One of the most moving, inspiring, beautiful worship experiences I have ever had was a Wednesday night Taize service at an Episcopal church. The Taize service was Christian based but drew from other, non-Christian sources, and thus was not focused on theology or dogma but on the mere experience of worship and being in the presence of God. I was curious about what this church's regular Sunday services would be like. The church is affiliated with the Center for Progressive Christianity, and its web site indicates that its liturgy "comes from many sources, and that "we try very hard to be as inclusive in our language as possible." That sounds pretty good, although they do add that "traditional liturgy is still a great part of our service." That is also fine--I don't necessarily mind a little traditional liturgy, especially if it is mixed with more non-traditional forms.

But then I took a look at a scanned image of the program for one of its Sunday services, which was located on the web site. I admit that I've never actually attended a regular Episcopal service, but what I saw looked very much like I imagined an Episcopal service to be, and not in a good way. In particular, what I did not like was the section titled "Affirmation of Faith", in which the attenders were expected to rise and repeat the following: We Believe in God the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. We believe in God the Son, Who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with his love. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us with power from on high. We believe in one God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I could never stand up and say those things. I do not believe in that Trinitarian formulation, and for me to say it would be dishonest; and for me to listen to the rest of the congregation saying it in this context would make me uncomfortable. This kind of affirmation of a creed is not what I want to experience in a religious service.

My admittedly limited experience with the United Church of Christ has so far been free of this kind of direct and formal recitation of creeds (although Trinitarian formulations have cropped up in some of the hymns, particularly the doxology.) Somehow I am able to put up with it in the doxology, but I feel that affirming it as a formal statement of faith is another thing altogether. The official position of the UCC seems to be that the creeds are "testimonies, not tests of the faith." I come from a non-creedal tradition (Quakerism), and in that context I am not crazy about creeds at all; but I can deal with creeds if they are framed in that sort of way. I can accept the concept that creeds reflect the historical understanding of those who went before us. Indeed, I see them in that sense as "testimonies"--and I am happy that they are not considered by the UCC to be tests of faith. What I just do not want is anyone expecting me to include a recitation of them as part of a worship experience, as if I believed them.