Giving A Little Love

Restoration singing carols at Sunrise Senior Living

The first time I went to Sunrise Senior Living to sing Christmas Carols with the residents, I was a volunteer working with APEX Youth Ministry and had no idea what to expect.  By the time it was over, I was convinced that we needed to do this every year and now that I am the Director of Youth Ministry, we do.

When we think of Restoration’s mission to connect people to God, others and the needs of the world, it is easy to default to the work we do overseas or with our local partnerships with AFAC, Casa Chirilagua and Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (R.I.L.A). It’s easy to get lost in the idea that big acts of service are the ones that are the most impactful. This yearly trip to Sunrise showed me, first hand, that small acts of service can carry just as much of an effect.

As the mantra of our Kids’ ministry exclaims, everyone wants to know that they are loved, known and seen by God.  It doesn’t take much to remind them of that.  Sometimes it’s a wink, a hand on the shoulder in solidarity, or an entire congregation of your neighboring church coming over and singing exuberantly at the top of their lungs with Santa and elf hats galore.

We invite you to join us again this year after the 5pm service, to take 30 minutes to spread some Christmas cheer to residents who can be easily forgotten.  Help us to remind them again this season that they are not.

Where:  Sunrise Senior Living
2000 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22207

When:  This Sunday, December 17th (6:30pm – 7:15pm) –
Immediately following the 5pm service.

Hope to see you there,

Isaiah Brooms
Director of Youth Ministry

 

 

 

Christmas Eve is Coming Soon!

AdventCandles-58e3e3573df78c51624e7a9b-2

We are so excited about Christmas Eve at Restoration!

Restoration will have 4 services on Christmas Eve (8am, 3pm, 5pm, & 9pm) to celebrate the incarnation of God in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Before I describe what to expect at each service, let me answer the most important logistical question:  

Where should I park?

Restoration uses a parking garage that is located over I-66 at the corner of 15th and Quincy Streets.  You can see a map of it here.   This garage is HUGE!  Feel free to use the entire thing.  You will see signs that say ‘permit only’ but they do not apply on Christmas Eve.

Restoration will hire 2 shuttles to move people from the garage to our building.  If it is a nice evening, feel free to take the 7-minute walk.  Otherwise, we hope that one of the shuttles will be at the lot every five minutes.

We encourage you to arrive early.

4 Services?  Wow!  Tell me about them.  

  • The morning service at 8 am will be a simple service of Morning Prayer that celebrates the 4th Sunday in Advent (No childcare will be provided)
  • The services at 3pm and 5pm will be identical and geared toward the attention span of a child.
  • The 9pm will feel different–  more contemplative, traditional, quiet, and candle-lit.  Generally, the 3 later services (3pm, 5pm, & 9pm) will have the same readings and same progression of carols.

Will there be candles?  Yep.  A bunch of them.   All around.  We will sing Silent Night while holding candles.  The kids will get glow sticks to hold at the 3pm and 5pm.  It will be beautiful!

Will there be childcare?  Yes, at the 3pm and 5pm services there will be fully-staffed nurseries for children who are the age of 2 or younger.  Kids from pre-k on up are welcome to participate in the worship service in the sanctuary.  At the 3pm and 5pm, there will be take-home goodie bags with items to help kids engage in the service.  We are totally fine if kids get a little wiggly, but there is enough singing and candles and pictures and stories that they stay pretty engaged.

What should the kids wear?  At the 3pm and 5pm, kids come dressed as their favorite character from the nativity story.  During the Gospel reading, they will have the opportunity to stand when their character is mentioned.  We always love having ‘a Christmas pageant in the pews’ at this time of year…  We usually have a whole gaggle of shepherds, sheep, stars, angels, wisemen, and beautiful Mary(s).  An old robe does the trick.  We have also had Buzz Lightyear make a cameo in the nativity.

What should the adults wear?  Well if you aren’t going to come as ‘Joseph’, just come as you are.  There will be people in their holiday best, people who love a nice pair of jeans, and everything in between.

Will there be presents?  Of course!  All of the children will receive an ornament in their goodie bag.  The ornament – for their tree at home –  is a sweet reminder that God loves them.

