[This is the second interaction with Ben Myers’ new book The Apostle’s Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Click here to see more posts about this book.]
I worshipped for two years in a United Methodist congregation. City Well UMC was a diverse and joyful congregation. They prayed the traditional liturgical elements of the UMC Book of Prayer but with spirits of fire. During that time I learned that the prayers, songs, and sacraments all preach in their own way. “The Great Thanksgiving” was itself a blessed sermon, that came from somewhere in the past, but each week challenged me afresh.
So when I began an internship at a United Brethren church whose worship did not include elements like “The Great Thanksgiving,” I began to dream about including bits of the church’s beautiful traditions. The pastor, Kevin, was kind enough to let me try. On one of my first Sundays preaching, I invited the congregation to recite the Apostles’ Creed together. “I believe,” the congregation repeated. “I.” As I read through the creed with all of my brothers and sisters in unison, the “I” felt out of place. What does that word preach? Does it imply Christian faith is mainly an individual thing? Shouldn’t it be “we believe” instead?
In The Apostles’ Creed, Ben Myers asks “Who is the ‘I’ that speaks when we make that confession?” “The whole company of Christ’s followers goes down into the waters of baptism,” Myers writes, “crying out the threefold “I believe!” In baptism, nobody is invited to come up with their own personal statement of belief. All are invited to be immersed into a reality beyond themselves and to join their individual voices to a communal voice that transcends them all.” Much like Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27).
I think Professor Myers is correct in his interpretation of the baptismal use of the creed. Baptism is an individual’s journey, guided by the church, into communion with Christ and, so, they are “immersed into a reality beyond themselves.” But I still wonder if when the creed is read in corporate worship, in unison, we should use the word “we.” In baptism an individual confesses our shared belief individually, so “I” is appropriate, but in corporate worship an individual confesses our shared belief communally, so “We” seems more appropriate.
What are your thoughts?