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Archive for the ‘Anglican’ Category

Confirmed

My wife and I were confirmed in the Anglican church this morning. What an amazing journey this has been. Had you asked the me of my late teens or college years if I thought I’d ever be going to a church like this, I’d have thought you were crazy. I was knee deep in Pentecostalism and looked askance at anything that smacked of “tradition” or “ritual.” If a place wasn’t buzzing with people speaking in tongues or throwing down some funky worship music, it was dead and wasn’t ‘free in the Spirit.’

Amazing how things change. Now I crave the quietness and time to reflect and pray. Not even my favorite worship song (and I do still enjoy some modern worship music) comes anywhere close to the worship I experience when I receive the Body and Blood of Christ each week. My children are learning more about God than ever before and we get to worship together and they get to see Mommy and Daddy worship instead of being shuttled off until the service is over.

I’m happy. And a year or so ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to say that anytime soon. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!

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Well, I figure it’s time for an update.

I couldn’t have asked for things to go any better. My wife (hereafter referred to as “C.”) confessed the other night that she has really come to love going to the Anglican church, even though she’s still not totally “natural” at the liturgy. She really enjoys the teaching and communion every week and has come to appreciate the more reverent style of worship.

The kicker for her (and me) is the effect it’s having on our kids. They seem to be learning so much more in Sunday School than they were at our previous church. We’d ask them after church what they talked about and they never could tell us. Now they excitedly tell us all kinds of things from Bible stories to things about the church year to asking questions about the Eucharist and how the bread is Jesus’ body and the wine is His blood. It’s really remarkable.

Another effect related to the kids is that while they do leave during the processional hymn to go to children’s church, they come back right after the sermon to be with us for the liturgy of Holy Communion. This is I think the most meaningful thing to me and I’m not sure I really knew how much it would mean to me. While they do spend some of the time drawing on paper, when we say the prayers, sing The Lord’s Prayer (I love singing it. The liturgical music is beautiful), sing the Sanctus and kneel for confession and the Eucharistic prayers, we involve them. My older one is starting to learn the singing parts and listens during the other parts. It blesses me so much to not only worship in front of my kids as an example to but begin worshiping with them. And while they aren’t old enough to receive Communion, they do come up with us and kneel and receive a blessing from the priest while me and C. receive the Sacrament. It’s really a wonderful time for us.

On top of all this, we’ve been attending a Sunday School class and have been invited into a community group that meets in homes every other week. And true to form, everyone has been extremely warm and welcoming. I feel like we’re really starting to fit in and get to know some people. These rich, beautiful people have blown away every preconceived notion me and C. had about such folks. It’s really extraordinary.

C. remarked to me the other night that she just wishes she’d have known 2 years ago what she knows now. She wishes we would have not waited to start attending. So, we are in the process of joining the church officially. Being from more informal churches, the process is a little more structured that what we’re used to (basically a handshake and coming down front after the service)…a 6-week adult catechism class and then being officially received by the Bishop when he visits later this year.

Thank you so much for your prayers and continue to pray for us as we dive in more and more. Also, though I know he doesn’t read this blog, thank you to Mark Galli for writing the book Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy. It’s such an easy to read book and has done wonders to help C. understand the significance and symbolism involved in the various aspects of the liturgy and feel more comfortable. I read it a year or so ago and loved it myself but I think it’s been a Godsend for her.

I’m not done blogging, so this isn’t a goodbye post. The journey is really only beginning.

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Well, our family attended the local Anglican parish this morning for the first time in over two years.  My wife told me a few weeks ago that she was ready to go and that she just felt like it was time.  I had to be out of town for a week so this Sunday was the first opportunity.

It was a bit stressful as she started expressing serious anxiety over the whole matter on the way there, mostly due to it being so “different” from what we’re used to but another unspoken issue is a perception that it’s an affluent church full of skinny, pretty people.  She’s afraid we won’t relate to the families there who are (mostly) in a higher economic class than we are and that our kids will have a hard time making friends with all the rich private school kids.

Overall, I think it went fine.  There was the normal fumbling with the Book of Common Prayer and not being sure what to do next.  We’d tried to prepare the kids for what to do during the Eucharist but since they didn’t have they’re hands cupped and held out, the rector thought they weren’t receiving this morning and simply gave them a blessing.  On the other hand, a friend of mine from high school is involved with the children’s ministry and came up to meet my family.  She then took us around to show us the Sunday School programs, explain the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and I think all of that helped.  Plus the sermon was really good.  So all in all I think it went fairly well.

