'The life held within that comma'
One symbol in the Apostles' Creed represents Jesus’ entire life and ministry. Baptist ministers help Greenbelt festival-goers delve deeper by focusing on it. By Sarah Stone
“born of the Virgin Mary ,
suffered under Pontius Pilate…”
'We think this comma is an inadequate description of the life of Jesus,' says David Benjamin Blower, explaining that the symbol 'so often reduces Christ’s life and ministry to a footnote'.
But rather than seeking to alter or reject the Creed, David, a writer, musician and community theologian, and three Baptist ministers, have organised an event that attempts to add creatively to it.
Held over three days, Christ of the Comma combines stories, song, poetry, prayer and discussion to challenge those present to think about the life held within that comma. In each session, people are encouraged to read the Creed, and take a pause of up to a minute at the comma. They are invited to reflect on Jesus' life - a life defined by peace, justice, solidarity and the Kingdom - and think about what it means for us today.
David’s soulful, reflective songs about Jesus’ life, being good news and our reluctance to walk with Jesus in his suffering, are interspersed with reflections and stories from Baptist ministers Alexandra Ellish and Juliet Kilipin (of Urban Expression), and Peter Atkins, a Baptist minister on the Isle of Bute who also represents the Anabaptist Network.
One particularly poignant story is of a young man called John from Afghanistan, who Juliet met through her work in the Jungle in Calais (pictured below). She got to know John over a series of months, as he became more and more involved in the life of the Jungle while waiting for permission to join his brother in the UK. When he was finally granted asylum here, she went to meet him in London. On arrival, John was taken aback by the presence of rough sleepers, and British people’s apparent indifference to them.
‘In the Jungle, no-one sleeps on the streets,’ says Juliet. Despite horrible, cramped conditions, residents always find a bed for new refugees arriving in Calais, even though it means sacrificing what little they have. John couldn’t believe that people were sleeping rough in the UK – such a wealthy nation. His shock made Juliet notice – something she challenged her listeners to do, too.
In Matthew 25: 34-40, Jesus clearly states that what we do for the poor, we do for him. What would change in our lives if we were to treat every human in need as if they were Jesus? Finding Jesus in John’s story is easy in many ways, as attendees discovered in group discussions – and remembering his example between his birth and crucifixion proves a great way to meditate on how to be (and wash) his hands and feet in our own communities.
The Christ of the Comma sessions left a challenge to see the world through new eyes. To pause in our confessions of faith to remember the example and teaching of Jesus’ life, as well as his death. To eat with our enemies, to feed the hungry, and to make Jesus king over all areas of our lives.
Comma | Pixabay
Juliet Kilpin | Sarah Stone
Sarah Stone is a freelance writer and works as an editor at a Christian mission organisation. She reviewed Greenbelt 2017 for The Baptist Times.