In the Anglican Breviary (top) and the Monastic Diurnal (below) the rubrics give the instruction for prayers to be said before and within the Office. On an ordinary day the Apostles Creed would be prayed four times. In the Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer, using the traditional Office as his model, included the Creed at both Matins and Evensong. For catholic Anglicans the Rosary would have been prayed daily by many, adding a further recitation of the Creed.
In Common Worship Daily Prayer the Creed is printed on the inside back cover, as if it is, like the Gospel Canticles, also printed in the inside covers, to be prayed daily. In my travels around the country, and the very welcome hospitality offered me by clergy, I normally pray the Office with those who I visit. Only once have I ever prayed the Creed with anyone.
The exception, of course, is cathedrals where the Prayer Book Office is used, normally at Evensong, and the Creed prayed daily.
In his recent book, The Table, my bishop, Paul Bayes, refers to the Creed often; twenty-eight times according to my search of the Kindle edition. Here are some of the things he says:
“Bible and creeds and liturgies are not summaries of longer and more systematic teaching. They are themselves the vessels of revelation and of the setting forth of revelation, and Christians are called to speak their language and to return to it daily.
Our Rule of Life in Liverpool diocese says that we are called to pray, read, and learn. I hope that all those who sit at the table will hear that call, returning again and again to the Bible and the creeds and the prayers of the church, praying and reading and learning together. As an Anglican/ Episcopalian I look to the Bible as uniquely revealing the saving truth about God, to the agreed creeds of the early Church as setting forth that truth, to the agreed liturgy of the Church as embodying and enacting the truth, and to certain historic Anglican documents as bearing witness to all this in theology and tradition. The image this brings to mind is of a powerful wellspring (of inspired revelation), which is then shaped and channelled by the prayers and reflections of those who have come before us on this journey, so that the living water cascades as from a fountain. And as we sit at the table together we can be nourished by fresh and clear and life-giving water, the water that has been collected from this fountain.
We can connect with the creeds, too, reading them and rereading and thinking and asking and growing. We can do so in private, or in public as we read together aloud. I write these words in the United States, where I have been sharing the prayers of the Episcopal Church in a number of cities. The details of the Bible readings differ from my own, though the steady diet of scripture is the same as I am used to in the Church of England. But I have been invited, in the daily prayers of the Episcopal Church, to say the creeds far more frequently than I say them at home. Their Book of Common Prayer, like the Church of England’s Book of 1662, asks that the creeds be said each morning and evening as a matter of course. And I have done that for a few months. It has done me the world of good.
When I/ we say the creed the stones of the city are crying out, carrying me/ us along with it. These are ancient stones, unlike the ‘statements of faith’ which proliferate and contend with one another in the marketplace of concepts. I do not say them enough, unlike my companions in the Episcopal Church. It will be good to be nourished from the fountain and to say them more, to be pointed in their direction, without reaching too irritably after fact and reason as I consider the detail of their meaning, both for those who wrote them and for me.
The wellspring of scripture, shaped and channelled in creeds and historical formularies, in prayers prayed and songs sung -this is the fountain from which those who sit at the table are given to drink. The gift is wonderful, nourishing and true, and to drink from it daily will set in each one at the table a foundation –a foundation from which they can enter what the early theologians of the church described as prayer.”
Since November I have been praying the Common Worship daily Office, in January I began doing so in the classical Prayer Book pattern, two Scripture readings with a canticle in between. I have now added the Creed after the gospel canticles and before intercessions. I pray the Rosary daily so pray the Creed three times a day. To rejoice in the Creed as liturgy, prayer, is to ‘come home’.
Perhaps we should be less surprised that cathedral Evensong is so popular. It has a deep simplicity that resonates in our souls. Our praying the creeds unites us with Christians of every time and place, not least our own.
Yesterday I was joined for Evening Prayer by a brother Anglican priest, a conservative Evangelical, who had asked to have a conversation with me about some of the current disputes in the church. Although we disagree on some things we caught each other’s eyes and smiled as we prayed the Creed. There is so much more that unites us than divides.
It is a shame that the word ‘fundamentalist’ has been hijacked for the culture wars and is used mainly to position those we disagree with. In the Creeds we can all be fundamentalists.
Just today the bishop of Oxford has issued some commentary on the forthcoming synod debates about evangelism. It is well worth reading. He ends with this:
“I hope and pray that as we listen to the debates we will be inspired with a fresh vision of Jesus Christ and his life and character and death and resurrection and renewed in the power of the Spirit to pass on the wonderful gospel of God’s love in the whole of our life together.”
That in itself is a fine summary of the Creed.
In my work in turning around failing schools, a key part of change is finding a simple message (‘Three Pillars’, ‘Trinity Values’, ‘Our Learning Ladder’ …) and repeating them, all the time, in assembly, in lessons, in one to one meetings with parents and pupils, staff meetings, having them on the walls …
Pretty much like Christians for most of history have prayed and used the Creed.
My plea to my sister and brother priests is simple. Lets all pray the Creed at least twice daily and feed on this rich diet of our Anglican heritage.