Come. Bear the cross. Feel it’s weight.

IMG_3625We are all different types of learners. Some of us can read and understand. Others of us can hear and understand. And, still others of us only ever get it when we can touch and feel and experience something.

On Good Friday, we invite you to join us for an experiential journey – to physically take up the cross, feel its weight, and imagine what it was like for Jesus. We’ll gather at the Brooks’s house at 8:30 AM and walk the “Good Friday Cross” to Restoration. The journey is about a mile long and we take about an hour, stopping along the way to pray the fourteen stations of the cross.  When we arrive at church, we’ll process the cross into the Sanctuary and lay it down, readying it to receive written reflections of our sins which we literally nail to the cross.  On Saturday night, at the beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter, we gather around the bonfire and tear our sins from the cross and throw them in the fire.

Please come. Come even if you read this and get it. Come even if you heard about others who experienced it last year and you get it. Come. Bear the cross. Feel it’s weight. Walk the journey, just so that you can understand maybe a little bit differently this year the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God”.

Email Steve Brooks ( for more details.


Come to the Cross: An invitation and a story

Written by Steve Brooks

This is a personal invitation for you to come to the cross, both literally and spiritually. On Good Friday at 8:45 a.m. Restoration Anglican Church will do something new – we will have a “Procession of the Cross” from our house to the church. (See details below.) It is a one-mile journey that I have dreamed of for years and everyone is invited to participate.

Here is a little context and history as to what we are doing and why. Over the course of Restoration’s history, I have built five crosses for the church. Three of these crosses are currently used by Restoration full-time, one stands in my backyard (which we use on Good Friday) and the last one was retired a few years ago. I have a passion for making crosses. David and Matt have been very kind to let me apply my passion through cross making for our church.


With that said, we need to get the Easter cross to church. And why not do this in a way that bestows the reverence the cross deserves and process with it in remembrance of how Jesus was forced to carry the cross on which he died so that our sins would be forgiven.

The procession will take about 45 minutes, and once we arrive at the church, we will lay the cross down in the sanctuary and everyone will be invited to nail your sins to the cross. There will be paper, pens, hammers and nails provided.

Prior to the service on Friday night the cross will be raised up with all the sins upon it and then at the end of the service the cross is removed in silence. On Saturday night, the cross is set up outside of the church and we remove the sins and burn them in the fire-pit before we enter for the Easter Vigil service. It is amazing.

So please – come to the cross.

I also invite you to come to another cross: the big one at the front of the sanctuary. Most people don’t make it past the communion rail, so please accept this invitation, too. This cross arrived last Easter and was a year behind schedule. When I first started building it for Easter 2015, a worktable collapsed and broke one of my knuckles. It took some time for my hand to heal before I could begin work again. It was a spiritual journey working on this cross, and I am grateful for how God worked through and in me in so many ways: That’s a whole other blog post.

As you come to the cross I invite you to touch it. The vertical section is made from 60-year-old Canadian red pine that came from a house renovation and the cross piece is a red oak beam that supported a tobacco barn in Richmond, Virginia that was built in 1910. Although they are different woods, the “red wood” was chosen specifically to represent the blood of Christ.

On both sides of the vertical section you will see 57 holes that have been filled with oak dowels – these filled holes represent our sins that have been forgiven. On the front of the vertical piece you will see two in-laid oak lines and one open cut that go from the top to the bottom of the cross. The oak in-lay comes from the original wooden cross that now hangs in the rafters at the back of the church. Have you noticed it? The in-lay represents the beauty of our forgiven sins, and the open cut in the middle represents the brokenness of humanity which will last until Christ returns and restores us fully.

The giant crack in the oak cross piece is faced forward for all to see as it represents the humanity of Christ and the brokenness he endured on Good Friday. When I saw it for the first time I knew it had to be the cross piece. Oak is one of the hardest woods and I find it amazing that it cracked as it did, what stress it must have been under. As I shaped this piece of wood I was reminded over and over again that God sent His only Son to live, be broken and die for our forgiveness.