I really want us to give this a real, open-minded attempt this time around.   Last time we visited for 4 weeks or so, but never engaged.  We plan on attending Sunday School next week and I want us to really try to immerse ourselves in the life of this church.

So, I covet your prayers.  I ultimately want to be where God wants us to be, but I want to give this place every chance.  So please pray that my wife’s anxiety will subside and that she will truly be open-minded to the liturgy, the quieter, slower pace and the other things this church has to offer versus your typical contemporary evangelical megachurch experience we’re used to.  And help us and the kids to make new friends we can relate to and that relate to us.

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Back in the age of dial-up, when regular people were just beginning to get on the internet, the first things I discovered were message boards. There were tons of them. And the ones I seemed to gravitate to the most were theology boards and ones devoted to debating Christianity with atheists and agnostics. Generally speaking those debates generated way more heat than light, but every now and then you’d have a conversation that went deeper, perhaps via email off the boards or in private messages. And more than once a more level-headed, non-angry atheist would say something about how they appreciated my approach and kindness (I wish more would have felt prompted to say that about me, but I sometimes struggled to keep my temper and sarcasm in check) and that they looked at me or others on the boards and wished they could believe.

That always seemed to be so odd to me. Someone who looks longingly at Christian faith and sees beauty and peace and something desirable, but can’t bring themselves to say they actually believe it. It seemed so sad. All I could do was pray for them and try to answer whatever questions I could and encourage them to keep an open mind on it. You can’t just make someone see something they don’t see. I can’t imagine not believing in God so sometimes it’s hard for me to really put myself in their shoes and feel what it would be like to really NOT believe…until now.

I’m starting to understand where they are coming from, but it’s not what you may be thinking. I’m still a believer. The world literally makes no sense to me without God in it. I can’t “unbelieve” such a thing any more than I could unbelieve that my wife and children exist. But I do wish that I could believe something. My friend is so certain and so at peace with his decision to become Catholic. He did his homework, read a ton and came to the conclusion that the Catholic church was the church Christ founded and that it’s the church we all should seek to be reunited to. I on the other hand have read far more and for a longer time than he did, but I’m still wandering in the wilderness. I admire so much about Catholicism and find much about it to be so attractive. I have similar admiration for other traditions such as Orthodoxy, traditional Anglicanism and Lutheranism too, but particularly on the latter two (in addition to traditionally minded Reformed churches) I still run into the question of authority. Who has the ultimate authority to decide between widely divergent interpretations on Scripture and Christian doctrine? It just seems that splintering over and over becomes inevitable no matter which tradition you choose, except Catholicism.

But though I look longingly across the Tiber at what seems to be a much more stable and solidly rooted faith, I find myself thinking, “I just wish I could believe…” And the wishes are about many things. Among them, I wish I could believe:

…that the Pope and Magisterium truly were infallible on matters of faith and interpreting Scripture.

…that the bread and wine in the Eucharist truly were the literal body and blood of Christ.

…that the Marian dogmas were true and that asking her and other saints for their intercession was truly effective rather than idolatrous.

…that I could agree with the Catholic Church fully on their stances regarding divorce and contraception.

…that if I chose to cross the Tiber, that I wouldn’t be sitting there 5-10 years from now unhappy again and wanting more out of church and the Christian life but now being completely befuddled as to where to go next.

I could go on and on I suppose but I guess what this really speaks to is that I’m so tired and weary. Nearly exhausted mentally and emotionally. I’m tired of being restless in my spirit and mind. I’m tired of not feeling like I can really jump in with both feet somewhere because of all these unsettled theological questions.  I’ve been through the emotionalism of my Pentecostal days, the intellectual high of Calvinism and Reformed theological study and the seemingly endless quest to be “culturally relevant” (which seems to be closely related to some vague notion of “hipness” sometimes).   Right now I’m just attending church but I don’t feel like I can really engage with my whole heart because I question everything.  I just feel like I’m in this state of suspension with no solid foothold anywhere, not because there aren’t several options purporting to be solid footholds, but because I’m in a crisis as to which one to trust.  I believe the Bible, but on the deep stuff, it’s increasingly unclear as to who is viewing and interpreting it properly. It’s wearing me out. I just want the truth. And I need a place to stand.

I just wish I believed…

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The kids were sick this past Sunday and it was my turn to go to church, so I took the opportunity to go to the Anglican church. I needed some liturgy in my life.