Will there be an opportunity to give?  Yes!  On Christmas Eve, all of our offerings are given to organizations outside of Restoration who are doing good and beautiful work for the sake of the vulnerable and those on the margins.  Our church does not keep anything that is given at these services.  This year, we will give our financial offerings to support the work of La Trinidad Anglican Church in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which is our global outreach partner in Bolivia.

Do you need volunteers?  We sure do.  If you are already a Sunday volunteer log onto MSP and select something.  If you have never volunteered, don’t worry.  It’s easy!  We would love you to help us.  Contact Kathy Kenyon (kathy@restorationarlington.org) and she can get you squared away.

How long will the services last?  The 8 am service will last about 60 minutes. The 3pm and 5pm will be about 75 minutes.  We sing 5 or 6 carols, with parts of the Christmas story read in between, then we close with The Holy Eucharist.  The 9pm will be closer to 90 minutes.

Anything else distinct about the 9pm?  Yes!  We will have incense in the procession and the Eucharist will be sung in a fashion similar to our Easter Vigil service.

Anything else I should know?  We love Christmas and the chance to meet lots of neighbors, family members, and folks who don’t normally come to Restoration.  We offer you a warm welcome this Christmas season and all of the Sundays that follow.  We are grateful to be a part of the Arlington Community, and we pray for it every day.

 

 

Why do we pray scripted prayers?

daily prayer book cover

Last week we handed out a simplified version of our Anglican Book of Common Prayer called Praying through the Year. We’ve loved hearing the ways many of you are integrating this booklet into your daily life. We will have more copies of this resource available on Sunday in the narthex, and we’d love for you to take one home.

But some of you may wonder why we use scripted prayers at all. Why not pray from our thoughts and feelings and impressions? Isn’t scripted prayer needlessly rigid and archaic? Two responses come to mind.

The first response is that both modes of prayer are great and have their place in our lives. In fact, The Book of Common Prayer always leaves space for “free intercessions” in its liturgies, a place for the extemporaneous prayer to which many of us are accustomed. Using scripted prayers doesn’t replace unscripted prayers or all the wonderful, surprising ways the Holy Spirit shows up in them. Instead, it complements them, rooting them in the words of Scripture and of Christians who have prayed before us through the ages.

The second response, though, is a story from my own experience. A little over a decade ago, I nearly abandoned my faith. I was consumed by doubts I couldn’t reconcile; I was tired of Christians whose lives were squeaky clean but who cared little about justice and mercy; and I was crowding God out of my life by pouring myself into a career that tempted me with moral compromises. For over a year, I didn’t read scripture and I didn’t pray. And I didn’t care. I told God that I barely believed this stuff anymore, but that if it was true, he was going to need to convince me himself.

And he did. Late one night, I was anxious and sleepless and found myself really wanting to cry out to God, but I realized that I’d forgotten how. A phrase from the Sunday liturgy popped into my brain: “whose property is always to have mercy” (we now use the words, “who always delights in showing mercy”). That seemed as good a prayer as any, so I simply prayed it, over and over, to God: “Your property is always to have mercy. Your property is always to have mercy.” As I did, I realized that if God’s property is always to have mercy, then he had mercy for me in that moment, and in every faithless, cynical moment that had preceded it.

That sustaining thought carried me through a long night of anxiety to the morning. And it carried me through the next night, and the next. It marked the beginning of my returning to God, re-discovering that ‘the stories are true,’ and re-learning how to pray. It also marked the beginning of my use of The Book of Common Prayer as a regular part of my prayer life.

For someone like me, who easily lives inside my thoughts, the pressure to manufacture extemporaneous prayers can feel like a chore and a performance. And when I’m tired or uninspired or consumed with doubts, it’s barely possible. Instead, I found a liberating self-forgetfulness in The Book of Common Prayer, as I began to lean on the words and faith of the millions of Christians who had gone before me, who had prayed these prayers for centuries to sustain their faith. One of the gifts of being Anglican has been discovering this weird and wonderful fellowship with Christians throughout time and space whose prayers support my own.

These days, I do both: I pray scripted prayers in a more-or-less regular rhythm, and I pray extemporaneous prayers that vary from the transcendent to the absurd (“help me find a parking spot, Jesus!”). I think both kinds of prayer delight God, both draw me into a pattern of daily dependence and closer relationship, and both connect me to a global community of other praying Christians.

