Northern Boys and the Apostles’ Creed

First of all, I just want to share the conclusion of an email a friend from high school sent me today.  In the body of the email he informs me he’s engaged, he’s bought a house, his mom is having an allergic reaction to her chemotherapy, and he’s building a boat. And he’d like to have S. and me over for dinner.  His last sentence is this: – 

Lotsa love, and not that wussy, kiss on the cheek, southern charm kinda love.  I am talkin about good ole fashioned, Alpena 80’s Rockin, Polish kinda love –

 Now if that just doesn’t beat the hell out of all the “best” and “regards” and “cheers” I receive in my inbox regularly, I don’t know what  does.

Moving on.  Ever since I moved to Michigan I’ve had a really hard time finding a church I like.  S. is Catholic, but one of those “I don’t go to church but I could never be anything else” kind of Catholics…I know a lot of them.  There is something about referring to yourself as a lapsed Catholic that infers to the listener all sorts of damage done to you that Goes Unspoketh and therefore while said religion informed the very core of your being you still …don’t have to go to church.

I knew there were reasons beyond the pretty white communion dresses to be Catholic! But the few times I attempted mass I found it wasn’t right for me and here in Michigan I’ve struggled with finding a church I could comfortably attend.  At first, I stuck solidly by my Presbyterian upbringing, but the Presbyterian churches I’ve attended thus far simply don’t speak to me, literally or figuratively.  Literally, nobody from any of the Presbyterian churches I’ve tried ever came up to me or in any way acknowledged my presence. Figuratively, I would survey the completely white, mostly old congregation and honestly know it wasn’t for me. 

A funny antecdote – in graduate school there were two of us who were Presbyterian and we used to fake jealousy over the lucky, lucky Catholics who could wax on and on about saints and the Pope but then one of the Catholics asked us what distinguishing characteristic Presbyterians ever had and G. looked at the questioner and said “We are very well-dressed.” Which I found hilarious. 

ANYWAY.  I’ve found two churches that might work for me, one with more draw than the other.  The first one is my friend K.’s church and I’ve committed to going through the summer, I so enjoyed my first encounter with it.  I’m keeping the Methodists as my back up, as all good Protestants should.  I won’t go into all of my beliefs right now or why I believe it is important to belong to a church community, because I want to talk about the Apostles’ Creed.  See, after flirting with churches off and on for some time, I’ve realized the one thing I adore about most Presbyterian services, that other churches lack, and it is this:

I love the Apostles’ Creed, followed by the Benediction.  The Apostles’ Creed, well, it’s just so visual…I always feel like I can see it unfolding before me:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Creator of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell. [See Calvin]

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
    and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and life everlasting.


To me, it’s such a very visual creed – I always imagine the saints rejoicing together in communion, celebrating…I see Jesus’ descent, his days among the fire, the miracle of his ascension where he sits separately from God (which is incorrect theologically, but it’s still the way I see it) – I feel his suffering under Pontius Pilate, I feel his forgiveness of my sins.  To me it’s the second most powerful part of the service, following the Benediction where the minister says something along the lines of “You are free from sin, go forth, be brave, spread the word, etc” and then church is over and I am all sin-free and happy with visions of Saints and God dancing in my head. 

But the churches I’ve visited lately don’t include this creed in their services and when I realized that was what was missing from my experience, I acknowledged how perfectly stupid it would be to avoid a church because this creed wasn’t said.  I realized I could say it to myself, whenever I wanted to, as a prayer, even.  And so at night I’ve started repeating the creed to myself and I’m happy to say it still paints the pictures it did when I was younger.  There’s no minister telling me when I’m done to go forth and be brave, but I tell it to myself and maybe someday will feel okay, too.

S. and I are off for a weekend of togetherness – food eating and concert seeing – so no more posts until Monday.  And forgive any typos..I’m on my way to a meeting and don’t have time to proof!

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9 Responses to Northern Boys and the Apostles’ Creed

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    What a nice post on the Apostle’s Creed. I’m a lapsed church-goer (not Catholic — I’ve been many kinds of Protestant in my life), but I do like hearing the words of the various creeds and prayers — I attended an Episcopal church for quite a while and loved the liturgy.

  2. Fence says:

    I only got to mass (catholic) when I’m back with the parents, because they like me to, but I never mumble along with the prayers because I don’t believe. But the creed is one that I almost start to recite before realising that I don’t believe in any of that stuff.

  3. Fence says:

    Doh! go to mass, not got to mass

  4. Dorothy – the Espicopal church’s liturgy is beautiful. When I was little the Episcopal church in town had the best youth group and I so wanted to join so I could go there…
    Fence – There is something very instinctive about the creed, isn’t there?

  5. Stefanie says:

    The Lutheran church I grew up in always included the Apostle’s Creed in the service. The church as a whole, however, tends to be rather conservative and my beliefs and theirs don’t get along anymore.

  6. Emily says:

    I love the Apostle’s Creed, as well. Unfortunately, the two Presbyterian churches I’ve attended in my life don’t say it every Sunday (as we did in the Episcopal church). But that may change, since I might soon have a little influence over the minister of my church (wherever that church may be).

  7. Andi says:

    What a lovely post. Growing up Baptist this was never a part of our service, but I can see how it could become a beloved part of any service.

    And have a good weekend!

  8. Cam says:

    Thank you Courtney. Your post really made me think about the Creed. I agree with you that the Creed is so visual. As you wrote: I always imagine the saints rejoicing together in communion, celebrating. I think of it that way too.

    I am an Epsicopalian (although raised Roman Catholic). We say the Apostles Creed during baptisms, and the Nicene Creed during regular Sunday worship. I have always liked the rhythm of the Nicene Creed (even in Latin), with phrases like the Father, the Almighty /maker of heaven and earth, /of all that is, seen and unseen/…God from God, Light from Light, /true God from true God, /begotten, not made

    After reading your blog today, I went & read both Creeds. Not only was this a good thing to reflect upon because tomorrow is the start of Holy Week, but also because it puts in front of me what I believe, at a time when there are very divisive politics in the Episcopal Church. I am one who agrees with the Presiding Bishop and supports efforts for an inclusive church, but am still saddened by those who seek to divide, who label those oppossing as heretical, and who feel they have no choice but to be schismatic. That is all about power and politics; the ancient Creeds of the Church are about faith and ground me as they have others for centuries.

  9. Brandon says:

    Coming from a family who only went to church on the “days that matter”–which is to say, Christmas and Easter–my knowledge of church services is woefully lacking. (I’m pretty much in Dorothy’s camp.) Technically, I’m a Lutheran–I was baptized, after all–but I’ve never heard of the Apostle’s Creed. I agree, it’s pretty visual, with a nice rythym, and it nicely sums up the Gospels (and, if only to a small extent, Revelation). Thanks for sharing.

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