Recently, the Deacons have been in conversation, remarking at missing the chance to share the historic faith affirmations, like the Apostles Creed, in worship. It was pointed out how helpful they are, reminding us that faith isn’t something new or unique to us. Our faith has stretched across the entire face of the earth for a couple millennia now. And sharing a faith confession or statement or creed emphasizes this. Our faith is bigger than we are! It is worth being reminded.
A week from Sunday a few Confirmands will share their personal faith statements. Three days before Confirmation Sunday, they will all share their faith statements with mentors, parents and clergy in the Parish Hall at a special gathered for this expressed purpose. It is a proud and cherished moment to hear our young people taking on our historic faith to own for themselves.
So this Sunday, I figured, why not have us adults pave the way for them by rising after the sermon, and sharing the United Church of Christ Statement of Faith? In fact, I plan to employ our confessing of the faith in this way every few months using different creeds and confessions.
Whenever I welcome new members or train confirmands, I’m careful to point out that we Congregationalists use historic creeds and confessions. But we’re not a creedal church in the strictest sense of the word. Is that a tap dance or a play on words? I hope not. Let me explain.
A creedal church uses the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed (both are found in the Pilgrim Hymnal) as doctrinal tests to ascertain whether someone belongs within the church or without. We don’t believe in doctrinal tests as Congregationalists. We believe in nurturing a relationship with God. We believe Jesus coming as the Christ made possible our new relationship with God.
So as prospective members say, “I don’t know if I can join or not. After all, I don’t believe in the virgin birth….or that Jesus literally descended into hell,” I answer, “Let’s not start there. Let’s start somewhere else and work back toward there later. It is about being in relationship with God. Is that something you want? And can you abide a pastor intent on putting Christ at the center of all things? Because, honestly, that is who I am and where we are headed as a church.”
People seem ok with that. They might not know what to make of Jesus, but they do expect me to be crazy about him, being a pastor. They’re willing to tag along and listen, because frankly who is more interesting, more telling, more truthful, more enigmatic, more loving than Jesus is?
Creeds, confessions, and statements of faith are also helpful because as Protestants we were founded as a correction to the medieval Roman Catholic Church. And to this day, we are much better at saying who we are not rather than who we actually are and what we will finally affirm.
How often do we say, “We’re not like those evangelicals…like those Catholics…like those fundamentalists!” That is all well and good, but it is too easy to say who you are not rather than stake out who you are. Shared confessions correct this adolescent tendency. We can improve affirming that faith we do embrace without picking on other Christians we perceived as flawed.