This Advent, we’d love for you to join us in adding scripted prayer to your daily rhythms. Pick up Praying Through the Year on Sunday!

Common Prayer…Simplified

advent table

Hey Restos! It’s me again, that woman who can’t seem to make it to church on time and talks an awful lot about toast. I was overwhelmed by the response to my recent blog about running late for church. So many of you reached out and shared stories of how you, like me, are hungry for the feast that God is offering us, but can’t quite figure out how to show up for it. To everyone who kindly commented or emailed me: thanks. I’m so glad we’re in this together.

And one of the ways that we are really, truly, profoundly in this together is through prayer. I love that we are a community that prays, and I know that many of us are constantly longing to grow in our habits of prayer. As Anglicans, we have a rich prayer resource in the Book of Common Prayer, a centuries-old book crammed full of scripture, statements of faith, and prayers. We hold these prayers in “common” with one another at Restoration, and with other Christians all over the world and throughout history. And these prayers are “common” in another sense: with practice, they become commonplace rhythms that shape our everyday lives. But what does that practice look like? How do we engage with our prayer book in a way that is life-giving and doable, when the book itself seems so complicated and intimidating?

Restoration has created two resources to help. The first is a RestoKids Advent daily devotional called Almost…Not Yet…Already…Soon. It’s full of space to doodle, simple explanations of this season of waiting, and peaceful invitations to enjoy God’s presence with us through prayer, scripture, stillness, and creativity. If you live in a house with kids, or if you’d like to approach God in a kid-like way this season, we would love for you to take one home on Sunday.

The second resource is a simplified version of the Book of Common Prayer called Praying through the Year, which takes you through the entire Christian year, beginning in Advent 2017 and ending just before Advent 2018. Each season contains short prayer guides for morning, noon, evening, and compline (bedtime), as well as daily daily prayer book coverreading plans and helpful prayers for a variety of circumstances. It includes explanations of the liturgical seasons and guidance on how to use the prayers. Everything in this book is taken straight from our Anglican Book of Common Prayer, but the confusing elements have been removed and the order has been rearranged to facilitate easy daily use. This book can be used alone or with others, around your breakfast table, at your desk, or on your nightstand — however works best to make these ancient prayer rhythms more “common” in your daily life.

If you have young kids at home, you may want to set aside this longer prayer book during Advent, and use our RestoKids devotional instead (they actually contain a lot of similar language!). Then, as Advent concludes and you find you want to continue the simple daily rhythms, pick up the prayer book again and adjust the daily prayer times in whatever way works best for your family. When my own children were young, we used these same liturgies around our breakfast table. We’d light a candle, get out paper and markers, and I’d read just a few fragments from morning prayer while they colored. Over time, my kids naturally absorbed a lot of scripture and theology (as did I!). But what works in my house might not work in yours, and that’s okay. This Advent, we would love for everyone to engage with these resources and find what works best in their own context, so that we can practice praying in common as a Resto community. We invite you to pick up one or both prayer guides this Sunday!

Advent Calendar… join the community

advent-candles

We are looking forward to walking this journey toward Christmas with you!  Here are some ways you can join the Restoration community during this season.

Morning Prayer – Join Morgan Reed in the sanctuary for morning prayer on Tuesdays (Dec 5, 12, 19) from 7am – 7:30 with the option of confession from 7:30 – 8.

Adventy Fireside Chats – Join Erica and friends at her house on Thursdays (Dec 7, 14, 21) at 7:30pm to carve out some quiet space to exercise the discipline of waiting.  Gather fireside for a guided reflection and time of prayer each week.  RSVP chapman.erica@gmail.com

Advent Community Prep Friends and families, join us on Saturdays from 9:30am to 12:00pm at Restoration for cider, carols, sanctuary decorating, and a unique community event.

– Dec 2  Join Rachel Hoppe as she leads us in making Advent Wreaths.  We have materials for about 25 wreaths, so come on out!  Bring $5 for supplies (a crazy bargain) to help your family/household mark the progression toward Christmas.  Sign up for Advent Wreath Making here.

