jesus, a biblical personage, or a biblical situation.
Authors’ workshops in German and in English
Deciding on themes and looking for suitable Bible texts was the task of the workshop of the German-speaking authors that was convened in Stuttgart in Germany on 23 and 24 June. These Apostles work in a similar way as the District Apostles do at their international conferences—something which Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider recently described as being “with heart, soul, and reason”. The workshops always begin with a prayer asking for the proper guidance through the Holy Spirit. This is followed by mental and creative work and finally an exchange of experiences and impressions.
A second workshop will be held in Toronto in Canada this year for the English-speaking authors, who account for about a third of the authors. The English-speaking authors come from North America, Africa, and Asia. This is to make sure that different cultures are involved in compiling the Divine Service Guide.
The work of the authors
As soon as the workshop is finished—and the Chief Apostle has agreed to the theme calendar—the actual writing process begins. In addition to the theme series and a focal point, the Apostles are given two Bible passages to choose from.
In addition to working with the Bible, the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, and other relevant literature, the authors are also provided with contexts that are compiled by the Theological Services of the New Apostolic Church International. These provide background information on the Bible passages in question. A somewhat abbreviated form of these contexts is printed in the Divine Service Guide at the end of each article.
The Chief Apostle has the final say
A draft of the article is forwarded to the working group who will discuss the article with the author in person. The final review lies with Chief Apostle Schneider. “He reads the articles carefully, gives helpful overall feedback, and has many practical tips at the ready,” Apostle Loy, the chairman of the working group, says. About a third of all the Divine Service Guide articles come from the Chief Apostle. They contain the core thoughts of his divine services and are based on the circulars that he sends to all the Apostles worldwide on a weekly basis.
Before the ministers actually receive their copy of the Divine Service Guide, the articles are edited, translated, and graphically processed. For the English, French, and German issues this is done from Bischoff Publishers in Frankfurt (Germany). For the other 60 odd languages that the Divine Service Guide is printed in, this is taken care of by the respective District Churches.
The task of the ministers
Then it is up to the ministers to prepare themselves for a divine service using the Divine Service Guide. “The articles are not a manuscript for a sermon,” Apostle Loy says. “This is important. They are an aid in preparing for a divine service.” Considering that this publication is used the world over in many different cultures, the content is internationally applicable. This is deliberate. “Not everyone in the world will understand the image of say something like the four candles on an Advent wreath.”
To become concrete and practical, and translate these guiding thoughts into the everyday reality of the brothers and sisters, is the main task of the ministers in the congregations. “They do not need to process every single point of the article,” Apostle Loy says. “Important is that the core thought of the article—the message—is delivered to the brothers and sisters in a vivid and sustainable way.”