In the Book of Common Prayer (on pages 846-862) there is “An Outline of the Faith” – also referred to as “The Catechism.” Those who are seeking an in-depth understanding of what Christians believe, and in particular the Episcopalian Christians at Our Saviour, could do no better than take one of our Prayer Books and read the appropriate section.
It is presented in the form of questions and answers which is a time honoured way of teaching in the church. The most succinct and yet comprehensive statement of our Faith is in the “Memorial Acclamation” which is printed on our home page and which occurs right in the middle of our Eucharistic Liturgy (Prayer Book, page 363). This is where we say “Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The word mystery is used not because it is a puzzle, but because the divine plan which begins to be shown forth in Christ’s death, resurrection and promise of a second coming is as yet not fully revealed. Based on the revelation we have in Jesus Christ there is a promise of God’s ultimate good purpose for us and for His creation. This is not yet fully accomplished. We believe it will be and that is the basis for our faith and our trust (synonymous terms) in God.
St Paul said, “We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons (and daughters), the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness.....” (Romans 8:22-26 ).
So for us, the word “faith” means both what we believe and what we experience as we await the fulfillment of God’s plan. We believe that our incorporation into Christ’s risen body through personal decision, baptism and membership in the church is the basis for a “faithful” expectation of God’s ultimate salvation and blessing – “his goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom he has made.” (Prayer Book, page 125).
In the early history of Christianity there were many distortions of the teachings of Christ and of his immediate followers so that the church began to write down statements of belief known as “creeds” (from the Latin word “credo – I believe”). The earliest of these is the Apostles’ Creed (Prayer Book, page 96 ) probably first written sometime during the second century AD. A later creed, called the Nicene Creed (Prayer Book, page 326), is a more elaborate statement of the Christian Faith approved by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Both of these creeds are used in the worship of the Episcopal Church and many other Christian denominations as a way of affirming the “core beliefs” of our faith community. They affirm belief in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the events relating to the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit through the “communion of saints” – the fellowship of Christian believers throughout all time – the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.
We recommend this Faith, both believing and experiencing the reality, trustworthiness and promises of God. We also suggest that in living out this Faith it is better understood as “faithfulness” – a word that has to do with relationship and action. The Christian experience is primarily about a relationship with God and with one another that is based on mutual faithfulness. We remember always that St Paul said, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.