This we believe ...
Thursday 9th May 2013
This we believe …
On 7th may, eleven members of the North Worcestershire PCN Group met to discuss our Creed. We represented three denominations and included both lay and ordained members. Previously we had been discussing the book by Adrian B. Smith’s Tomorrow’s Faith: A New Framework of Christian Belief (O Books) which ends with a challenge to develop one’s own creed.
Before the meeting we had circulated a copy of the Affirmation of Faith developed during a PCN weekend led by Hugh Dawes at St. Deiniol’s library a few years ago. Also circulated were the ideas of one member on what should be excluded and what included, basing this on the sort of framework found in the Nicene Creed. Initially we all agreed that the language should be kept accessible and should avoid technical theological statements. It was decided that we should avoid both gender specific language and authoritarian language.
Several people preferred to think about credo rather than I believe, conveying the idea of a faith which leads to committed action … or as one person said “I believe being regarded metaphorically for “I live as if …”,” but for some that suggested a tentativeness of faith. Many of the suggestions made were unacceptable to some members of the group which forced us towards a really simple statement of faith. Words which had a strong resonance for some were difficult for others. We decided that we should aim for something that all the group members would be happy to have as a statement of faith although some of us might feel it incomplete. Phrases that were suggested included:
“I believe in one god ..”
“I have learned God’s nature though Jesus’ life and works”
“God’s influence comes from the spirit which is within us and which is available to all people”
“God as beginning, continuing, sustaining …”
“God is everywhere (which limits God in time and place), God is universal, God is in all things”
“God in whom we live and move and have our being …”
“As followers of Jesus we are involved in a sacred purpose/activity …”
“My faith rests in the transcendent reality of the one God, the Ground of all Being, from which nothing can separate us and which is our ultimate assurance”
“I follow Jesus, who is for me the way, the truth and the life…”
“I am sustained by the spirit linking all of life in unity under the one God …”
“There is more than one way to knowing God ..” and “an interfaith dimension is essential…”
“Faith requires commitment to love our neighbours in the widest sense, to seek justice, and to act as good stewards of the earth.”
And, from Adrian B. Smith: “The church is called to be an expression on Earth – a sign of witness- of what it means to live by the values of what Jesus called the Kingdom of God” and
”Following the way of love shown by Jesus is the essence of being a Christian ” and “Jesus brought about the possibility of our taking a step forward towards becoming one with the Divine.”
Gradually the focus of discussion changed. The statements in the Nicene Creed do not make any reference to the implications for us as followers of Jesus, they are historic statements to meet the particular need of the time when they are created … but for all of us, it was the commitment to follow Jesus which was paramount. It was agreed that we all regarded ourselves as “followers of Jesus whose life expressed something utterly profound and took to the limit the idea that power is not all important, that expressed the values of love, peace and justice.” We are all “committed to the way of Jesus which we find worthwhile and which takes us nearer to the underlying sacredness …. To God” and therein is mystery.
We concluded with this as a possible statement we could all accept:
We are committed to:
being Jesus’ followers
imitating / living Jesus’ values
valuing Jesus’ example
sharing Jesus’ way to deity
trusting life’s ultimate goodness, sacredness and purpose.
A difficult, but interesting book which covers some of the points we had discussed was recommended - Matthew Barnes Interreligious Learning: Dialogue, Spirituality and the Christian Imagination (Cambridge University Press) – it is rather expensive, however.
Our discussion went on after our allotted time and we ended with the circulation of papers produced by various members of the group. After our open, honest and rigorous discussion together, we decided it would be fruitful to take a different approach in the next two meetings, one which might touch on the mystery of faith – each to bring a poem (or piece of prose or a picture or artefact) we have found meaningful. This led to recommendation of Janet Morley’s The heart’s time (SPCK), intended as a book for Lent, but a collection of very interesting poems with commentary which can be used on other occasions. And we ended with reading one, D. H. Lawrence’s Pax, which begins:
“All that matters is to be at one with the living God
To be a creature in the house of the God of Life.”