Monday, February 11, 2013

A Family Creed

Back in 2010, I read a book called Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean.  It is a very well written exploration of a survey done on the spirituality of American teenagers.  Two ideas from the book got stuck in my brain and wouldn't let go.

1. The shaping power of parents - A finding from the study: "The single most important influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents" (p. 203).

2. The shaping power of creeds - The teenagers surveyed that had the most dynamic faith were some of the best at articulating what they actually believed.  As Dean puts it, "Creeds are articulated beliefs" (p. 70). So, if we want our girls to have a faith that lasts we needed to give them some tools to articulate it well.

These two thoughts rattled around in my brain and in conversations with Rachel for weeks and finally we decided to do something about it - we decided to come up with a family creed.

Now our church heritage historically has been antagonistic towards creeds and I understand why - they can have a tendency to sit in place of Scripture instead of pulling believers to Scripture.  But, the misuses of creeds shouldn't make us give up on them entirely.  Instead we should put them in their proper place.  We saw a creed as a powerful tool for articulating what we believe as a family. So, we looked at some famous creeds to get some ideas (Apostle's, Nicene, etc.).  Just as those creeds were formulated to articulate faith in specific contexts, we wanted to try our hand at expressing what we hold to be true in our own time, place and family.

First of all, Rachel and I brainstormed some key stories or ideas we wanted to be sure and include in the creed.  Then, we each took a shot at writing the creed separately. We then read our drafts to each other and mashed them together using the lines or phrases that fit best.  We had a couple of principles going into this - we wanted it to be short - something easy for us and our girls' to memorize -  and we wanted it formed in a way that would be understandable for the kids now, but hold deeper meaning as they get older. 

That creed has been a part of our family for two years now and I wanted to share some observations from our experiences on what it has been like incorporating a family creed into the Howell household.

Writing it was good for Rachel and I.  This was the most unexpected blessing from the process. Having to wrestle some ideas and concepts close to our hearts onto the same page was a good challenge.  And since we wrote the creed out ourselves, we feel more connected to it.

Memorizing it and keeping it memorized was easier than I thought. Children have an AMAZING capacity for memorization.  They had this thing down in a week or two.  For a while we said it every other night or so.  Now, we end up saying it as a family once every couple weeks.  But, the girls still remember it well.

The family creed has been surprisingly useful.  One day we were in a village and a bunch of sick people got a ride into town with us.  Ellie asked, "Dad why is there so much sickness?" We talked about that for a while and, on a whim, I started a couple of relevant lines from the creed and without missing a beat she and Abby finished them.  The creed became a tool that day to help her understand something she already knew how to articulate.  It functioned like a theological shorthand.

I am pasting a copy of our family creed below with hesitancy.  First of all you may not like it.  You may think we left something out or put something in that don't belong - and that's fine.  But don't let the faults of this specific creed make you dismiss their usefulness in general.  Secondly, please don't copy it! It's not that I want royalties for it(!) - it is just that the process of writing your own... makes it your own.  Take a peek at our family creed, do some research on some well-used creeds of the church...and then get a blank piece of paper and come up with one that fits you and your family.

My hope is that as our three girls grow up, this creed will keep wriggling its way into their hearts and imaginations and help nourish a vibrant and sustaining faith that lives on long after Rachel and I are gone.

Grace and Peace,


Our Family Creed:
We believe that one God created a good and beautiful world,
But the first people disobeyed God and broke God’s good gift.
And up until today all of creation suffers brokenness.
God worked through a chosen people, Israel, to show the world how to live well...and finally sent Jesus the King!
Jesus came to share good news:  that everyone is invited to come into God’s Kingdom!
Jesus taught those with ears to hear how to live well:  we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body, and we love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus asks us to be his messengers:  we share that good news with others and we join his quest to fix the world and make things right.
Jesus did amazing things up until his death on a cross.  Three days later he defeated sin, death, and Satan and rose again.
We believe that Jesus is ALIVE and is coming back; he will raise the dead and save the day!
While we wait God’s Holy Spirit lives inside us, helps us make good choices, and gives us power to worship God and serve others.

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