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We believe…

CreedA beautiful part of the richness of our worship is our shared creed. More than a declaration of faith, the creed brings the community together—we, together as God’s people, declare exactly that which we believe.

In the parish I serve, we’ve been discussing the creeds: slowly reading all three creeds line by line, learning some of the history, considering the contemporary meanings and situation of their composition, examining how the creeds are timeless, and exploring how they relate to our life and daily expressions of faith.

The proclamation of the creeds is most beneficial when it is not merely recited from memory, but when we engage with the words. As we recognise that our faith journey changes and grows with us, we realise that sometimes we emphasize one part more than another, or we struggle with one section that we never considered before, or that we strenuously concur with one of the declarations.

During confirmation class, we talked that while we strive to hold the entirety of the creeds in our hearts, faith is shared by the entire community. Should we be going through a time when we have difficulty with any aspect of the creed, we can rely on another member of the church to hold that faith—until we can get back to a place on our journey where we too can uphold that aspect. Likewise, it is our responsibility as Christians to hold the faith as firmly as we can, as others in our community may be struggling, and need to rely on us. A corporate faith is a strong faith.

This led us through a conversation about what it is that we believe. Our confirmands, then, were invited to think about their faith—what it is that they believe, what they would declare openly about their relationship with God.

While this would not be a creed as such, as issues of doctrine may be questioned, it is a good exercise to encourage careful, prayerful reflection on the faith which sustains us. It is an exercise that I undertake every year during Lent; as I prepare myself for the Spiritual journey of the Triduum and Resurrection, I am energised by the discipline of discerning where my faith journey has brought me.

And so I invite us all to consider a similar exercise: as we journey through this Holy Week, what do you believe? What words or images or music or other tools would you choose to declare your faith? How would you proclaim (in thought, word, and deed) your relationship with the living God? How would your declaration of faith involve and engage the whole Christian community?

What is it that you believe?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I'm a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I'm passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee. http://everydaychristianityblog.blogspot.ca
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14 Responses to We believe…

  1. The Creed is also an expression in conviction that for God nothing is impossible. 🙂

  2. This romantic view of the creeds does not fit my experience. Surely it’s been many centuries since the ancient formulae represented “exactly that which we believe” as a Christian community. Even casual conversation during coffee hour reveals that contemporary Anglicans differ greatly in our understanding of the creeds – from Sunday School literalism to liberal metaphor to post-modern nostalgia, as well as skepticism and outright rejection (in part or whole). These are not small or temporary doubts, the occasional “struggle” or “difficulty” from which the wanderer has “responsibility” to return. They are, instead, sincere and fundamental differences of understanding about the facts of history, the nature of God, the personal experience of spirit, and the theological convictions of individual conscience. Even if we say the old words together, our minds and meanings are very far apart.

    Consequently many of my friends – who are quite comfortable with skepticism and ambiguity in their personal faith lives – have stopped saying the creed at church and so feel less connected to the community and the institutional church. The forced (and false) unity of the creeds is no longer an ‘instrument of unity’ for us, and enforcing conformity to an ancient “corporate faith” a sure put-off. Surely a contemporary, living church can do better.

  3. This romantic view of the ancient Christian creeds does not fit my experience. Surely it’s been many centuries since the old formulae represented “exactly that which we believe” as a Christian community. Even casual conversation during coffee hour reveals that contemporary Anglicans differ greatly in our understanding of the creeds – from Sunday School literalism to liberal metaphor to post-modern nostalgia, as well as skepticism and outright rejection (in part or whole). These are not small or temporary doubts, the occasional “struggle” or “difficulty” from which the wanderer has “responsibility” to return. They are, instead, sincere and fundamental differences of understanding about the facts of history, the nature of God, the personal experience of spirit, and the theological convictions of individual conscience. Even if we say the old words together, our minds and meanings are very far apart.

    Consequently many of my friends – who are quite comfortable with skepticism and ambiguity in their personal faith lives – have stopped saying the creed at church and so feel less connected to the community and the institutional church. The forced (and false) unity of the creeds is no longer an ‘instrument of unity’ for us, and enforcing conformity to an ancient “corporate faith” a sure put-off. Surely a contemporary, living church can do better.

    • Creeds either unite or divide us, unless you are a Buddhist or a Unitarian when then it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you know the words to Kum ba yah ,I’m OK your OK and truth is what you want it to be. Unfortunately that is not what we see taught in the bible. The apostles were very clear on what it meant to be a follower of Jesus, people were not free to make up there own ideas and still be “one “in Christ. Where opposing doctrines and ideas were being preach separation was the prescribed practice. “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.”, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” and there where those who were disciplined by the church for their beliefs for example Hymenaeus and Alexander and the man mentioned in 1Cor.. We are called to be followers of God through Christ. We are not the ones that set the perimeters on what that demands ,God does and He has given those perimeters in His word. Christianity unlike Unitarian and Buddhist beliefs is not a smorgasbord if you don’t like what is being served,as my Dad used to say you don’t have to sit at the table.

