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 use of these charismatic gifts in public worship was common in Paul’s day, and nowhere does he forbid them. However, he does require their use in public worship to be done in an orderly way (see 1 Corinthians 14:26-40). All Saints has always taken this requirement seriously, and I believe we have done it very well. However, since people in our church family come from a variety of different backgrounds, I thought it would be helpful to explain what our practice is on Sunday mornings.
At the 10:45 service, after the final Communion song and before the Post Communion Prayer, it has been our practice to have a period of silence. I encourage everyone to take that opportunity to not only thank the Lord for the gift he has given us in the Body and Blood of his Son, but also to pray that if God the Holy Spirit has something specific to say to us that he would make it known through his people. We may not hear a word from the Holy Spirit during this time every Sunday, but we need to make sure that we leave room for the possibility.
If you do feel like you have a word from the Lord on a particular Sunday, we ask that you would come forward before the Post Communion Prayer and let the Celebrant know. He may even ask you the nature of the word in order to “test the spirit” to discern whether it truly is from the Lord. With the Celebrant’s permission the individual will go to the lectern to deliver the word to the congregation. Pray that the Lord would open your heart to receive the word that is being given. It may be a verse of Scripture or an encouragement to us, and at times it may even be a warning. Regardless, it must always be fully Biblical if it is indeed from the Lord.
On some occasions the Holy Spirit may give a word in a tongue. The Apostle Paul requires that if this happens there must be an interpretation given to the congregation. If someone feels like they have a word in a tongue we ask that he or she might pray to discern if there is an interpretation. After giving the word, the celebrant will ask the congregation if someone has the interpretation. If someone does, we will ask him or her to come and share the interpretation with the Celebrant, and with his approval they will then give the interpretation from the lectern so all can hear.
Finally, it is important for everyone to understand that while we have a number of people in our congregation that experience these particular gifts of the Holy Spirit, we do not expect that everyone will. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). Although I personally do not regularly experience what might be considered the “charismatic” gifts of the Holy Spirit, I still can benefit from those who do. Those same people are in turn able to benefit from the different spiritual gifts that I have been given and bring to the table. It is not about one gift being better than another, but rather about all the gifts working together for the common good. Our Anglican DNA is very diverse. We are evangelical, catholic and charismatic all at the same time. While different local parishes express that diversity in different ways, our identity is always rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Scriptures, the Creeds as faithful summaries of our faith, Prayer Book worship, and an attitude of openness to learn from the wisdom of the traditions of the historic Church. My prayer is that All Saints will continue to be open to all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as he builds us up into a faithful and diverse body.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.