“The LORD has done great things for us and we are glad.” Psalm 126:3
Lately I’ve been thinking about all the Lord has done for All Saints these many years. From a Bible study meeting in a living room 16 years ago, through many twists and turns, the Lord has grown All Saints into a thriving, multi-generational congregation that continues to draw all kinds of folks into the Anglican tradition of following Jesus. Audrey and I often remark in awe that our once quiet halls are filled with the laughter of children, that families continue to grow, and that every time a bishop visits we have an impressive group of folks desiring to commit to the Anglican Way. Surely the Lord has done great things for us! And our story is not unique: The Lord is doing something exciting through the Anglican Church in North America! The ACNA has transformed over the last few years into a movement increasingly focused on church planting, evangelism and deep discipleship. In conversations with our bishops, it’s not hard to hear their excitement about reaching those who do not know Jesus with the transformative power of the Gospel.
For the last few years, we’ve been talking about the possibility of planting another church in Springfield. I’m sure that sometimes, it has felt like all we’ve been doing is talking about it! But there has been significant prayer, discernment and waiting on the Lord for his timing and his plan to become clear. Through many developments over the last year, it’s become clear that the Lord is calling us to step out and begin the process of planting another church.
Through the visit of our new diocesan Canon for Church Planting, Chris Sorenson, we were able to see with more clarity our opportunities and the next steps. I have recently been commissioned by Father Eric and the vestry to plant a new congregation with a core group of folks from All Saints. As members of All Saints, we believe God has called all of us to launch this church plant together and to be working towards its success. I would ask you to discern whether that means being part of the launch group itself, or if that means supporting us through prayer, sharing our vision with co-workers or neighbors who may be interested, or supporting us in other ways.
While we are still in the development stage, here’s a snapshot of our vision. The congregation is going to be called "The Table”. Our regular Sunday service will be in the early evening followed by a simple, weekly communal meal. There will be regularly meeting small groups for fellowship, spiritual accountability and growing in the life of prayer and Bible study. We will likely be worshipping in a “lower church” expression, with a simplified and less formal liturgy. Our worship program will draw from the deep wells of Anglican chant, historic hymns, and modern songs but will present them in an approachable way to those with little musical training and familiarity with historical church music. We will have a children’s ministry rooted in learning the grand narrative of the bible, and will work with parents to develop family discipleship in the home. We will develop community practices that speak to the felt needs of the unchurched/de-churched and give them a vision of the Christian life that connects with their life and challenges. We will orient our preaching and teaching to the challenges of reaching those who have little to no theological background, familiarity with the Scriptures and understanding of the Christian life. While trying to reach out, we will also be intentional in discipling those who want to go deep, and finding ways in which mature Christians can step into leadership and ministry roles in the congregation and community. Our launch window for the new congregation is from Advent 2019-Advent 2020, but we are hoping for early 2020.
We’ve had a strong sense as we have been praying that the Lord is calling us to seek those who are not living a committed life with Jesus. Many people in Springfield grew up in church or once identified as ”Christian”, but now have little connection to church and either struggle with their faith or have lost it altogether. Others in our community desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus and to be invited into a community that will walk with them as they learn to follow Jesus. The Table will be committed to maintaining biblical faithfulness, expository preaching and solid Anglican worship, but will also contextualize our life together in ways that connect with those outside the Church. In a world inundated with sleek marketing and entertainment, our hope is to reach out with the best our ancient tradition to offer a deeper vision of the Christian life.
But here’s the twist…
We are going to plant another congregation at All Saints, worshipping in the same building. Most likely, you are scratching your head right now. How can two congregations exist in one building? Why on earth would anyone do that? Well, for one, nobody is using the building on a Sunday evening! But more to the point, there are some very good reasons why this makes sense for All Saints and The Table.
First, with new development and housing, the Galloway area is in a transitional moment and we are in an ideal location to reach a rapidly developing neighborhood. We are not currently reaching the Galloway neighborhood, but we have the leadership and resources to develop a congregation targeting the local demographics. The unchurched demographic that we hope to reach in the Galloway area is also heavily concentrated in the downtown lofts and neighborhoods. The lessons we learn and practices we develop with The Table will be immensely helpful in any future downtown church plant. Our hope is that through this process we can build momentum and experience that will allow us to continue planting churches in the Springfield area.
Second, the building has been designed with the functionality of congregational life. This may seem obvious, but often church planting occurs in rented facilities that are not ideal or conducive to church programs like common meals, Sunday school classes, and small group ministries.
Finally, there is logistical space at All Saints currently to house a congregational plant. A key challenge in church planting is finding, affording and securing space that is conducive to developing a congregation. Much of the logistical challenge diminishes significantly through the use of the All Saints building. Entry level investment and overhead is far lower than other models of church planting, and gives us time to develop organic and consistent patterns of stewardship, instead of being in a constant cycle of intense fundraising from the start.
There is much more to be said, and I will be presenting more of our vision on August 4th in McGlynn Hall in between services. A big presentation, though, is not enough. If you’re interested in learning more, in discerning whether the Lord might be calling you to be part of the new congregation, or just want to better understand our vision and how you can support it, I’d love to grab coffee and chat. Please pray that the Lord would bless our efforts and guide our steps, for “unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Pray for Audrey and I, pray for All Saints, pray for those who will go with us. Ask that the Lord will give us all wisdom and courage and grace in all things. And pray most of all for those in our city who do not know Jesus, that in our sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them, God might open hearts and minds to receive with joy the message of salvation.