I also invite you to come to another cross, the one that hangs in the rafters at the back of the church. This cross was hung in the sanctuary from 2010-2016 and moved last year. Although you can’t see the details of this cross (but check out the picture), it is a beautiful red oak beam from a Pennsylvania barn that was built in 1830. It is unique in so many ways with a history that is unknown. It hangs in the rafters as a representation that when we leave church every Sunday, we leave with the cross of Christ.

Finally, you are invited to visit the small processional cross that stands in the front right corner of the sanctuary – we used this cross at Restoration’s first service. It became the processional cross to lead the kids to their small groups and is now used at various times throughout the year. The red oak is from Home Depot, not much of a story there. The cross stand is made of leftover brick and Canadian red pine which were used to build our church.

Working with wood is more than a labor of love for me, it is a true blessing, especially in making a cross. While working, I play loud music, talk to God, pray and listen for His response. In these times of quiet I think about who I am, why I am here and I always ask God, “What do You want me to do next?” In these moments of “making,” I think about how God restores us in all things. His restoration goes beyond a few cuts here and there, some sanding, then oil and a final finish. His restoration brings us back to life. I can’t do that with an old barn beam, but He does it with us – it’s His promise.

My last invitation is for you to come to the cross and find Christ in a new way, find His restoration and know that no matter what, He loves you.

If you want to participate in the “Procession of the Cross” – send me an email and I will give you our address. brooks{at}

Written by Steve Brooks

Fall Retreat Weekend Hike #RestoRetreat2016

There are many opportunities for fellowship at the upcoming Fall Retreat. Over the past few years, a small group has taken advantage of enjoying other Resto-folk and God’s beautiful nature by taking Friday (October 14) off from work and hiking in the Shenandoah Valley before the official start of the Fall Retreat on Saturday morning. You can be a part of that adventure as well. We would welcome you and hope you will share your story with us along the way.

In reflecting about last year’s retreat, one hiker said that she loved the Friday hike because it gave her the opportunity to hang out with a few people and really get to know them. Hiking makes for very easy chats with people and created a bonding experience.

Fall Retreat2

If you are interested in extending the fall retreat, here are the details you need to know:

Where: Emerald Pond/Bird Knob Hike

This hike has two spectacular views and is an “out and back” hike. This hike has one mile of steep hiking at the beginning and then is more easy and flat.

More info here:

When: Leave from Arlington around 7:30 am (Carpooling available from the church)

The drive will take about 2 hours. The group will plan to hike about 2 hours, break for lunch for about an hour, and hike back 2 hours.

The full hike is 8 miles in length, with a shorter, 6-mile option. The hikers may elect to stay together or divide into groups to hike different lengths.

Who: This hike is appropriate for any level or age of hiker. However, parents should consider the length of this hike (6 miles with 1 mile of steeper hiking) for children when planning to hike as a family.

And then: Hikers will travel about 45 minutes to Massanetta Springs (retreat center) stopping for dinner and fellowship along the way in Historic Downtown Harrisonburg. Capital Ale House is a recommended dinner spot from last year’s hikers.

Needed supplies: Pack for carrying water (at least 2 liters), lunch, and snacks to share. Hiking shoes are highly recommended as the path is rocky.

Other note: To let us know you are interested, please be sure your fall retreat registration indicates that you are staying at Massanetta on Friday night.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend #RestoRetreat2016


Fall Retreat3

10. Limited internet and cell reception (that’s a good thing!)
9. Crisp, cool autumn weather and fall foliage

Fall Retreat1
8. We heard a rumor that there may or may not be square dancing
7. Politics-free zone
6. Smores
5. Bike ride and beer (yes, seriously)
4. Go hiking with Liz!

Fall Retreat2
3. Wine tasting for the adults and boat building for the kids
2. A sweet, sweet bonfire
1. What else are you going to do? Netflix? Seriously?!

Don’t miss it! Sign up today.

The leaves of the tree….

All shall be well
And so our good Lord answered
to all the questions and doubts
that I might make,
saying comfortingly:
I make all things well,
I can make all things well,
I will make all things well,
and I shall make all things well;
and thou shall see thyself
that all manner of things shall be well.

