Beliefs and Practices
The Neshanic Reformed Church is a member of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), which is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in America. The church has about 950 congregations in the United States and Canada and a total membership of more than 300,000. The RCA’s roots are found in a movement known as the Protestant Reformation, which began in Europe in the 16th century as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic church. The two most important reformers were Martin Luther and John Calvin. In particular, Calvin, along with Urlich Zwingli, were influential in the development of the Reformed church in Switzerland. The theology and practices they developed spread to other countries in Europe including Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. It was the Reformed Dutch Church that formed its first congregation in 1628 in New York City (then known as New Amsterdam), which eventually became known as the Reformed Church in America.
Our beliefs are rooted in the authoritative and inspired Word of God, the Bible. They are also articulated in more detail in several doctrinal Standards of the Reformed Church in America, including Creeds and Confessions. Like many other Christians, the Reformed Church affirms three Creeds that were written during the early church:
the Apostles' Creed
the Athanasian Creed
the Nicene Creed
Also, the Reformed Church affirms three Confessions that were written during and after the Protestant Reformation:
The Heidelberg Catechism: Formulated during the Reformation, and still important as a teaching tool in many churches, it has had by far the most formative influence on the life of the Reformed Church.
The Belgic Confession. Written in the sixteenth century by Guido de Bres, a pastor and itinerant preacher in southern Netherlands, it was intended to persuade Philip II of Spain that Reformed people did not hold heretical views. De Bres hoped to convince the king to stop persecuting the Protestants; he himself became a martyr for his faith in 1567.
The Canons of Dort were formulated in 1618 to resolve a dispute among Dutch theological professors on the issue of divine sovereignty in the work of salvation.
The Belhar Confession is the newest statement of faith of the Reformed Church in America written in South Africa in response to divisions in the church during apartheid.
Like other Protestant churches, the RCA recognizes two sacraments – Baptism and Communion.
Baptism: In the RCA, baptism is a sign and seal of God's covenant of grace with us and our children. Baptism is the visible sign that we are cleansed in Christ's blood, buried with him unto death, that we might rise with him and walk in newness of life. The journey of faith that begins in individual baptism continues in the church community. The Reformed Church baptizes infants as well as older children and adults. Recognizing the symbolic cleansing and refreshing characteristics of water, the RCA affirms sprinkling, immersion, and pouring as methods of baptism.
Communion: The practice of the early church and the teaching of the reformers of the 16th century was to celebrate the Communion weekly. The RCA’s Book of Church Order calls for communion to be celebrated at least once every three months, if possible. Today there is great diversity in the practice of communion. Some churches serve communion once a month, some do more or less frequently. Neshanic Reformed Church celebrates Communion on the first Sunday of every month. The church practices “open” Communion, in that it invites all baptized Christians to participate. The elements are served at the pew in individual cups. Occasionally the practice of intinction (dipping the bread in the wine) is used. At other times, people may be invited to come forward to the table.
NRC is a member of the Delaware-Raritan Classis. A classis is made up of representatives from congregations in close geographical proximity to each other. The classis supervises the churches and ministers within its region. It exercises judicial power over the decisions of individual consistories; receives new churches into the denomination; ordains, installs, and dismisses ministers; and oversees students of theology.
NRC also belongs to the Synod of the Mid-Atlantics. There are, at the present time, seven synods in the United States and a synod in Canada. A regional synod exercises general superintendence over the interests and concerns of the classes within its bounds.
The General Synod of the RCA is the highest assembly and judicatory. Its membership, like that of the particular synod, is made up of clergy and lay representatives from each classis. The General Synod meets annually and sets the tone and spirit for the church in its continuing life.
To learn more about the RCA, visit: www: rca.org