So, we’re into this whole thing at my church about creeds and statements of faith. Because ours is such a diverse congregation, ideas and feelings about such statements run the gamut from “What’s a creed?” to “Worship isn’t complete with out one.”
I spent my early years in a more creedal tradition–United Methodist. My experiences as a Baptist, though, were more formative. Staunchly “non-creedal,” I learned from my baptist mentors that requiring people to believe certain things in a certain way wasn’t the way of Christ. (Ironic in light of all that happened later in my life as a baptist!) Because all believers had their own connections to God, we all had freedom to believe how we believed.
If you were to sum up my past experiences with creeds, I guess you could say that I can recite the Apostles’ Creed by heart AND that I feel guilty about it.
But now, I’m now a UCC pastor, a denomination that has strands of both creedalism and noncreedalism. And I pastor a church that has strong representation from both strands. While I’ve been trying to be a good mediating presence, I find now that I need to confront my own noncreedalist leanings.
The thing that convinced me of my bias against creeds was the first comment made in Sunday school yesterday: “In your sermon (see the previous post), you seemed to be justifying over and over the use of creeds in worship. Was that really necessary?”
Don’t you hate it when they “get you” in the first comment? The comment sparked an engaging conversation about how we come from such diverse traditions…about how the “justification” parts of the sermon could have been helpful for congregants who come from noncreedal traditions. As the conversation wore on, though, I realized that it wasn’t congregants I was trying to convince in the sermon, but the preacher.
But after yesterday’s Sunday School conversation, I’m convinced–strongly convinced–of the importance of using creeds in worship. Here’s what happened.
As we shared together our experiences of saying–or not saying–creeds, the conversation took a deep dive into theology. “Here’s what I believe about God.” “Here’s how I believe in God.” “For a long time, I just didn’t get the Holy Spirit. Now, I think it’s what guides us when we’re wanting to do things to help others.” “I know a lot of people who have problems with the Trinity…especially the Jesus Christ part.”
As I sat back and listened to the theological depth of the conversation and realized that it stemmed directly from conversation about creeds and statements of faith, I realized that creeds and statements of faith are good things. Very good things. Rather than pinning us down theologically, they give us a framework within which to wrestle with our faith. And if we speak them and discuss them in community, they can be a tremendous source of spiritual growth….
….just as they were for me yesterday.
Thanks be to God!