My childhood and youth in the Episcopal Church was a wonderful experience for me. As I said in Part 1, that little Episcopal Church in Lewisburg, WV was like my second family. I loved everything about it. Church was my “happy place.” When I was 13 years old, my family moved from Lewisburg to Newtown, CT. When we were looking at houses the realtor showed us one next door to Trinity Episcopal Church and I thought, “This is where I want to live!” My parents chose a different house, but Trinity very quickly became our church home. There were certainly more Episcopalians in Newtown than Lewisburg, and Trinity reflected that reality. It was much larger and had an active youth group. The building was beautiful and iconic, sitting in the center of town right across from Newtown’s trademark “flagpole.” My twin brother and I got involved with the youth group and started acolyting. A young priest named Bob O’Connor arrived shortly after we did, and we formed a very deep bond with Fr. Bob. He more than anyone else was responsible for forming and discipling me during my formative high school years. Fr. Bob taught me what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Over the past week I have seen a number of people share on social media a letter written by Roman Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò to President Trump. Since a number of people have asked me for my thoughts on the letter I thought I would take a moment to respond. If you would like to read the text of the letter itself, you can find it by clicking here.
I am not coming at this article with a political axe to grind and will not be addressing the political tone in the letter. Instead, I want to look at it from a theological perspective.
Archbishop Viganò begins his letter by stating, “In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical [emphasis his]: the children of light and the children of darkness.” The idea of “children of darkness” and “children of light” are certainly biblical concepts. We see it in places like 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Ephesians 5:8, and Luke 16:8. Without going into full Bible study mode here, the biblical idea is that those who are in Christ Jesus are “children of light.” 1 John 1:7 states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” So the “sons of darkness” are those who are not in Christ, who still walk in darkness. So my initial concern with Archbishop Viganò’s opening statement is that he proposes that these two “opposing sides” have just formed in recent months. Is he suggesting that until recently there was no such distinction? I would argue that this distinction is much older than our own days. So the question we must ask is, how is he defining these terms? I would propose that it isn’t in a strictly biblical way as he proposes, because all who are or have been in Christ throughout history are the biblical “children of light.”
Alleluia, the Lord is risen! It is hard to believe that it has been an entire month since we have worshiped together. For my entire life Sunday worship has been a given, and not being able to meet and worship with everyone on Sunday feels like a part of me is missing. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with everyone how we are doing and what we are hoping for the future.
Current Sunday Worship: Thank you to everyone who has given us feedback on the Sunday morning worship videos. I know it is not the same as being together, but at least we can still feel like we are all worshipping together from afar. I will admit that it has in some ways been fun for me. I have really enjoyed thinking through not only how to do it, but how to improve the video production. Each week I learn something new and hopefully the quality of the videos reflects what I have been learning. It has also been a bit of a challenge learning how to preach to a camera instead of a congregation, but just know that I am imagining all of you out there as I preach.
March 13, 2020
Dear All Saints Family,
As I’m sure most of you know by now, we have had a presumptive positive test for coronavirus in Springfield now. At All Saints we want to continue doing what Christians do, which is worshipping the Lord and helping those in need. However, we also want to be responsible in helping to slow the spread of this new virus. During such a time it is important to “flatten the curve" of the spread, which not only protects ourselves and others, but also ensures that our healthcare system is able to adequately address the crisis. Thus, in obedience to our Bishop, and in accordance with CDC recommendations, we will be implementing the following changes effective immediately. The Vestry will be in continual contact with me and we will determine how and when to update our procedures. We are hoping that this will only last for a week or two, but we don’t feel comfortable putting a time frame on it at this time.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
When we hear the word “worship” in our modern church culture, many people today think of music and singing. The people who lead the music are known as “worship leaders.” When it is time to sing, someone will say, “Let’s worship now.” I will readily admit that this drives me crazy. It’s not that I don’t like music or singing. Quite the opposite in fact. But why have we reduced “worship” to only this one act? I have always said that our worship includes everything we do throughout the church service. Certainly singing praises to God is worship, but so is listening to Scripture and the sermon. Saying the prayers and reciting the Creed are worship as well. And of course the Holy Eucharist, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is worship.
However, there is a part of the service that we sometimes forget about. The offering. It is easy to look at this portion of the liturgy where we take a collection as purely practical. The church has to pay the bills, so everyone is asked to chip in a couple of bucks and we’ll move on to something more important. I want to challenge you to look at it in a different way.
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 Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.