At this point, I question whether we can fit into the continuing anglican church, and I am genuinely sorry for it. Of course the Lord is the one whose will we're seeking: if this is where He wants us, it's where we need to be; but there are a few things I can see getting in the way.
But rather than come at this with a critical spirit, I'd like to list out some things I have really enjoyed the last two weeks; things I'd miss if we never return:
- They have a strange mixture of formality and casualness. That is, the services are steeped in ritual and ceremony; but there is a genuine love and sincerity that drips from them. One gets the impression that they genuinely care about how one is doing, rather than just caring how the attendance is looking.
- Both times I've heard a short homily/sermon in the service, it was very pointedly an acknowledgment of the Gospel: the Son of God has come here to die for worthless sinners; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. There is love in God's heart even for the likes of me, and they revel in it. Last Sunday's homily included the lines: "The Son of God came here to die for us, and all our worth is in that. There's no room for pride when all your worth is in Another." This morning, the homily ended with "He came here to save sinners, not to be glorified." That my friends, is more to the heart of the Gospel than so much I have heard in many evangelical churches.
- There is a level of outward piety that I take as sincere expressions of genuine love for the Lord. One example is, every time the name "Jesus Christ" is mentioned in the liturgy, everyone bows. Another example, while reciting the apostle's creed, everyone kneels when the Incarnation is mentioned, and stays kneeling until the Crucifixion. Sure, some of that can be superstition. But on the other hand, there is a certain familiarity in evangelical christendom that I find repugnant. These people have some sense of the majesty of the Son of God that is all but forgotten in the church today.
- One of the priests seems genuinely concerned that we haven't asked him any questions yet. I assured him that it's really just my work schedule, and we'll have a conversation once things calm down a little. Another priest reproached me for not coming up for a blessing today. The personal interest is intense, and I really value it.
- They are determined to include the kids. Where so many churches pack the kids off into a "junior church" to get them out of the meetings, this bunch is determined to include the kids too. Today one priest reproached me for not going forward for a blessing (they practice a closed table, so they don't offer me communion) and then he berated me about not hauling the kids up there too.
- They practice a closed table. You can read my blog to understand my views on reception: I think these guys might actually have it right.
Now, all is not sunshine and roses in our two weeks' experience with this bunch. This particular gathering leans fairly heavily to anglo-catholicism; I'm okay with that in principle, but there is sometimes a bit much "catholicism" and not enough "anglo" for my "brethren" blood. And frankly, I'm not into stained glass windows.
About the closed table: they explicitly ask that people not in their group receive communion up front. But they also offer: anyone who wishes may go up front, kneel with everyone else, cross their arms in front of their chest, and receive a blessing. That is, the priest puts his hand on your forehead and blesses you. While this may freak out many of my "brethren" friends, I find it intriguing and frankly refreshing. It's a good balance between being careful about reception on the hand, and demonstrating the love of God to "outsiders" on the other.
In the end, I have serious misgivings about being able to continue with anglicans, so to speak. But if nothing else, the last two Sundays' services have been time very well spent.