Recently at a confirmation and reception retreat, I had people share their stories of why they have chosen to be Anglican Christians. Although all of the stories were different, there were some common themes that emerged. Most had come from non-liturgical backgrounds and had been drawn into the Anglican Church by the liturgy, the connection with history, and the Sacraments. As a (nearly) lifelong Anglican, I get excited when I hear others talk with enthusiasm about this wonderful treasure they have discovered. When everyone was finished I was so inspired that I decided to share my own story of why I have decided to follow Christ in the Anglican way.
What do these three things have in common? I’ll admit, not much. But they are all practical issues we are dealing with All Saints. So rather than inundating you with countless emails, I thought I would just post it all to my blog so that everyone is aware of what is going on.
Praying for our Children
When a child is baptized in the Anglican Church, his or her parents and godparents make certain promises on the child’s behalf. However, they are not the only ones assuming a responsibility. At one point, the celebrant asks the congregation, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” Our response is a resounding, “We will.”
It is a wonderful liturgical expression of how the church is a community of people who live out their Christian faith together. But as with everything in the liturgy, it needs to have an expression outside of the liturgy as well. We must ask ourselves, how can we support these children as they grow and mature in their Christian faith?
Holy Week is the climactic week of the Church Year, and it culminates in the final three days, known as the Holy Triduum. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are some of the most important days of the Church year, and we will have services on each of those days to mark our journey from lent to the glory of Easter. I wanted to take this opportunity to invite everyone to join us for these services and to give you some insight into the special nature of each one.
On May 26th of this year, Bishop Hobby will come to All Saints for his final episcopal visit before releasing us into the Anglican Diocese of the South. During both services that Sunday he will confirm and receive people into the Anglican Church. The landscape in the Church has changed pretty dramatically since my own confirmation in December of 1985, and as a result the ACNA has had to relook at how and why we do confirmation and reception. Being an old school Anglican, I’ll admit I’m still trying to make sense of the changes, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain them, at least as best as I understand them to this point.
In the early years of the Church, baptism with water and the laying on of hands were both part of the same rite. However, as the Church grew, and as infant baptism became more and more common, the rite was divided into two separate parts, with the priests being primarily responsible for baptism with water while the laying on of hands became the purview of the bishops as a way to “confirm” the promises made for a child at his or her baptism. According to the ACNA Prayer Book, “In Confirmation, God, through the bishop’s prayer for daily increase in the Holy Spirit, strengthens the believer for Christian life in the service of Christ and his kingdom. Grace is God’s gift, and we pray that he will pour out his Holy Spirit on those who have already been made his children by adoption and grace in Baptism.”
“How much time do you spend worshipping in your church service?” This question was posed recently to one of our members. He responded by saying, “About an hour and a half.” The other person was stunned. “Oh my gosh, how long is your service?” Our member responded by saying, “About an hour and a half.” It is common today, especially amongst Evangelicals, to refer to the singing portion of the church service as “worship.” As Anglicans, we view the entirety of our church service as worship. Prayer, Scripture reading, listening, receiving communion, and yes, music are all part of our service of worship to God.
One of the things I’ve always loved about the Anglican Church is that music is not a “part” of the service, but rather it is used throughout our worship. Not only do we have our hymns and songs of praise, we also have what is known as “service music.” While the hymns tend to change from week to week, the service music often stays the same. For example, the Gloria or Trisagion at the beginning of the service is typically the same piece of music every week, as is the Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) during the Eucharistic Prayer.
While many of us appreciate having familiar service music every week, it does have a tendency to become stale over time. To protect against this danger, many Anglican churches will change up their service music for different seasons. In that same spirit, we will be doing some different things musically this Lent, beginning on Sunday, March 10th. Since change that is unexpected and unexplained can be difficult, I would like to take this opportunity to explain these changes to you.
The 2006 Christmas season was a very tumultuous one for me. It was really the beginning of the end of my time in the Episcopal Church and my own future was very much uncertain at that point. I remember putting away my Christmas decorations early in January of 2007, and as I did, I wondered to myself what life would be like for me when I took those decorations back out in a year. Where would I be? What would I be doing? Would everything be different?
Ever since then it has been a private tradition of mine to wonder those things when putting away my decorations. It also allows me to be a bit reflective on what has occurred over the past year, to sit back and look at how God has worked, often in ways I never could have expected. As I look back on 2018 I just keep thinking, “Wow, what a ride it has been!”
Quite a bit has happened in the past year. When we rang in 2018 I was still in my first year as Rector of All Saints, and I felt like I was still learning the ropes and holding on for dear life. Along the way we have seen some wonderful things happen. We have brought in a number of new families which has increased our Sunday school program from one room to three and enabled us to have our very first Christmas Pageant.
“Father Doug wants you to give him a call.” I was sitting in my office in Colorado Springs when I received this message from Darla Johnson. I had already been called to serve as the new Rector of All Saints but I hadn’t yet made the move to Springfield. I will admit, the request made me a little nervous. I had heard horror stories from other priests about tense relationships with former rectors still active in their parishes. After all, giving up control is hard, and when you have been a senior pastor for as long as Fr. Doug, it can be hard to no longer be in charge, to watch someone do things differently. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was Fr. Doug going to tell me how to do things? Was he going to take issue with something I had said during the interview process? Was he going to warn me that he would always be looking over my shoulder?
