Earlier this week, my dental hygienist was lamenting that people want to kill each other over differing sets of beliefs. She went on to describe religion, and religious extremists in particular, as fighting over competing sets of beliefs. I think we can all understand where she is coming from. We have all heard our faith, and other religions, described as “belief systems”.
Here’s the thing, though: Jesus doesn’t talk much about beliefs. Not only that, I would assert that our life together as a Christian congregation has little to do with holding the same beliefs. What we do is much more important than what we believe. I am much more interested in how you treat me, and how you treat others, particularly the marginalized and suffering people in our world, than I am in how you understand the God or the Trinity.
To be sure, we say the Nicene Creed every Sunday, declaring that we believe this statement of faith that was created to avoid a long list of misunderstandings and unhelpful interpretations of the Gospel. None-the-less, what makes us who we are, what characterizes us as a congregation most strongly, is what we do. A couple years ago our vestry developed this identity statement, and I think it describes us well:
Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church is a caring and welcoming Christian community that is accepting of differences.
We feed the hungry and express our love and compassion in practical ways.
In a beautiful, natural setting, we join together in traditional liturgy and music, with inspired preaching, rooted in the Anglican Tradition.
This speaks to who we are by describing what we do. When people ask about St. Dunstan’s Church, I describe what we do. I find it to be much easier and much more interesting than trying to describe what I believe about God, Jesus, worship, or theology. What we do is inspiring. What we do feeds my soul and fills me with enthusiasm. What we do is worth celebrating.
Yours in Christ,