Thank you, Resto! A reflection on Incarnation’s first Sunday

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-03 at 8.44.14 PMOn Sunday, June 3, Incarnation Anglican gathered in the home of Liz and Simon Gray for its first Sunday worship service of evening prayer and eucharist. This service was the start of our ‘soft launch’ — a period of a few months where our launch team will worship weekly and practice the habits of praying, learning, singing, sharing testimonies, and breaking bread that will shape and form us for our public launch on September 9. 

Preparing the Grays’ home for worship included doing so many things for the first time: setting up chairs, arranging potluck dishes, making a quick chalkboard sign, passing out liturgies, arranging a cozy kids’ nook, and more. We laughed and prayed and bustled about together in relaxed delight, wondering who would come.

And come they did! At quarter to 5, people began to show up. But no matter where you were on Sunday evening — whether at the Grays’, or at Restoration, or at home or in the park or out grabbing a beer — you were right there with us too.

Because over the past year, you have supported us in a thousand small ways, giving us opportunity to tell our story in blogs and church and parish meetings and interest events. Some of you have given your finances, or your business acumen, or your legal knowledge, or your artistic gifts. Others have dreamed with us, prayed for us, asked us refining questions, made strategic introductions.

On Sunday morning you flocked to the front of Restoration’s sanctuary and prayed over Incarnation’s leadership, sending us out in a manner reminiscent of the book of Acts. You extended your arms and called down God’s blessing and pleaded for the power of his Holy Spirit to fill us. And we received it all through tears, a bittersweet moment of commissioning by a community that has nourished and supported us. (You’ll do the same thing again for our entire launch team on September 2, a week before our public launch.)

On Sunday evening, we carried those prayers with us throughout our first service, which brought its own tears of joy and wonder. 52 people walked through the doors of the Grays’ home to join us in worship — far more than expected — including people from other parts of the world and people we’d never met. Everyone sang their hearts out and received the eucharist with joy amidst kids’ voices and packed rooms. In the faces and voices of those who came, God reminded us that he is capable of doing so much more than we could ask or imagine as we seek to build a diverse worshipping community in South Arlington.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, love, and support. We’re so grateful to be on this journey with you, Restoration! Please contact us, follow us on Facebook, or check out our website if you want to learn more!

Easter Vigil – Martha

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March 31, 2018 – Liz Gray

Readings for Easter Vigil

Maundy Thursday Homily

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March 29, 2018 – Amy Rowe

Exodus 12.1-14 : Psalm 78.14-25 : John 13.1-15

Curious about Incarnation?

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Church planting?!!

Really?

Where? When? Why? How?

You’ve heard the rumours! And now, want to know more details?

Come along this Friday evening, 7.30pm Jan 26th to the Fellowship Hall and hear from Liz and the Incarnation Team as we talk about how hopes and dreams for the future!

Restoration has long had on its heart to plant churches – and we will be the first group to head out into a new area, specifically into a more diverse, multi-cultural part of Arlington where there are many people who have never encountered Jesus. We are wanting to be available to new relationships,  languages, cultures and ways of thinking as we bring the wonderful traditions of Anglicanism with us into a different worship context.

Curious as to whether God might be calling you? or just curious as to how as a Restoration parishioner you can love and support us well? or just plain curious? Come on Friday to hear more!

~Liz (and Morgan and Amy)

One Body

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January 14, 2018 – Liz Gray

1 Corinthians 1.10-17 : Psalm 139.1-5,12-17 : Mark 2.13-17

Listen to the songs here.

Word without End

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December 31, 2017 – Morgan Reed

Isaiah 61.10-62.5 : Psalm 147.13-21 : John 1.1-9

Listen to the songs here.

The eye of the storm

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December 17, 2017 – Liz Gray

Isaiah 65.17-25 : Psalm 126 : John 3.22-30

Listen to the songs here.

Tended, Gathered, Carried, Led.

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December 10, 2017 – Amy Rowe

Isaiah 40.1-5,9-11 : Psalm 85.8-13 : Mark 1.18

Listen to the songs here.

Why do we pray scripted prayers?

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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!

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

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