I Believe WHAT Again? (Writing My Credo After Three Years in Seminary)

As a candidate for ordination in the Reformed Church in America, I am required to write a Credo, or a very detailed and in depth faith statement. Credo, meaning “creed,” refers the various creedal statements of faith of a church or church body. For the catholic church (note the lower case c, not upper case, and trust me, it makes a HUGE difference-), these are the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, which should be said weekly during corporate Christian worship as a commitment to united faith in the Triune manifestation of God. In the case of the RCA, the Credo seems to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment (and the last part), usually coming at the end of the ordination process for candidates for ordination just prior to licensing for a call. Therefore, with mixed feelings, I am ready to announce that…IT IS MY TURN to write my Credo. And boy, do I wish that it wasn’t.

It is interesting to sit down and truly ponder the meaning of my faith in the way a Credo demands. After three years of a formal and rather orthodox (and yet at times, progressive) theological education, I still feel at times like I have so much left to learn – like there are still so many stones left unturned, pages left to read, books left in the library I haven’t checked out. Based on this evidence, how on earth am I prepared to sit down, reach into the deep recesses of my heart, soul and mind, and answer some of the most challenging theological questions that I have been struggling with (and have not found answers to thus far, mind you!) for the past three years?

Thus begins the credo.

At this point, we are working on our Introductions, which is perhaps the most painstaking part, as it feels roughly like Sisyphus’ pushing a boulder up a hill. It is creating ex nihilo. I am responsible for describing how I know God and why, where my revelation comes from, and what my whole faith boils down to (and IT CANNOT BE SCRIPTURE…Dr. Al said under no circumstances could it be scripture, because scripture always grows into something else, which grows into something else, which grows into something else…well, you get the picture. Its like one of those Chinese Finger Puzzles, and nothing good ever comes from those except sore fingers perpetually stuck inside straw finger puzzles. And a Credo cannot be perpetually stuck inside straw finger puzzles. PEACE OF CHRIST.).

Describing my faith seems so difficult, perhaps more difficult to me than everything I’ve ever been through, because my faith is effervescent, ever moving, grounded somewhat in tradition and theology (Definitely in Calvin, absolutely in Bonhoeffer, some Barth, definitely in some Newbigin and those guys), but ultimately, my faith seems most grounded in the love given and received in kind and selfless Christian community that is the Church corporate. My faith is informed by experience, by touch, by prayer, by the reading of scripture, by words exchanged in good times and bad. Faith is best lived out over the course of a person’s life, rather than solely in the pages of a book.

My faith is informed by the living Word of God as diligently documented over the course of centuries by fierce men (and then later by women) in the Holy Scriptures. It is through the Bible that I come to know the selfless and undeserving of God toward His people, even to this day. It lives, breathes and speaks into my life – for me, and for those whom I will serve at UCSF Medical Center beginning in September. It isn’t just a book that existed for one time, place and people, but continues to grow and change – ever dynamic in such a tremendous way that I simply cannot explain, no matter how hard I try. (Drs. Lapsley and Sakenfeld would be so proud…)

This past Sunday I worked with the confirmands at my field education placement on the first step of writing their own faith statements. For the whole week before, I furiously wracked my brain on how I would possibly teach these gifted, brilliant and intellectually curious growing Presbyterian 13 and 14 year olds how to begin to think in their own words about their faith. At the end of the week, I figured out that the best way to reach them would be to think in terms of what might work for me at that age. After all, Confirmation was one of the reasons that I (in hindsight, of course) began to walk closer toward my faith as an independent Christian adult, and away from the faith of my parents. How would I want to learn how to embark upon this potentially daunting process? BY FILLING OUT A FUN WORKSHEET OF COURSE!! Seeing the youth think out the very beginning of their lived out faith and allow it to come alive in the youth basement warmed my heart (I know, very Methodist, but don’t worry Classis, it won’t appear in my very Reformed Credo!), as it brought me back to my 9th grade confirmation class when I was attempting to do the very same: see God working in my life, see the face of Christ in my bullies and difficult teachers, and work further on my prayer and devotional lives. While it was just the very beginning, I have great hope for these youth, and hopefully, they also have hope for themselves, rather than just feeling extremely overwhelmed, although I’m sure they felt plenty of that too (because boy, did I feel overwhelmed – both for myself and for them!).

So why can’t my Credo begin with a worksheet? Why can it? Why hasn’t someone before me created a worksheet for the RCA Credo that I can copy and start at the very beginning (Cue Julie Andrews singing on the hillside of Austria with a bunch of very blonde-haired British Children…)? Maybe someone has, but then it would be their credo, not mine, and for once, I need to begin using my study guide, not someone else’s. This needs to be the story of my theological journey. Where God and I have walked together, our footprints in the sand – cut deep, bled, and healed together, through wars, journeys, tears and laughter.

Can I write a 50+ page faith statement on this? Who the heck knows? I guess I’ll find out over the course of the next 90 days, as this is due at the end of April. I have begun to wonder how exactly a Credo, written in a matter of pages, chapters, and word counts, can even begin to sum up experiences, interactions, hands held, tears shed, theological leanings and beliefs, lightbulb moments, battles won and lost and rocks finally pushed over the pinnacle of a steep mountain, but I suppose it is precisely this that makes a Credo worth writing in the first place – to witness to and share of the journey I am on; to testify to where I am theologically and scripturally, and where I hope to go with the undeserving aid of God through the Holy Spirit. Because by the grace of God, this will not be the final draft, but will be one of many drafts, shaped and molded by the continual progress of ministry, time and the working of God and others in my life.

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