    • Kyle Norman

      Hi Steve, I am wondering if you can say more about the dynamic of your friends. I find it interesting that you say that we can no longer look to the creeds as a point of unity or ‘bringing the community together’ – as LauraMarie has suggested; but when you describe your friends who no longer say the creeds you state that they feel ‘less connected to the church.’ It would appear then that saying the creeds together in some way unites us. Just wondering if you can say some more about that. Blessings.

      • Hi, Kyle ~ Yes, saying a creed together can unite people, but only those who can say it without reservation or qualification and mean by it roughly the same thing. Everyone else is excluded, or at least they are reminded once again that they don’t fully belong.

        While some congregants may recite the ancient creeds in their original meanings with full sincerity, this is not possible for many (most?) people today. Some of us choose, as an act of conscience, to remain silent or omit certain lines; some redefine the old words as metaphors or symbols so we can still participate with maximal personal integrity; some just mouth the words with something less than full sincerity and intention.

        For all of these people the ancient creeds do not unite because they do not express our shared belief. Asking a group to say things they don’t believe actually undermines unity because many of them are aware it’s inauthentic. Wouldn’t it be far better to use a new creed we can say AND mean together?

        • Kyle Norman

          That’s an interesting thought – although one would have to wonder if it is possible to ‘use a new creed that we can say and mean together.’ Can we actually do that? How do we guard against reducing our faith to the lowest common denominator? Take the resurrection for example (hey – we’re a hop away from Easter). I get that some do not voice the statements regarding resurrection because a: they do not believe in resurrection at all, or b: they do not believe in physical resurrection. However, some do believe in the historical, physical resurrection of Jesus. Are you then left with saying that belief in resurrection is not ‘creedal?’ Do you make some uber-vague statement like ‘We believe in the resurrection of the dead- in whatever way that is meaningful to us.’ I would argue that such vague statements ultimately have no meaning- and would actually be as ‘exculsive’ as the ancient creed it replaces.

          of course, all this is conjecture unless we talk about something definitive. May I ask, if you were to re-write the creed into a form that you can say authentically and meaningfully, what would you say? What would you leave out?

          • Thanks for this thread, folks.
            I find the comments about the variations of interpretations interesting – to me that’s part of the beauty of the creeds – within the parameters, we’re given the freedom to find how the creeds have meaning for us all.
            And I’m quite enjoying that this conversation has brought it right back to my point about writing/expressing one’s own statement of beliefs…
            I also

        • There are days when I can’t fully comprehend, believe, what I’m saying in the creed or other prayers for that matter – in those moments I rely on others around me to believe for me.
          It’s a bit like going to the palliative unit. At that moment sometimes the sick person can believe things I am unable to grasp. Other times I hold on to something for them.
          I don’t want to be part of a community where I have to have all the answers all the time. I want to be able to rely on others who will help hold me up.
          “I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
          Random thoughts on this discussion… 🙂

  4. What do you have to believe to belong? Do I have to believe in a set of doctrines developed well after the death of Jesus at a time and place that is 2000 years ago when the authors were much disagreed with and knew nothing of for example Galileo and Darwin. They believed in a three tier Universe and original sin both of which have been discredited by the findings of these two persons. Do I have to believe in the conflicting birth stories and the Virgin Birth or is it OK to regard them as Myth? Do I have to believe that Jesus was God or can I believe that he was a charismatic man who showed us the way to have life and have it abundantly in the service of God.

    In this day and age,I cannot connect with the creeds in many respects and I do not share in the view that saying them together helps very much. In fact, I feel somewhat hypocritical

    I hope I can still belong.

    • Something like the Apostle’s Creed really is a fundamental statement of Christian belief. The trinity, the incarnation, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Those are all profound statements of “must believe” as part of the Christian faith.

      If you reject those beliefs, perhaps the Rev. Pilar Gatemen’s quote from St Mark’s gospel might be of help, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Prayer is a powerful tool of understanding. As St Anselm of Canterbury puts it, “I believe in order that I may understand.” Faith precedes understanding.

      Regardless, your unbelief doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome. How else can Christ’s Gospel be shared if those who do not completely believe (and I apologize if I am misunderstanding your statement and attributing ubelief to you) if they are turned away (in direct contrast with Christ’s commandments and example)?

      There are some great apologetics out there on the basics of Christian doctrine. CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity is one classic, though again perhaps some studies on the Creeds themselves might be more profitable for you? The Church of England recently published a small-group study series that included one series on the Creeds (Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed). It’s called the Pilgrim Course and you may find it useful if you are interested in reading and learning more about the Creeds and the meaning behind their statements. I’m sure others might be able to recommend some other apologetics on basic Christian doctrines if you are interested in more recommendations.

  5. I have to wonder about those in the church who do not believe in ,as Jude has written “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” a faith that as Paul declares “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” and “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God,” The bible was either written by men moved the Holy Spirit or they are book written by men just giving their opinions and worthless in binding our hearts and consciences and we ultimately know nothing of truth about God or Jesus, just men’s opinions and the claims made by them are just lies not truth for they were just backward fisherman and shepherd and the like not like us who have been enlighten and guided by “science”, for it is the purveyor of truth. We can’t say for sure Jesus died for my sins or that “God so loved the world…” they are then just the opinion of a man or a group of men.There is ultimately no certainty of anything.The only certainty that you have is that you are living right now. But thanks be to God he Has given us his word through the prophets and apostles .

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