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

IMG_6401Last night at our semi-regular midweek healing eucharist, we gathered around the Lord’s table to worship our Savior, to pray for healing for ourselves and others, and to share in communion.

Amy told us the story of Ivan the Terrible …a sad story of a neglected child, a bereaved young husband leading to a devastating legacy of violence and evil. She then drew us into the story of Rev 21-22: where the tree of life stands in a river in the middle of the heavenly Jerusalem with its leaves which bring healing to the nations.

We prayed for our own needs, and for the needs of those we know and love, for our community and for this nation. We prayed for Orlando: for the victims, first-responders, police, journalists, neighbors and more… for people, places and situations where we long to see healing. We prayed that the Lord would staunch the wounds in that city and in that community with the leaves from the tree. That the evil actions of one would not lead to a stream of evil, but with gratitude for the actions of the son of man upon the cross which leads to a river of life where all can come to be healed.

And we wrote on our own leaves: the areas where we long for healing personally, and globally. And after we had taken communion, and received anointing we hung our leaves on a golden tree… symbolically pointing to our good Father who hears our cries and answers them.

The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Rev. 22:2b


Matt led us in sung worship as we called out to God for his merciful touch and then we prayed–I believe God heard and answered our prayers. We recognize that we are all mid-chapter in our stories. God is at work in and with each one of us: restoring and making new, growing our characters, forming us to look more like him. We are so grateful that restoration is on his agenda.

It was in some ways a somber evening as we confronted evil and mourned the places of hurt and pain that we are facing, but it was also a glorious evening as we rejoiced in God’s victory over sin and death; his sacrifice which leads to ultimate healing; his offer to staunch the wounds of our sin; his promise to make all things whole again.

I do hope you can join us at the next midweek healing eucharists: Sept 6, 7.30pm and then on Nov 8, 7.30pm when we will pray for the election.

~Liz Gray


Stars and our Stories

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his craftsmanship.”
Psalm 19:1

“We are his craftsmanship.”
Ephesians 2:10

thumbprint star

A few weeks ago, we ran a blog post about stars, expanding on themes from David’s sermon series on creation. Stars have more in common with us than it may seem. They are intricately made and known and named by God. They display his craftsmanship and artistry. They are born, worship, speak, sing, and die. And they tell stories.

This retreat will focus our attention on our own stories. Like the stars, our stories point to the God who made us and to his ultimate story. So we thought it appropriate to create a hands-on, visual representation of our church’s “night sky” – the collection of all our individual stories, each handcrafted by our creator, assembled together to declare God’s glory.

This sky will surround us throughout the teaching on the retreat, represented by dark blue papers hanging around the room. Over the course of the retreat, when you have a spare moment, take down a sheet and use the ink pads provided to place your fingerprints in the sky, representing your unique identity and story. Give your kids their own sheets of paper to do the same. Then re-hang your paper and watch as our empty night sky gradually fills with light, beauty, and stories over the weekend. It’s as simple as that. This is not high art – just a simple way to use our hands to craft a story in the sky.

– Amy Rowe


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In the summer of 2001, I taught astronomy to kids at a camp in rural Texas. Night after night, on the camp’s stargazing platform, these city kids would often gasp with wonder at the brilliance of the night sky. Stars are just as wondrous for adults as for children – perhaps even more so, as our adult imaginations are often starved for the kind of mystery and beauty that stars convey. And so, as David preaches on creation, fall, and restoration this fall, let’s turn our eyes heavenward and contemplate all the stars have to teach us:

  • God’s vastness and mystery. On a clear night in Arlington, we might see a few dozen stars. If we were to drive out to the Shenandoah, we may see a stunning thousand or two. These stars are so far away that it takes their light hundreds, thousands, even millions of years to reach us; thus, looking at the stars is looking back in time. The light we see from some stars began its journey to our eyes before man discovered fire or Columbus sailed to America. But even these stars are only a tiny fraction of all the stars that exist, each one enormous. Our sun, itself a modestly sized star, could hold a million Earths. Our galaxy alone holds over a hundred billion stars, and is only one of billions of galaxies in the universe. In the far reaches of the known universe, quasars emit the energy of trillions of suns; pulsars emit radio waves with more precision than atomic clocks; and black holes exert so much gravity that time nearly stands still in their presence. The sheer size of the universe, the mind-bending conflation of space and time, the million “why?”s that the stars provoke – all of these cause us to marvel at the extraordinary power and vastness and otherness of the God who created it all.
  • God’s intimacy. Contemplating the immensity of the universe could make God seem distant, complex, inaccessible. But instead, the Bible describes an intimate creator, a God who has counted and named every single star – including the thousand that are still being created every second. He has ordered each star’s birth, life, and death, and given it a specific place in the sky. He is the infinite and mysterious God of the heavens, yes, but he is also an intimate God, naming and knowing and carefully tending his creation.
  • God’s artistry. The Bible calls the stars God’s handiwork, and describes them with the sensory language of craftsmanship: they are spread, stretched, knit across the sky. In return, these beautifully crafted entities are described repeatedly as singing for joy. In creating the stars, God used the tools of the artist, the craftsman, the musician, to adorn the sky with billions upon billions of glorious worshipers.
  • God’s story. The entire drama of God’s story unfolds in the stars. When he creates the world, he begins with the sun, moon, and stars. When God wants to convey the enormity of his promise to Abraham, he leads him out under the night sky and directs his gaze at the stars. When his prophets foretell impending judgment, they describe stars being darkened, the heavens being torn and shaken. When he wants to announce the birth of his son, he tells a story in the night sky so compelling that Eastern astronomers leave their homes and journey for months to find the king announced in the stars. And in Revelation, when he reveals to John a sweeping vision of all history, he casts stars as the key actors – from Satan and a third of the stars being cast out of heaven, to Jesus, himself the Bright Morning Star, cradling seven stars in his hand, coming again to make all things new.
  • Our story. Carl Sagan famously wrote in Cosmos that “we are made of starstuff.” It is mind-boggling to imagine that the same elements necessary to all life on earth, including every atom in our bodies, are in the dusty nebulae from which stars are birthed. From this stardust, God lavishes beauty, creativity, story, and individuality upon billions of stars in the heavens. But amazingly, he lavishes even more upon us, assembling these same elements into human lives crafted in his image, and beckoning us into relationship with him as beloved sons and daughters. He even invites us into the act of creation and redemption, telling us to shine as stars as we hold out his life-giving word to a dark world. How humbling it is to find ourselves merely specks in an enormous universe, yet specks that are fully known, heard, and loved by the God who spoke it all into being.

Madeliene L’Engle once wrote that the ancient understanding of the word “disaster” was, quite literally, separation (dis-) from stars (-aster). In many ancient cultures, stars were believed to be deities themselves, or lights carried by invisible gods in the sky. While we no longer believe the stars are capable of controlling our fates, the ancient meaning of “disaster” still has the feel of truth; for our self-imposed separation from the stars (by pollution, electric lighting, urbanization, etc) can indeed be disastrous to our contemplation of God.

Stargazing can be an incredible source of wonder, humility, and joy. Over the coming weeks, why not take a few moments to intentionally sit beneath the stars and regain a small bit of that wonder? Take a walk after dinner. Drive an hour west and park the car for a while. Take advantage of the upcoming church retreat, far from city lights, and sit under the night sky with a pair of binoculars brought from home (telescopes are rarely needed for most sky observation). In the meantime, we’ll be providing a few small opportunities to access the stars through various art forms – from images on the screens at church to words and images on this blog – so stay tuned! We hope that these opportunities will allow us all to join with the stars in songs of worship to our creator.

– Amy Rowe

From Lies to Light – New ID Small Group

I like to think I can tell lies from truth, but it is surprisingly difficult at times. The hardest lies to decipher are often the one that swarm around inside of our heads, trapping us in dark places and keeping us away from the light of truth.

