Our Commitment Statement
As the gathered community of Union Chapel Baptist Church, and as individuals, we commit ourselves to an ongoing journey of faith. We strive together to follow the example of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the Spirit of God in each of us and in others we meet. We seek to be open minded and open hearted; to listen to others and respect their views as we expect them to respect ours. We commit ourselves to continue to welcome those who come to join us, to enjoy each other’s company and friendship. We celebrate the talents and creativity represented by this worshipping community and by the many groups that use our buildings. To that end we commit ourselves to the resourcing of these buildings and all that happens here for the sake of ourselves and the community around us.
Using Jesus as our model we want to continue to ask questions of our faith and what it means in relation to the issues we see around us. We want to speak out on issues of justice and, where possible, be a voice for those whose voices go largely unheard. We recognise that the journey of faith lasts a lifetime and that there is always more to discover of God, of ourselves and of others. In the light of this we commit ourselves to support each other in the journey of our daily lives, as we seek to live out our faith.
In all this we seek to recognise the challenge daily set before us of being people following the way and example of Jesus Christ and to celebrate the joy and love embodied in the one who came to bring life in all its fullness.
A Statement of Faith (1996)
This is a statement or confession of faith made by a section of the congregation worshipping at Union Chapel Fallowfield in Manchester in 1996. We tried to deal with some of the topics found in many earlier and greater Confessions of Faith and which are still important to us.
We put this confession forward for the following reasons:
- To try and put some of our thoughts on paper in order to clarify our beliefs
- To try to make a statement which dealt with some of the traditional beliefs of Christians but put in our own way
- To have a statement which made clear to anybody outside our group, Christian or not, what we believed
Our Confession cannot be complete because our faith is more than these words. It will never be finished because all of us are continually changing and revising our faith as our lives go on. It is a snapshot of where we stand now. For these reasons it should never be seen as a test of what it is necessary to believe in order to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.
JESUS OF NAZARETH
Jesus of Nazareth was born in Palestine some 2000 years ago into the family of a carpenter. About his birth, life and death there are many stories, the truth of which is sometimes difficult to verify Indeed very little is known of his life until lie gained local fame as a preacher and teacher. This brought him into conflict with the religious and secular authorities and finally led to his execution by crucifixion at the hands of the Roman army of occupation.
He taught that there were no boundaries or barriers to the love of God for men and women. His acceptance of everyone, no matter how they were regarded by others, provides us with the strength and inspiration to follow his lead. In this we find in practice the truth of his teaching that the love of people for each other is the truly liberating and life giving force.
We accept that in his teaching he stands in a long and continuing tradition of philosophers, teachers, religious leaders, and prophets. However for us he is pre-eminent. We have found it impossible to put the reasons for this fully into words. We are able to say:
- It is in his life and teaching we see more clearly than in any other the nature of the God we worship.
- It is in the inevitability of his death and his acceptance of it that we have learnt the depth of his love for us.
However this is not enough to express why Jesus of Nazareth has so captured our minds and lives that we hold him as inseparable from our God.
Such is the impact of the life and thought of Jesus of Nazareth on us that his influence is as of one who is always present, guiding and comforting. In this presence we find our strength for the present and our hope for the future. It is this experience which leads us to talk of his resurrection life.
The Resurrection of Jesus has always held a central place in Christianity and we recognise the variety of beliefs which Christians hold concerning this doctrine. In our own congregation these vary widely; some of us hold firmly to the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus whereas others understand resurrection more in terms of a recognition that nothing in this world, not even death, can stand against life as Jesus lived it.
Love, truth, justice, mercy and forgiveness were constant themes of his teaching and were marks of what he called the Kingdom of God. We believe this Kingdom is with us now and that these themes should therefore be our concern in public as well as private life. From this we justify our belief that we should involve ourselves in the social and political concerns of our society.
In any statement about God we start with ourselves, our background, and our culture. We are aware that this seems to restrict the independence of God making him limited by our own feelings and understanding. We want to work for a world where love will permeate and guide all our thoughts and actions. However we are aware that too often the work of love is foreign to our nature and beyond our strength and yet we are continually challenged to go on. Jesus of Nazareth by his life and death has shown us what we could be with the power of love working through us. Our experience, has led us to believe that this power is not a projection of our own personality but God revealed to us. This God is our guide, inspiration, comfort and strength, and is with us throughout our everyday life.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
We are a group of Christians not given to speaking publicly about our personal experiences and relationships. Furthermore the style of church worship and organisation where personal spirituality is paramount is not practised by us. To speak of the Holy Spirit has thus become, for us, a difficult task. This difficulty is not surprising since we are always finding that what we say has already been said by us about the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
The Spirit’s creative influence throughout the world and in the hearts and minds of men and women, the unpredictability of that influence, and the power to change lives have all been recorded in the story of our Faith. We believe ourselves to be part of that story and subject to the Spirit’s influence. Furthermore we believe that wherever there is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control there is the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that all things animate and inanimate within the natural universe are subject to the laws of physics. It is within the framework provided by these laws that we interpret our world and impose order on it.
The image of God making the world and all living creatures including human beings for his own purpose is a powerful one which has been influential in forming the Christian Faith. It is unfortunate that the revelations of modern science have too often been set against this image. We believe that none of the discoveries of science can be opposed to our Faith. The religious story and the observations of science are both of importance in the cultural development of our understanding of our place in the world.
