Sunday, September 09, 2007

Church Plant Update Plus

There's not a buyer in sight for our house, but Sunday mornings at Light of Christ have been so encouraging! We've had lots of visitors recently who appear to be interested in joining us regularly. I'll hold off on telling you much about them yet, but it might be enlightening to share what brought them in the first place.

How do folks find a tiny, unadvertised Anglican church in a little-known town in Wisconsin? (And why do they want to??) The common thread seems to be the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA). Of the four new "family units" (one is a single) who've visited us in the past two weeks, all had visited or been members of AMIA churches before. And they were all looking for what AMIA offers.

What is that, exactly? Well, AMIA churches tend to represent the "three streams, one river" approach to doing church. The three streams are the liturgical/sacramental tradition, the evangelical, Bible-based teaching and discipleship, and the freedom of the Spirit in musical worship.

The three streams merge into a river of balanced worship. The liturgy isn't lifeless and dull; the Spirit enters into it and it's ministered in a way that is full of the presence of God. The worship is gloriously free, but there's no room for excesses, because the liturgy keeps it in bounds. Rather than a topical or individual pastor's approach to Bible teaching and preaching, the liturgy provides a cycle of Scripture readings which ensure that the most important passages and theological concepts are covered on a seasonal basis.

Though right now many lifetime Episcopalians (who are considering jumping ship due to the heresy in their leadership) are looking seriously at AMIA and its "sisters" (other networks formed by Anglican churches who've disassociated with the American version of the Episcopal Church), most of the Anglican folks we know are formerly from mainline evangelical denominations and independent churches. They've been drawn by the sacraments, which they feel is something missing in typical evangelical worship.

One of our visitors emailed me in advance of her visit and shared: "I feel like the Episcopal churches here are dead but also that the non-denominational churches are missing the importance of the sacraments." She was one of four people in the same week who said to me, in so many words, "I/We've crossed over a 'sacramental line' and now, we just can't go back."

You may wonder what I mean by "the sacraments." It's helpful to think of the word as both a noun and an adjective. There are official Sacraments, and there is a sacramental worldview.

All Christian churches recognize two official sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist (communion). The Catholic and Orthodox churches, and some Anglicans, recognize others, such as Matrimony, Confirmation, Ordination and Anointing of the Sick. Wikipedia says: "The most conventional functional definition of a sacrament is that it is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, that conveys an inward, spiritual grace through Christ."

But we more often use the word as an adjective: "sacramental." I referred above to the "sacramental tradition" and by that I mean a form of worship that has been handed down from the earliest days of the church, in which every section of the liturgy, every gesture of the priest, the rising, the kneeling, and the spoken words of the congregation are full of meaning and symbol.

For example, crossing oneself is an affirmation of the trinity. It is performed each time a liturgical prayer is ended with a reference to the trinity, and by this association, this simple gesture itself can become a prayer, invoking the protection or the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Likewise kneeling during confession is a way that the body prays too, not just the mind.

A sacramental service is full of ceremony and ritual. A service may begin with a processional of priests, deacons, communion ministers, and Scripture readers, led by a crucifer with cross lifted high. The clergy wears special vestments; there are special candles and alter linens. The bread, the wine and the altar are prepared by the Altar Guild in a certain way.

But who needs all these extra-biblical rituals?

The answer may surprise you.

To be continued...not neccessarily right away....

Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Part Five


Anonymous said...


I started graduate school this week and today was our school's convocation. It was a full liturgical service, which I loved. It was fun to experience it with many friends who had not seen anything liturgical before. I've got some pictures up on my blog if you want to see :-)

Jen in Seattle

ps - still praying for a buyer for your house

At A Hen's Pace said...


Thanks so much for your prayers. I am off to see your post and pictures!