Class of 1952 produces volume “The Faith by Which I Live”

In their systematic theology course years ago, members of the YDS Class of 1952 were asked to write a credo, or statement of beliefs.  Now, six decades later, members of the class have been given another writing assignment—by the Class’s 60th Reunion Planning Committee: a statement of faith.

Twenty-five members of the class have responded, and the result is a lengthy, spiral-bound document called “The Faith by which I Live Today,” which will be used as a starting point for a discussion at Convocation and Reunions to be led by Paul Hammer ‘52 B.D., president of the class.

Class Secretary Richard Stazesky ‘52 B.D., ‘53 S.T.M.,’55 M.A., who compiled and edited the document, notes the distinction between what was asked of his class as students – a credo – and what is requested now: a faith statement.

“In our YDS systematics course we all had to write a credo, a statement of our beliefs,” said Stazesky.  “Beliefs usually refer to doctrines, intellectual assertions.  Faith is more a matter of the heart, emotions, that which deeply motivates.  Faith is what is important.”

Indeed, in a call for submissions sent in March to members of the class, Stazesky wrote, “We are not thinking of a credo or of a description of your religious habits or behavior, but what is your faith – the driving, motivating convictions, beliefs or forces that underlie your attitudes, actions, expectations and hopes.”

Stazesky believes the faith statements from fellow members of the class fairly reflect what he describes as the periods of faith history set out by Harvey Cox ‘55 B.D., author of the seminal The Secular City, in his recent book The Future of Faith:

  • Following the Way of the founder, Jesus, Mohammed, etc.
  • The doctrinal and institutional period, for Christians the 3rd century on.
  • Return to the Way, the life of the spirit, even rejection of doctrine and institutions, where religious people increasingly are today.

Plans are to produce a “summary statement” based on the discussions that take place during class reunion sessions on Oct. 24.

Other members of the class’s Reunion Planning Committee, in addition to Stazesky and Hammer, are Phil Krug ‘52 M.Div., Roger Nicholson ‘52 M.Div., and Ed Powers ‘52 M.Div.

Following are excerpts from several of the submissions:

“I seek to grow daily in the awareness that I live totally in the context of God’s mercy and his creation.  Basically, I am completely dependent upon him knowing that his spirit stirs within my own … and with all his people.  I am not just ‘a single self,’ but have within me the ‘I-Thou’ that is continually knocking within me—sustaining, strengthening, challenging, and most real.”  Charles H. Brown ‘52 M.Div.

“As God’s people we are called to love all persons, beginning in our own household and local community.  We are to share our ‘bread’ (money, food, resources) with others, especially the poor, hungry, homeless.  Jesus also compels us in the Spirit to express concern for social justice in our country and world.  And I believe that God holds me accountable for how I share and love and serve.  In other words, I am to act like a Christian.”  Elick Bullington ‘52 B.D.

“Every morning my spiritual practice starts when I pray for 10 minutes with seven icons, three of Jesus, two of Mary, one of Joseph, and one of St. Francis.  Then I do Native American drumming practice for five minutes (the drumming meditates me), then a breath awareness contemplative exercise drawn from Buddhism, for about 30 minutes, followed by about 15 minutes of intercessory prayer.  My morning practice lasts roughly an hour.”  Francis Geddes ‘52 B.D.

“There is one biblical text whose usual interpretation I had to challenge (and it is quite biblical to change the Bible; biblical writers themselves do so).  It is in John’s Gospel where Jesus says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). This often is interpreted as if Jesus is the exclusive way to God.  But I came to see that John’s Gospel cares little about our way to God.  It cares overwhelmingly about God’s way to us.  Jesus is way, truth, and life, not as an exclusive way to God, but as one who embodies and articulates God’s inclusive way, truth, and life to us and to the whole world.  This is central in the faith by which I live today in my extensive interfaith and international involvements at home and abroad.”  Paul L. Hammer ‘52 B.D.

“I acknowledge both religion and spirituality, but my experience centers more on the latter.  I value the various institutional traditions, which the Spirit of God often uses in my behalf, but for me the personalized Spirit is basic as the impact of God felt everywhere.  Regardless of labels, the witnesses of God transcend time and space.  I am without a concrete image of God, except by the present Spirit, which Paul calls the Spirit of Christ (the image of an image!).  Donnell Miller ‘52 M.Div.

“I happen to agree with Bishop [John] Shelby Spong whose devotion and sound research has given embodiment to questions and doubts that caused my skepticism through the years.   Through it all, I believe there has been a fullness and wholeness to my life as a human being—approaching but never quite arriving at the heavenly vision and power that can and has turned the world upside down.  I can only say in conclusion, ‘Let the beauty, love and power of Jesus be seen in me.‘ “  Charles Schwartz ‘52 M.Div.

“After all these years, I still can’t seem to understand why some expressions of the Christian faith are so mean-spirited and even hateful.  Where’s the grace?   Luther is said to have been displeased with the Book of Revelation because he could not find Christ in it.  My sentiments exactly, with reference to a lot of stuff that passes itself off as Christian these days.”  James A. Smith, Jr.  ’52 B.D., ‘56 S.T.M.

August 6, 2012
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