Anyway, as I was in the service I was struck by how ruled by feelings I can be. The main part of the service, the Eucharist, was wonderful as always. But the rest of the service was less inspiring. First, the organ at the church they are using until their place is built has stopped working, so it was piano only (and they indicated that’s how it would be in the new building since they won’t have an organ right away). Then, I didn’t know any of the hymns and they weren’t particularly good (Anglican hymnody pales in comparison to that of the Methodists to me). And finally the main rector wasn’t there this week so there was a guest speaker. He was ok, but frankly, I’ve become quite used to hearing excellent teachers on Sunday mornings.

So I was sitting in the service, sorting through my feelings. I worry sometimes that I over-romanticize things, then get tired of it or bored when the reality doesn’t live up to the ideal in my head. Here I was in exactly the kind of church I’ve been dying to go to and everything was seemingly conspiring against me to make it less than inspiring.

It troubles me that I’m like this. And I’ll admit, it’s not just a concern for me with Anglicanism, but with any thoughts of becoming Catholic. I don’t want to feel this way. This is a big deal to drag my wife and family into a tradition that is foreign to them and totally different from either of our immediate family. It can’t be done on simply matters of taste and preference, which can then be so easily affected by the lack of an organ or second-rate hymnody. It’s got to be about something deeper. And I also understand that worship ultimately isn’t about me, it’s about God. I do benefit and receive many blessings from worshiping God, but the main reason for being there on Sunday mornings isn’t for me to get something, it’s for me to give something.

And on an intellectual level, I know that if I become convinced that certain beliefs are true and are important, and I know that the church I’m attending doesn’t believe that way but another option in town does, then I should start attending the church that teaches correctly. This becomes an even bigger deal if I become convinced of the claims the Catholic Church makes because it’s not just a matter of this doctrine or that one, but it’s a matter of believing that it is the Church that Christ and the Apostles founded and that it has been given the authority to interpret Scripture and determine correct doctrine and practice. If I’m convinced something of that magnitude is true, how much do my feelings on how inspiring the Sunday service is really matter? “Not much” is my educated guess. But it depresses me to think that I’d be locked into a style of worship that really isn’t open to debate the way it is in Protestant circles and because of my ephemeral feelings, I may grow bored with.

Maybe you think I’m worrying about nothing, but this is the way my mind works. I’ve jumped on trendy things in the past and have a natural bent toward things that are different from what most of my family or friends are into. Then about the time they begin to come around on it, I’ve moved on to the next thing. To some degree I wonder if my dalliance with Calvinism was that way. I was so convinced it was the right view of Scripture and salvation. Now, not so much. Would it be like this for this liturgy or Catholicism issue? Because that’s a whole lot of pain, stress and upheaval for something that could change in 5-10 years.

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From The Blogging Parson.

My favorites:
7. We haven’t had it for so long that now it is weird.

10. Having done away with the old formal ways of doing the Lord’s Supper, we can’t decide on a new, less formal way of doing it that isn’t awkward and weird.

Read the rest at his blog.

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Great article up on RelevantMagazine.com from a guy who has attended Southern Baptist churches all his life and decided he needed to branch out and experience how some of his fellow brothers and sisters worshipped on Sundays. In six weeks time, he visited a different Southern Baptist church than his own (with a different style as well), United Methodist, Presbyterian (PCUSA), Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Assemblies of God.

Go read the whole thing as it’s a really neat experiment and he’s a witty writer. I just wanted to share this excerpt on his Episcopal visit. I could have almost written this for him verbatim:

Then we recite the Nicene Creed, followed by the “Confession of Sin.” Together, as a congregation, we recite a wonderful prayer, including this passage:

We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

When we finish, the priest says, “Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you of all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and it’s such a good reminder. I love this part.

For the Eucharist, we proceed a row at a time to the front. I hear the administrants’ voices: “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven. The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”

I can’t overemphasize the satisfaction I get from this service. It’s contemplative, reverent and serious. There’s no swaying or hand-clapping, but the congregation participates through prayers, confessions and responses. I hear more scripture read than in any Baptist service I’ve attended…

The liturgy is different, but the words are deeply meaningful. I get the sense that the focus of the service isn’t on the music, or the preaching, or even on making visitors feel comfortable. It’s on Jesus. It’s crazy how that seems so revolutionary.

Exactly.

MASH HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

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