I was eighteen, heading off to university, full of both excitement and anxiety for the new adventures of learning and life ahead. I was also already thinking about entering ordained ministry in The United Church of Canada. My spirit was bursting with passion for all things related to faith and theology, and so, at university, I sought out the Christian groups. It was a delight to meet other young people who were just as passionate about their faith, and quickly I made friends.
At first, I was enthralled with the devotion, the joy, and the conviction I saw reflected in their lives. Alongside my studies, I soaked up the prayer groups and the Bible studies, though I found myself constantly having to internally translate exclusive human and divine language into the more inclusive terms that rested better in my soul.
By my second year of university, a disconnect had begun. You see, I love questions. I love exploring and discussing and pondering questions of theology and life. So, I would take my questions into the Bible studies, prayer groups, and discussions with Christian friends: “Why do you say that?” “But what if…?” “How come…?” Usually no discussion happened in response. I received what seemed to be the accepted, rehearsed answers: “Because Jesus said so” (which he may not have!) or “It says in the Bible” (which it might not!) or “Because Jesus died for our sins.”
I finally came to the conclusion that I had too many questions and they had too many answers, and I definitely liked my questions better than their answers.
I’m not afraid of the questions. I’m not afraid that somehow I might stray from the path or wander away from the faith because I ask questions. When I ponder, discuss, research, and pray my questions, I find that my faith deepens and my awe for Jesus and worship of God becomes richer. That’s why I belong to the United Church. We are a denomination that is not afraid of the questions, the difficult wrangling to make sense of faith.
In 1968, when A New Creed was first proposed, there was definite opposition. Some of the criticisms were that this “creed” was not detailed enough about various aspects of faith such as the nature of Jesus the Christ; that it was superficial, simplistic, and hollow; and that it reflected a self-centred culture. The additions and edits made to the creed since the first draft have addressed some of the original criticisms. Yet in spite of these criticisms, A New Creed has caught on, not only in the United Church, but in other denominations as well.
I think that it has captured our hearts and minds because of its simplicity, as opposed to its being simplistic. Its minimalism creates room for the Spirit to work. The conciseness of the statements that make up A New Creed allows for the questions that I love so much. A New Creed pulls me in as I ponder, “What does it mean that ‘God is with us’ or that Jesus is ‘the Word made flesh’?”
For some, the clearly laid-out answers are what they need in order to rest and grow in their faith. However, I need and love the questions. A questing faith does not provide me with a comfortable resting place. Instead, the questions call me into new adventure with God. Unsettled and questing in my faith, I often find comfort in the words that are so beloved to me from A New Creed: “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us; we are not alone.” To which, I joyfully respond, “Thanks be to God!”