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Children's Creed: What More Needs to be Said?

One of the joys of my ministry is leading children's chapel for our Day School every other Wednesday (Rev. Cathy and I take turns).

About 11:30 each Wednesday, the children - about a 190 of them, ranging in age from 18 months to five years of age - file in with their teachers, take their places in the pews in the Historic Church, and wait for Mrs. Thomas, the Day School Director, to start us.

The service is simple: Mrs. Thomas welcomes everyone, brings us to order with a short prayer, and introduces Rev. Cathy or me.

We give a short message based on the theme of the week ("David the Shepherd," "Mary and Joseph Go to Bethlehem," "Jesus is Born," "Jesus as a Little Boy" and so on.)

After the homily, we stand and say what's called "The Children's Creed."

I believe in God above,
I believe in Jesus' love.
I believe His Spirit too,
comes to tell me what to do.
I believe that I can be
kind and good,
dear Lord, like Thee.

That's 35 words.

Now as you know, it's the custom in most Episcopal Churches to stand after the sermon and say the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed, dating from about the mid-4th Century, is a classic summary of orthodox Christianity. It is a bedrock statement of our faith and a reminder of what unites Christians worldwide and throughout time. Its importance in Christianity is impossible to overstate.

It is also 134 words long.

And (unlike saying the Apostle's Creed in question and answer format in the context of the Baptismal Covenant as is our norm at the 9:00 service), the Nicene Creed is all about what we believe - what we give our assent to, put our faith in - while saying absolutely nothing about the consequences of that belief, what we DO with what we believe, or why those beliefs matter.

Here's the thing:

If our criteria is Jesus' criteria: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,"

if our "mission statement" or reason for being church is Jesus' mission statement - namely,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," (see Luke 4)

then my question is,

"Is the Nicene Creed an improvement over the Children's Creed?"

I may not be on very solid ecclesial (Church) grounds here, but I daresay I'm on solid Biblical grounds:

"People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18)

And

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' but do not do what I say?" (Luke 6)

And

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (I John 4)

Now lest someone accuse me of advocating "dumbing down" Christianity: I know full well the need for us to grow in faith and in spiritual and theological maturity - to wean ourselves from the milk of the basics and grow into the meat and potatoes, the "full stature" of Christ. For Christ's sake (really!) I'm a philosophy major; I appreciate the intellectual life; I believe strongly in lifelong Christian education; my blog isn't about cooking, family life, social justice, sports, or comedy, it's a theological blog; I wish everyone was reading Bonheoffer, Kierkegaard and George Lindbeck and William Placher and even the contemporary brilliant-but-nearly-impenetrable theologian Peter Rollins.

But I'm quite serious: Sunday by Sunday, why shouldn't we (at least occasionally and perhaps regularly) stand and say the Children's Creed instead of the Nicene Creed?

What would be lost?

What would be gained?

Because really: someone has to tell me how we're going to improve on:

I believe in God above,
I believe in Jesus' love
I believe His Spirit too,
comes to tell me what to do.
I believe that I can be
kind and good,
dear Lord, like Thee.


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