– Dec 9  Decorate cookies together for your neighbors.  RSVP to matt@restorationarlington.org if you would like to help bake the cookies beforehand or if you would just like to arrive with friends and/or kids to decorate them!  Delivering cookies to your neighbors can be a really simple way to invite them to Restoration’s Christmas Eve service where they can hear about the lengths that God has gone to show his love for them.

– Dec 16  Help sort the Glebe Star Tree presents or help with some last minute shopping.  See more details below.

– Dec 23  We are decorating the building for Christmas Eve.  Greens galore!!!

We would like at least 7 people to commit to helping prepare the sanctuary each of these Saturdays from 9:30 to Noon.  If one of your older family members doesn’t want to do the activity, have them come to the sanctuary to help, and join us when you’re done with the activity!  Sign up here if your planning to come.  But know that there is no limit to the number of helpers.

Caroling at Sunrise Senior Living – Bring a Santa hat and your vocal chords to belt out some Christmas Carols  on Sunday, Dec 17 right after the 5pm service (about 7pm) at Sunrise Senior Living, 2000 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22207.

Glebe Star Tree –  Help us as we adopt over 50 families this Christmas and purchase gifts for children in our neighborhood elementary school. The Glebe Star Trees, with tags indicating the gifts needed, are in the narthex. Opportunities to sort and serve are also coming Dec 16-17.  Watch the video below to learn a little bit more.

Christmas Eve Sunday – Because Christmas Eve lands on the fourth Sunday of Advent, there will be a simple morning prayer at 8am led by Morgan Reed to celebrate the last Sunday of Advent.

Lessons and Carols – Celebrate a Christmas Eve Eucharist with us at 3pm and 5pm for children or the young at heart.  There is also a more traditional service at 9pm that will include a sung Eucharist and incense. 

For the 3 and 5 services, we invite the kids (or adults who really, really want to) to come dressed as characters from the nativity story.  We are also looking for three boys/men and three girls/women to help with a reader’s theater of the Gospel story.  Contact matt@restorationarlington.org if you are interested.

New Year’s Eve Sunday – There will be one worship service at 10am.

We are excited for the ways that you will join the Restoration Community this Advent on our journey to Christmas.  Invite friends to any and all of it!

Confession: Good for our Souls

The eight-year-old atheist

Every Wednesday, when I was 8 years of age, I would leave school an hour early with about 10 other children to walk to a nearby home for time-release-bible-study. As the door to the house opened, our host would greet us with a smile and tins of butter cookies. After gorging ourselves on butter cookies, we would sit down in her living room where we learned about Jesus through felt board stories and cool songs like “I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N”:

God bless these faithful women for the ways that they shared the love of Jesus with us. I did not know it at the time, but according to my Enneagram scores, I’m pretty strong on the “challenger”, and looking back I can see it as early as 8-years-old. I was that kid in the group that sought to interrupt the teachers and be a nuisance to the rest of the class. One week I had had enough and loudly proclaimed to the teachers and children that all this Jesus stuff was rubbish and that there was no God. Everyone sat in awkward silence for a few moments, and then I was walked into the dining room where I sat while the kids finished their story. I got no gold star that day. These faithful women asked that I not come back, which of course mortified my parents!

Confession

My parents rightly appropriated a penitence befitting my pugnacious persistence. The very next week my mom accompanied me to meet with the leader of the group. I had an entire week to dwell on my wrongdoings (more my disruptive presence than my disbelieve) and the things that I would say to the teacher. I dreaded that moment when I had to be vulnerable, to feel embarrassed, and to own up to my rebellion. But mom faithfully came along to make sure that I did the deed. That Wednesday I came to the teacher, told her what I had done wrong and asked for forgiveness. She genuinely offered me forgiveness, but I never did go back to this group. This was not the first time in life I needed to ask for forgiveness, and it will surely not be the last, but there is something powerfully transformative that happens to us when we must ruminate on our misdeeds in anticipation of someone else’s offer of forgiveness. The same is true when we think about our relationship to God. This is one of the reasons that the Church has set Advent and Lent apart as seasons of penitence (symbolized by purple vestments).

