All this year our 9AM Adult Christian Formation group has explored a complex, ancient, perplexing document which we pray each week in worship: the Nicene Creed. If just seeing the name "Nicene Creed" makes you want to zone out, well, I get it, but also, the conversations that grew out of the morning group's faithful conversations were both provocative and transforming.
In the center of the exploration was the fleshing out of what it means to say "We believe..." And breaking open the meaning inside these words we pray. "Who is Jesus to you?" "What do you mean, you believe?" "What would it mean to be a church that is one? Holy? " "If God created all, what does that mean for your daily life?"
While the Creed can sometimes roll from our lips while our minds wander elsewhere, it's some pretty powerful stuff we are expressing in it. With that power in mind, and with the support of the group that has walked so closely with the Nicene Creed all this year, I write to share with you that we'll be changing the version of the Nicene Creed we use in worship, beginning June 24th. At heart, this change is about deeper faithfulness to our tradition, and deeper unity with Christians around the world.
Like so many of our worship texts, the Nicene Creed was originally in another language (Greek), and has been passed down over centuries, and has some slightly different versions around. Since the printing of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the Creed version we currently use in worship, the Episcopal Church has supported the use of an ecumenically revised translation. This "new" version may be said to be "more conservative" in that it seeks to render the original Greek more accurately in English, and also "more liberal" in that it responds to the contemporary hunger for worship language that encompasses the diversity and fullness of the church's experience.
For exhaustive detail on the "new" version (in use now for 30 years!), you can check out this document, particularly the introduction, and pages 17-21. Or, to experience the change for yourself, simply come to worship on the 24th or afterwards!
Two changes in particular may stand out. One is the phrase "was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human", which both renders the Greek more faithfully and lifts up the centrality of Jesus' "humanness", rather than his birth into a particular male body, which, while powerful, is already noted elsewhere. The second is the omission of "and the Son" when speaking of where the Holy Spirit proceeds from (now we'll just say ("who proceeds from the Father"). This change takes us back to the most unified version of the Creed from AD 481, and reunites us in prayer with the version our Orthodox sisters and brothers still use. More on that here if you like.
I hope that whether you've been loving on the Creed specially all year, or simply praying it in worship, that this new text is an occasion for you to love it anew. I hope you'll let me know how you experience it.