Incarnation Anglican: The Tiny Way

2017-09-07 21.14.58My family lives along Columbia Pike in South Arlington. When I walk to CVS, I hear dozens of languages being spoken and see women in burqas, men in shalwar kameez, and little girls with shaved heads.  When I take my kids to the playground after dinner, I find myself talking to parents from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Bangladesh, and Eritrea. I watch dads playing pick-up soccer games in empty lots, cheered on by their kids. I chat with lifelong South Arlingtonians who are proud of this area’s history and are uncertain about its future. I can buy fresh injera with my Big Gulp from the 7-Eleven on the corner. On Fridays, I watch women in headscarves stream through the neighborhood, pushing their strollers toward one of South Arlington’s three mosques (one Bangladeshi, one Somali, one Moroccan).

Though it’s just a few miles from Restoration, my neighborhood can feel like a different world. And yet, just like Restoration’s neighborhood, it is full of people who are struggling to make life work in an expensive suburb of DC; people who are lonely and longing for friendships; people who want the best for their kids; people who are spiritually hungry and curious about Jesus. And thus, Restoration is planting a new church community among my neighbors called Incarnation Anglican Church, and I’m humbled and excited to join Liz Gray and Morgan Reed in this work.

I love this neighborhood. My husband and I have always dreamed of living cross-culturally.  My children are flexible and adventurous and can roll with the occasional late night playing by streetlight with neighbors. Our neighborhood suits us. But it also keeps us perpetually off-kilter. I often find myself the only native English speaker or the only white person in a given place. I encounter mental illness on the street corner. I engage in awkward, broken conversations and I laugh too loudly at things I’m not entirely certain are jokes. Artisanal coffee is nowhere in sight, though I dare you to find a better salteña.

This place stretches me. Its unfamiliarity reminds me in a tiny way what it is to feel not quite at home, even in my own neighborhood, language, and skin; something many of my neighbors feel every day.  As such, I have made it a sort of spiritual discipline to walk places I would normally drive; to talk to people I would normally avoid; to cross the street when I feel like hiding in my house; and to shop in places where I frequently misread the cultural cues. It is a tiny way of laying down my cultural competency and my comfort so that I can learn more fully what it means to love my neighbor, to listen and observe and wait and be dependent. And goodness, it drives me to prayer like nothing else.

It is these tiny, daily acts in my neighborhood that make me most excited about what Incarnation could become. What would it look like to form a community willing to engage in small acts of discomfort so that we can love our neighbors better? What would it look like to worship with people who keep each other perpetually off-kilter? What would it look like to form a community in which the only shared culture is that of the kingdom of God? How can our tiny, slow, awkward work of sharing Jesus with our neighbors lead us deeper into worship, deeper in dependence on the Spirit, deeper into the reality of the upside-down kingdom? I am watching God slowly begin to answer those questions in my neighborhood. In the meantime, I’ll keep laughing at the wrong moments and eating salteñas with abandon.

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Want to hear more about Incarnation? Email me, Morgan, or Liz. We’d love to grab a cup of coffee and chat!

liz@incarnationanglican.org

morgan@incarnationanglican.org

amy@incarnationanglican.org

 

 

 

Confessions of a Chronic Latecomer

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Last week my family was nearly 30 minutes late to church. 30 minutes! We snuck into a pew near the back mid-sermon, and over the next 10 minutes, the empty spaces around us filled up with other latecomers. After the service, over iced coffee and shouting children downstairs, we laughed and poked fun at ourselves and swapped stories of extreme Sunday lateness.

It’s hard to get out the door on a Sunday. My children habitually misplace shoes (and socks, and jeggings, and most importantly, capes). We run out of cereal and thus have to prepare  impossibly complicated and time-consuming breakfasts such as toast. My children suddenly remember they despise toast and collapse in a heap of uncooperative, hangry ennui. We have four people, two of whom are fastidious (read: slow) tooth-brushers, sharing one small bathroom. And without fail, my children realize they urgently need to use said bathroom just as we’re walking out the door. We try to account for the inevitable morning delays, but still, we run late. Often. And honestly? I don’t really even feel bad about it.

Why not? First, because Restoration is a community of genuine grace, a very un-DC-like place were I don’t have to perform or appear perfect or, you know, show up on time. It’s freeing to know I can slide into the pew 15 minutes late and be welcomed wholeheartedly, not shamed or penalized. This atmosphere of grace is why we go to Restoration, and I love it.

Second, I am Sabbath-starved. I am hard-wired for a day of rest, and by the end of the week I’m aching for it. Sunday often feels like the first opportunity to really rest, and I find myself sleeping a little later and moving a little more slowly to revel in the relaxed pace. I could be quicker, more intentional, hustle a bit more to get out the door, but I don’t. On Sundays, I just want to slow down. And I’m okay with that.

But this issue of lateness has been on my mind all week. Because as I was laughing with my fellow latecomers over iced coffee last Sunday, I joked that I wasn’t even sure what happened at the beginning of the service. Let me rephrase that: I’m a church planter and postulant for ordination and I don’t know what happens at the beginning of an Anglican service, because I’ve so rarely made it to church on time. Yeah.

So I looked it up. Guess what happens at the beginning of our service each week? So many beautiful things! Quiet contemplation in the sanctuary before it fills up. A joyful acclamation of blessing. A prayer that our hearts would be open to a God who sees and knows us. A reminder straight from Jesus to love God and our neighbor. A repeated plea for the mercy of God. All of that before we ever sing a note!

***

Every day, I manage to get to school, work, soccer practice, coffee dates, and other events on time. The challenges to doing so are no different from those I face on Sunday. Yet I account for them in my planning so that I can be punctual. I care about performing well, respecting those who depend on me, and avoiding the shame, stress, and inconvenience of running late. As I mentioned above, these motivators don’t work as well for me when it comes to church, where I don’t feel the same pressures.

But what if I were motivated not by pressures and fears, but by a deep hunger for God and for the fullness of corporate worship offered to me on Sunday mornings? What if I entrusted my Sabbath-starved soul to God as the source of true rest, a rest that refreshes far more deeply than shuffling around lazily in my pajamas for a few extra minutes? What if there is a feast that God is lovingly preparing for me in the liturgy every single week, and I’m missing the first course? (Which, I am certain, is better than toast.)

And so, for the next month of Sundays, I’m going to try arriving on time. I may not succeed, and that’s okay; remember that trademark Resto grace I described earlier? But I’m going to try. And in the meantime, I’m going to print this prayer from the beginning of the service and keep it in my car, so that if I’m not physically in church to say it, at least it gets said while en route.

Collect for Purity

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you’re a chronic latecomer like me, maybe you’d like to join me in making this small Sunday shift, just for a month. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I know it’ll better than toast.

– Amy Rowe

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