During Advent, we will be offering morning prayer (see liturgy here) on December 5, 12, and 19 from 7-7:35am, then again on December 24 at 8am (at Restoration Anglican Church). In the course of morning prayer we will have a chance to confess our sins corporately and receive the forgiveness offered by God through the work of Christ. And yet if I am honest, I know that there are so many times that I pray the prayer of confession without adequately thinking of what needs confessing, and then once it is done, having forgotten what I just confessed. One practice of the Church that helps us to cast aside our specific stumbling blocks and be renewed in our life in Christ is the practice of private confession (what we call the Reconciliation of Penitents). The following book has been an incredible help to me:

The benefit of private confession has been described beautifully in this way,

“The responsibility of spelling out our sins in confession counteracts our tendency to be fuzzy and general in our penitence…False notions of guilt and self-blame can be set aside, and real responsibility for our omissions and transgressions taken up. Because in confession we need to make ourselves intelligible to another person, we have to cut to the chase and own up to what we have done and not done, painstakingly finding the words to name our particular sins…As a result we can move past the blur of hazy guilt feelings to a sharp and liberating penitence.” (Go in Peace: The Art of Hearing Confessions, 28).

As we look forward to planting Incarnation Anglican Church in South Arlington, both corporate and private confession will be a regular part of our sacramental life together. We all need God’s healing and this is another platform for God to meet us with His healing grace. After morning prayer on December 5, 12, and 19, we (Fr. Nathan and me) will be available to hear confessions from the end of morning prayer until 8am. If you would like to schedule a time slot for this, or if you would like to chat more about this practice and how to make it a regular rhythm of your life, please email me at morgan@incarnationanglican.org. I would love to talk more.

-Fr. Morgan Reed, Church Planter at Restoration Anglican Church

Christmas Eve . . . and all the trimmings

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We are so excited about Christmas Eve at Restoration!

Restoration will have 3 services on December 24 to celebrate the incarnation of God in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Before I describe what to expect at each service, let me answer the most important logistical question:  

Where should I park?

Restoration uses a parking garage that is located over I-66 at the corner of 15th and Quincy Streets.  You can see a map of it here.   This garage is HUGE!  Feel free to use the entire thing.  You will see signs that say ‘permit only’ but they do not apply on Christmas Eve.

Restoration will hire 2 shuttles to move people from the garage to our building.  If it is a nice evening, feel free to take the 7-minute walk.  Otherwise, we hope that one of the shuttles will be at the lot every five minutes.

We encourage you to arrive early.

3 Services?  Wow!  Tell me about them.  The services at 3pm and 5pm will be identical and geared toward the attention span of a child.   The 9pm will feel different–  more contemplative, traditional, quiet, and candle-lit.  Generally, the 3 services will have the same readings, same preacher, same progression of carols.

Will there be candles?  Yep.  A bunch of them.   All around.  We will sing Silent Night while holding candles.  The kids will get glow sticks to hold at the 3pm and 5pm.  It will be beautiful!

Will there be childcare?  Yes, at the 3pm and 5pm services there will be fully-staffed nurseries for children who are the age of 2 or younger.  Kids from pre-k on up are welcome to participate in the worship service in the sanctuary.  At the 3pm and 5pm, there will be take-home goodie bags with items to help kids engage in the service.  We are totally fine if kids get a little wiggly, but there is enough singing and candles and pictures and stories that they stay pretty engaged.

What should the kids wear?  At the 3pm and 5pm, kids come dressed as their favorite character from the nativity story.  During the Gospel reading, they will have the opportunity to stand when their character is mentioned.  We always love having ‘a Christmas pageant in the pews’ at this time of year…  We usually have a whole gaggle of shepherds, sheep, stars, angels, wisemen, and beautiful Mary(s).  An old robe does the trick.  We have also had Buzz Lightyear make a cameo in the nativity.

What should the adults wear?  Well if you aren’t going to come as ‘Joseph’, just come as you are.  There will be people in their holiday best, people who love a nice pair of jeans, and everything in between.

Will there be presents?  Of course!  All of the children will receive an ornament in their goodie bag.  The ornament – for their tree at home –  is a sweet reminder that God loves them.

Will there be an opportunity to give?  Yes!  On Christmas Eve, all of our offerings are given to organizations outside of Restoration who are locally doing good and beautiful work for the sake of the vulnerable and those on the margins.  Our church does not keep anything that is given at these services.  This year, we will give our financial offerings to support the work of Little Lights Urban Ministries which empowers underserved youth, families, and communities in Washington DC by sharing the hope of Christ through compassionate action, caring relationships, and racial reconciliation.