On April 24 I will start leading New ID, a six week course with teachings, testimonies, discussion groups and prayer for anyone struggling with disordered eating. As I prepare, old lies come to mind. I went through New ID at my church in Charlotte, NC in 2007 after an almost 10 year battle with disordered eating. I came SO close to not attending the course. “Surely you don’t struggle with food THAT much, Christie,” I told myself.  “You have been so much better this week! I bet that means you don’t need help after all.” Another lie.

These lies I told myself almost kept me from truth and freedom. Almost.

Instead, by God’s grace, I went through the course, fought the battle of recovery and have experienced freedom in Christ I never dreamt possible. I was brought out of captivity and am now called to help the many other men and women that struggle in those chains I wore for far too long.

Restoration is a place where broken people are being made whole. I love that our church is not afraid of getting our hands dirty, being honest with ourselves and each other and loving each other deeply throughout the process. Being involved in a small group keeps us out of isolation and in the light.

Please pray that those in our church body currently experiencing bondage to food and weight would step into the light of truth and find their true identity in Christ.

To learn more about New ID email me at  or read my blog.

And register for the small group  TODAY! It’s number 14 in the SG list .

In His Marvelous Light,




Worship and War

Erin Bair and I like to dialogue about cool stuff we are reading, and she sent me this quote by Alexander Schmemann: “If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both ‘posits’ his humanity and fulfills it.”

I look at this man from Damascus, and I ask, “How do I worship God in the midst of this?”  All I can see is my son Roman and this horrific desperation, and it doesn’t make any sense to me (probably due to the freedoms that I take for granted).  If Schmemann says that worship is “the essential act which both ‘posits’ his humanity and fulfills it,” then I struggle with how worship exists in the midst of war with the amount of dehumanization that needs to occur to cope with the violence that is committed.

As I have studied war these past three months, I have felt like less of a man, and I think it’s because I have had such a hard time figuring out how to worship God in the midst of these studies. If our humanity is so intensely tied to worshiping, then war, though I think horrifically necessary at times, can push us into a place of having to surrender our own humanity and that of others.

In his humanity, I so admire Jesus’ instruction for Peter to holster his sword. Jesus engaged deeply in the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain that was his in the Passion. He did not divorce himself from any other part of himself. Somehow in the midst of his commitment and sacrifice, there was worship. In his willingness to be sacrificed, there was beauty. I don’t understand it, yet, as was shared on Sunday, his very response to suffering is incarnation – to be manifest in his entirety.

“By Thy Mercy, O Deliver us, Good Lord.”

For Sunday’s songs:

– Matthew Hoppe

Monday musings

I’m in a bit of a pensive mood today. I’m not sure why… Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I waited all morning for the dishwasher repairman to show up and tell me that there’s nothing wrong with my dishwasher that doesn’t work. Which, while frustrating, did mean that I got to spend a good bit of the day sitting on my couch, computer on my lap, enjoying this absolutely spectacular September air come through my open windows. In any case, I was grateful for a little unexpected space to pause, to muse, to ponder. (Why yes, I am an introvert — why do you ask?)

One of the things I stumbled upon today was this blog post, “An Open Letter to the Girl in the Dressing Room.” [Disclaimer: I’ve never read anything else on this website, so do not take this mention as an endorsement of it. Unless it’s all wonderful, in which case, I’m so glad I could share with you this great source of wisdom!]

Please read it.

Women, please read it. Because unless you’re the only woman I’ve ever met who hasn’t struggled with body image stuff, there are beautiful and powerful truths in there. To wit, “[Satan is] afraid of what will happen if you offered the beauty of your brokenness. He’s scared of what will become of his treachery if exposed by God’s glory inside you.”

Men, please read it. Because women aren’t the only ones who struggle with body image. And because even if you don’t, there is a woman in your life — a wife, a sister, a girlfriend, a daughter, a friend — who needs to hear that brokenness offered to God becomes the truest sort of beauty there could ever be.

Or, as the Christopher Williams song puts it, “Beauty is still beauty when it’s scarred.”

David preached yesterday about being a church where broken people are being restored by God’s grace and are finding their place in God’s story. I pray that that girl in the dressing room someday finds a church like that — a church like ours. I think she probably needs it. I know I do.

– Erin


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