For us information as to the beginning and end of things holds our interest but it is our experience of God with us now which determines our faith. Because of this experience we find it consistent to talk of God’s world and our responsibilities for its care. Furthermore it is in the present that we recognise God as Creator, for it is in the creativity of men and women in their relationships and in their Arts, Sciences and Politics that we see, however darkly, something of the splendour of what God has done for and in us.
The Bible contains:
- The record of the story of the Jewish People who, believing in God interpret their story in the light of that belief
- The earliest records of the young Christian church
- The earliest accounts of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we follow, and the story of his life
The Bible has authority and influence with us because many of the stories and teachings speak to the needs of men and women, and their re-interpretation for every generation gives us vision and hope.
The Bible is an important guide for us in our relationships and attitudes, particularly when we measure ourselves against the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Further it provides a basis for the Church and assistance with its organisation.
We use the Bible as a focus in our worship as we re-tell the story of Jesus and reflect upon it. We test our understanding of our faith by it but are mindful of the danger of using it to justify our own prejudices.
The stories, sayings and ideas of the Bible run through our language and literature, indeed through our whole culture. We have learned to love it from our earliest days. Reading it we find joy and comfort, challenge and peace, and the love of God for us revealed.
Many of the traditional descriptions of the church we find confusing and limiting e.g. the Bride of Christ, the Communion of Saints. We believe ourselves to be members of a Universal Church of people following the Way shown to us by Jesus of Nazareth and acknowledging his leadership. Our awareness of the continuing stream of members of the Church past and futures is a source of strength to us.
We rejoice in the bonds which, through this Church, unite people in many lands in their recognition of their relationship with God. We accept and rejoice in the diversity which the expression of this relationship has resulted in. We confess that spiritual pride has let diversity harden into division and enmity. We confess too that nationalism, political creeds and self-interest has resulted in still further division.
The local church is a group of people meeting in one place for Christian Worship and for the encouragement of each other in following the way of Jesus Christ. Our church derives its order of worship and method of government from its historical links with the Baptist denomination. The freedom to manage our own affairs both spiritual and material is important to us. However we believe that all members of our congregation should be seen as part of our local church even though legal necessities give some within the group responsibilities with regard to the organisation of the church – such as, the appointment of the minister, deacons, the management of finance.
We believe that the interests of the Kingdom of God in our age is best served by a congregation which is richly diverse in age, in experience, in belief and in expression of their faith.
Human beings, like all living things, are subject to the general physical boundaries of birth and death. We know the rhythm of growth and decay, and have the same requirements for food and procreation which are common to all animals.
However we have the ability, through science and technology, to change the world we live in. We can act in response to a developing vision of humanity free from disease, suffering, hunger and poverty. We are able to think, learn and communicate our knowledge. We look to the past and the future as well as the present. We explore our emotions and study ourselves in all the facets of our life. We ask questions concerning the meaning of our lives. We develop codes of behaviour both personal and social. We can work together locally nationally and internationally for good.
Despite all our achievements, our fallibility and the frailty of our unselfishness lead us to actions and decisions the results of which work against human love and joy. We are conscious of the gulf between what we are and what we could be. We believe that we see in every human being more than just the sum of a good and a bad nature. There is in each one of us the image of the God in whom we trust. We have been taught to see this by Jesus of Nazareth in whom that image was most clearly visible.
It is towards God that all mankind journeys and it is our belief that however low human beings fall the image of our God is never quite dimmed.
Through the ages people have tried to enshrine in legal codes and declarations those things material, emotional, intellectual and spiritual which are the rights of any human being. During our own time one of the greatest such Declarations, that of the United Nations, was made. lt is a sadness and a reproach to us all that the nations giving assent to the Declaration still fall short of its principle.
We wish in this confession to express our belief that the demands made by the great prophets of the Old Testament concerning justice, righteousness, mercy and the treatment of the poor are as relevant in our own society as they ever were. lt is in our obedience to the two Great Commandments, to love God and to love our Neighbour as our selves, that our rights will be recognised and safeguarded. For us it is by following Jesus of Nazareth and trusting in him that we will achieve the obedience required.
We believe that God is concerned for everything we do and that there is no activity which is outside God’s interest.
We believe that the scriptures, especially the record of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, provide guidance for us in our lives.
We agree with the moral values which Christianity has traditionally taught such as sanctity of human life, respect for law and the rights of others, marital faithfulness, humility and self-control. However we admit that Christians have often been hypocritical, moralistic and even oppressive in the way they have attempted to promote these values.
Developing values is a continuous process for us all and necessarily involves experiment and mistakes. Sometimes it might cause severe suffering to oneself or other people and we emphasise therefore the fact that forgiveness and restoration are at the heart of Christianity.
We believe that the test of our values is not whether they conform to a set of rules culled from whatever source, but whether in our actions are seen those qualities which we prize most highly. These are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, truthfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We believe that these qualities should be apparent in all our dealings with men and women of whatever race, creed, or nationality.
PRAYER AND MEDITATION
Within our lives we find that times of prayer and meditation play a valuable role enabling us to see our lives and the world in which we live from a new perspective. For many of us these times take the form of talking to God.
Frequently it is our experience that whilst we are involved in these activities we find inspiration, understanding and comfort for ourselves and strength for action in our society.
We know that sometimes marvellous, seemingly inexplicable things happen after prayer. There is, among us, a variety of interpretations of such events and also of the nature of intercessory prayer. These opinions arise from our varying concepts of the nature of God. However we all hold that when we pray for those in need we are trying to identify with them, trying to express our solidarity with them. When we pray who knows what the effects may be, and surely the explanation of them is secondary.