Can I give anything else?  Definitely.  Each year, on Christmas Eve, Restoration has given gifts to Doorways, a safe place where women and families can receive help. This year Restoration has been invited to bring in bedroom items. Here is a list of specific items most useful to the women and families Doorways supports. Bring your gifts to the Restoration Christmas Eve services at 3pm, 5pm, or 9pm. You’ll have a chance to bring them forward during the offering part of the service.

Do you need volunteers?  We sure do.  If you are already a Sunday volunteer log onto MSP and select something.  If you have never volunteered, don’t worry.  It’s easy!  We would love you to help us.  Contact Kathy Kenyon (kathy@restorationarlington.org) and she can get you squared away.

How long will the service last?  The 3pm and 5pm will be about 75 minutes.  We sing 5 or 6 carols, with parts of the Christmas story read in between, then we close with The Holy Eucharist.  The 9pm will be closer to 90 minutes.

Anything else distinct about the 9pm?  Yes!  We will have incense in the procession and the Eucharist will be sung in a fashion similar to our Easter Vigil service.  The music team will include a bassoon, cello, and clarinet!

What about Christmas Day?  It’s on a Sunday!  We will have one service at 10am and we would love for you to come back.  You could even wear your Christmas pjs!  [What could be better than waking up Christmas morning to open stockings and have a little breakfast, followed by a church family celebration of Jesus’ birthday, then home again to unwrap gifts and have lunch?]

Anything else I should know?  We love Christmas and the chance to meet lots of neighbors, family members, and folks who don’t normally come to Restoration.  We offer you a warm welcome this Christmas season and all of the Sundays that follow.  We are grateful to be a part of the Arlington Community, and we pray for it every day.

 

 

CULTIVATING A HEART FOR OUTREACH. HOW TO START ‘EM YOUNG.

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Restoration is a place that connects people to God, to others, and to the needs of the world. We are a church that seeks to support those most vulnerable who live both locally and globally. Yet, most of our outreach opportunities are for older teens and adults.

 

So how do we grow kids into adults who are chomping at the bit to serve others?

 

We are mindful of the opportunities we have with our RestoKids to both talk about and model what it means to serve others. The stories we study in kids’ small groups often highlight examples of others in the Bible who serve. The compliments we give to kids are specific about ways we observe their kindness in sharing markers or encouraging someone on the margin to join in a game. The annual packing of snack bags and writing notes to give to kids at AFAC is a hands-on way to help grow their hearts to love others.

 

This Christmas we have two opportunities for even the littlest among us to get involved in caring for folks outside of our immediate Restoration family:

 

Navidad para Niños. In the lower narthex at Restoration, there is a tree that contains photos of the children from Niños con Valor, one of the groups our 2016 Bolivia team got to hang out with while visiting last summer. Niños con Valor (NCV) is a family model of caring for Bolivian children who have been orphaned, abandoned, or removed from high-risk situations. Consider selecting a photo ornament from the tree to support our friends in Cochabamba, Bolivia. There are several ways you – and those little hands and hearts around you – can get involved:

 

  • Pray for the children of Niños con Valor as they learn and grow. Sign up to receive prayer newsletters. Then pray for the children and encourage the children in your life to lead those prayers. You will be amazed by what you hear!

 

  • Write to the children via email. The children in your life can even draw a picture to be photographed and included in the email to a sponsored child.

 

 

Doorways for Women and Children. Each year, on Christmas Eve, Restoration has given gifts to Doorways, a safe place where women and families can receive help. This year Restoration has been invited to bring in bedroom items. Here is a list of specific items most useful to the women and families Doorways supports. Bring your gifts to the Restoration Christmas Eve services at 3pm, 5pm, or 9pm. You’ll have a chance to bring them forward during the offering part of the service.

 

So, talk to kids and shop with kids and pray with kids. They will follow your example about how one loves and serves those among us who are most vulnerable – and their hearts will be the better for it.