Fortunately, my anxiety was unfounded. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about during that phone call, but I do remember thinking it was much more pleasant than I had anticipated. So when Fr. Doug requested another meeting with me shortly after my arrival in Springfield, I went into it with a much more positive attitude. I’ll never forget what he said to me that day. He told me that All Saints is his legacy, and in order for All Saints to be successful I would need to be successful. He then promised me that I would have his full support and assistance. If I did anything he disagreed with he said he would tell me, and only me. He has kept his word.
As we continued to talk we discovered that although we are very different in many ways, we discovered that we both share a love for the Church and Anglican liturgy. As I told him my plans for the upcoming Holy Week services his constant refrain was, “Yes, that is how I would have done it as well.”
When I was first called to All Saints in 2017, our bishop suggested that we consider joining another diocese. Since I was at that time a priest in the Diocese of CANA West, I proposed to the Vestry that we move the parish there. However, after a congregational meeting with Bishop Felix Orji, the Vestry concluded that it was not the right move for us to make at that time. However, we were also clear that the possibility of moving into a new diocese might still be a possibility in the future. Recently we have begun exploring the possibility of joining the Anglican Diocese of the South. But before I say more about that, perhaps some background and history would be helpful.
What is a diocese?
If you are new to Anglicanism, you might be wondering, “What is a diocese?” The simple definition is that a diocese is a geographical region or district of churches under the pastoral care of a bishop. So just as a parish is made up of many individuals under the pastoral care of a priest, a diocese is made up of many parishes under the pastoral care of a bishop.
What are the benefits of a diocese?
The geographical structure of a diocese helps churches to share resources. For example, when I was in the diocese of Colorado, there were many parishes that were simply too small to have a significant youth program. So the diocese would put on these wonderful youth retreats every year where all the teens could come together to have fun and learn about Jesus.
A diocese also provides opportunities for collegiality amongst clergy. Especially in smaller parishes, a priest can easily feel isolated, so getting to know other priests in a diocese often feels like a lifeline to the larger church. It also provides a network of pastoral care for clergy with the bishop serving as their primary pastor.
The diocesan structure gives us a way to experience and learn from the broadness of the Anglican Church. Again, when I was in Colorado we had churches in our diocese that were traditional and others that were more contemporary. We had some churches that were evangelical and others who were more catholic. This diversity helped open my eyes to the beauty and adaptability of Anglicanism and helped to strengthen my understanding of my own ministry.
Finally, a diocese helps to connect us to the wider communion. As Anglicans, we are not simply part of an individual parish or a national denomination. We are members of a worldwide communion of Anglican Christians. It is through our diocese and through our bishop that we remain connected to these other Anglican around the globe. When I meet an Anglican from another country, I may not know him or her personally, but we quickly discover that our bishops know each other, and thus an immediate bond of fellowship is created between us.
When I was 23 years old I was working as a youth minister in a parish in Boulder. I was a postulant at the time and preparing to go to seminary, so the Bishop had requested that my Rector allow me to be involved in more adult ministries in the church. So, he put me in charge of the Christmas pageant (I still don't quite get the logic). I decided to do a retelling of the Christmas story. I asked, what would it have looked like if Jesus had been born today (it was 1996) in Boulder? It was actually a pretty clever script. Joseph and Mary Davidson had come to Boulder for the census, and when all of the rooms were filled they had to sleep in the inkeeper's garage. They put Jesus in the back of an old Chevy. Instead of shepherds, the angels proclaimed the good news of Messiah's birth to the homeless on Pearl Street. Rather than wise men from the east, we had professors from the university. Everyone got a big kick out of it. But looking back on that pageant 22 years later, would I do it again? Absolutely not.
What 23 year old me never stopped to consider was why we have Christmas pageants in the first place. As I used to tell my former Children's Ministry directory, pageants are something to be survived ("I didn't realize it was going to be this hard!" she once said to me). So why are we doing a pageant at All Saints this year? Sure, it is adorable, and it gets people into church, but that is not why. We are doing a Christmas pageant because the story is important.
I have received some questions lately about the expression of some of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit at the 10:45 service on Sunday mornings. Some people may not be aware that many of the original founders of All Saints were part of the charismatic renewal movement in the Episcopal Church, and we have always sought to be open to the promptings of the Spirit. As the parish has grown we have seen the addition of members from many different Christian traditions, some of whom may not be familiar with the charismatic expression of our Christian faith. For this reason we thought it might be helpful to do some teaching on these spiritual gifts and their use in public worship. While Fr. Nathaniel and I plan to do some more extensive teaching in the near future, I would like to start with some basic understanding and instruction now.
To begin, I believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are entirely Biblical. Paul addresses this topic numerous times in his Epistles, most notably in 1 Corinthians and Romans (more on all of this in our later teachings). While some Christians today teach that the gifts were a reality for the Early Church but are no longer needed today, I see no Biblical evidence for such a cessation of the gifts. While certain gifts appear more mundane, like the gifts of helping or administration, others seem to have a more extraordinary quality, such as gifts of prophesy and tongues. It is this second type of gift that I would like to address now.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.