 

Icons in Advent? hmm…

I did not grow up in a tradition that uses icons.  I was told, in fact, that icons were dangerous idols that Catholics prayed to.  So what in the heavens or on earth led me to be a proponent of using icons in our worship service this advent?  I cannot speak for all Catholics, but as I have asked questions and studied the use of icons by the Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church, I now believe that icons can be a very powerful aide in our growth toward Jesus and in our worship of him.

I have found three ways of understanding icons to be helpful: biography, companion, and communion.  Depending on your background or your sense of adventure, one or more of these views may resonate with you.

Gabriel

Gabriel

Biography:

Icons remind us that we are not alone in our pursuit of God.  A good biography about Adoniram Judson or Elisabeth Elliot can remind us of the stories of Christians who have lived beyond their own abilities for the sake of Jesus.  We will relate to some peoples’ stories better than others, but those stories that we end up relating to can be a powerful reminder to us that we are not alone as we strive to live out God’s story.  Icons, like biographies, can function as this type of reminder.

Isaiah

Isaiah

Companion:

Every once in a while we either see or hear of someone’s perspective or story that hits us like lightning.  It’s that moment where we can say, “There is someone who gets it!  And I want to get it too.”  If they are in your church, you might grab regular breakfasts with them to benefit from their wisdom.  Or you might resonate with someone like St. Francis of Assisi.  You might read everything of his that is in print and memorize certain passages and in this way submit yourself to his mentorship because it’s almost like he knows you!  Icons can similarly serve as companion and mentor.

Zechariah

Zechariah

Communion:

Most amazingly, we are part of the communion of saints, and we believe that the saints are in heaven actually interceding for us right now.  Many Anglicans believe that you can ask a specific saint to intercede for you in a similar way that you might ask someone at the end of a worship service to intercede for you.  One member of our congregation who uses icons in this way told me, “Yeah, a lot of people are careless with their prepositions.  It’s not praying to the saints.  It’s more praying with the saints.”  Icons can serve as a visual connection to a person who is in heaven from whom we can ask for intercession.  How cool is it that you could ask John the Baptist or the prophet Isaiah to intercede for you!?!

This advent, I hope that you are engaged with how God uses people to prepare the way for his coming.  Maybe the icon of Gabriel in our sanctuary will help to remind you of God’s communication and revelation.  Maybe Isaiah will become your companion because of his repentance and willingness to submit to God’s greater vision.  (Isaiah is my companion.)  And maybe you will ask Zechariah to intercede for you in times when you are in doubt of God’s plan for your life.  Ultimately, it is my hope that if you do not already value the church art of iconography that you will be able to submit it and its use to the glory and mystery of God.

His name be praised.

– Matt

 

 

 

Advent at Restoration

Advent imageHey Restoration,

Advent has begun, the season when we remember how the people of God longed for our Savior to come, and how we long for his second coming and the fullness of our salvation.  We have several ways that we’ll be  focusing our thoughts on these themes as a community.

On Sundays, we’ll be preaching on the life and teachings of John the Baptist and his model of faithful anticipation for God to act in our world.  As we see his courageous faith in proclaiming the Kingdom of God, we look forward to learning new ways of following God’s call to do the same in Arlington and beyond.

One special tradition that we’ll be continuing is to have different households light the Advent wreath each week and share a reflection on how Christ’s presence has brought them joy in unexpected ways.  Also, Restoarts will be on the job to shape our experience through music and visual art.  They’ve designed some beautiful cards that will be handed out each week with an image, the collect, the Scripture, and some reflection questions on the sermon.

In addition to what’s happening on Sundays, we have some other opportunities to focus our hearts this season.  Here are a few dates to get on our calendar:

  • Fireside Chats – Dec 2, 9, 16 at 7:30 at Erica Chapman’s House
  • Making Cookies for Our Neighbors – Dec 14 with APEX
  • Caroling – Dec 21 at 7 pm at Sunrise Senior Living Center
  • Christmas Eve Service – Dec 24 at 4pm and 6pm

We’re about to enter into a busy time of the year.  But Advent is also a great opportunity for reflection on our longings for God to act, our need for a Savior, and the ways his presence brings us joy.  So while you take advantage of the moments to celebrate with family, friends, and coworkers, I hope this is a season where you can set aside some time to connect with the powerful themes of Advent.

Have a great week,
Clay

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