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?

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!

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

bad news, good news, fake news, true news

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October 22, 2017 – Liz Gray

Jeremiah 27.8-11 : Psalm 99 : Matthew 13.47-50

Listen to the songs here.

Reflection on Multi-Ethnic Unity

15895181731_27781e34d0_bI woke up at 5am on Nov. 23, 2006 to the sounds of my dad’s footsteps and something being dragged into the kitchen. Rising from my bed, I opened my door, peered out, and saw the small television under his arm. It occurred to me that it was Thanksgiving! This day each year my dad got up early, set up the television in the kitchen and we would watch the parade while cutting apples and walnuts for stuffing, preparing the gravy, and stuffing the turkey in preparation for a family feast. Family would come from all over Sonoma County and Lake County to gorge themselves at 2 o’clock in the afternoon – a strange, yet wonderful tradition. It was the one time during the year in which each disparate part of the family united to share a meal and recount the memories of what had happened over the last year.

The 5am ritual happened one final time for me in 2006 because the next year I would move to Chicago and since then Thanksgiving has looked a little different every year. Ashley and I moved to Arlington in 2012, and having gotten to know a few of our neighbors, we threw our first “friends-giving” in our apartment in South Arlington. The best part of friends-giving was that each person contributed their absolute best recipe: the best pumpkin pie, the best turkey, the best stuffing, the best sweet potato casserole. And as we sat and ate, we shared stories of Thanksgivings from our family traditions growing up. Each local custom had its own beautiful particularities and yet each person’s custom would have felt foreign to recreate in its entirety for this current table (for example, we ate at 4pm rather than my 2pm tradition). This new table had a new family-like quality which provided a new way of relating to one another individually even after these friends would leave our table. The act of taking disparate families, united around food and thankfulness, displays in a small way the conversation which happened last weekend.

Retreat

Last weekend, Restoration Anglican Church had its fall retreat at Massanetta Springs, where Joe Ho (National Director for Asian American Ministries for InterVarsity) spoke the Gospel’s message of reconciliation not only between God and humanity but between various groups of humanity. He demonstrated how God had scattered humanity in Genesis 11 because of their collective desire to join for the sake of their own pride-of-name and for their own security. He called us from Ephesians 2 to be reconciled with God and with one another. The implication is that we are good at proclaiming reconciliation with God, but that in many ways, the Church must repent of the ways in which she fails to be reconciled one to another. This weekend was a helpful link in the chain of conversation regarding reconciliation that Restoration has already begun. One of Joe’s major contributions to this ongoing discussion was to raise an important question for us to consider: What does it mean for us to pursue substantive multi-ethnic unity?

On Sunday we celebrated the Eucharist together and one line of the liturgy captivated my heart and imagination. We pray with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven (a vertical relationship), but during the prayer of consecration, the priest prays, “…After he ascended to your right hand in glory, you sent your Holy Spirit, that we might become your holy people.” (a horizontal relationship). This is a reference to Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit being given is presented as an undoing of Babel. This act of giving thanks (which is what the word ‘eucharist’ means) and partaking of the body and blood of Christ is a physical, spiritual, and political act. According to 1 Pet. 2:9 God has constituted a new people, a new priesthood, a new nation (Gk. ethnos, where we get the word “ethnicity”) who belong to God and bring praises to Him who called them from darkness to light.

Questions to consider

Living Diversity: The Arlington Photographic Documentary Projectbook cover & interior

Living Diversity: The Arlington Photographic Documentary Project

People enter the one body of Christ with its one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and yet their entry does not dissolve their personal distinctiveness. Restoration reflects part of the catholic tradition of the Church (through time and across ethno-linguistic boundaries) in several important ways: we have a liturgy that moves from repentance to praise, we have a Bishop, we are creedal, and we are sacramental. And yet there are many ways in which Restoration has a local culture: type of music, manner of preaching, food, technology, etc.

Joe’s talks bid us to be self-aware of our local custom. As Christians we should always embrace what is catholic (i.e. universal), and yet we should also love what is local (and appreciate it as being local). This is a commitment to prioritizing our new-ethnos as citizens of the kingdom over our ethnoi/nations on earth (however we want to define this). If a parish should take its local customs (which might be good and helpful) and mistakenly believe them to be catholic, the parish runs the risk of colonizing our brothers and sisters in Christ who have other good and helpful local customs. All of us who are in Christ are called to be agents of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21), but maybe we don’t know what this looks like.

Above all, Joe’s talks encouraged me to adopt a posture of  listening with frequent repentance. Substantive multi-ethnic unity can happen only with repentance and the cultivation of self-awareness (which involves a listening posture). Diversity and unity have been a major part of the discussion surrounding Incarnation Anglican Church (the church plant in South Arlington) since the very beginning. Columbia Pike is so diverse that a book exists highlighting its diversity, and therefore we are asking the Holy Spirit what unity will look like in South Arlington. One of the podcasts I have found most helpful has been Truth’s Table (though let me know if you find others as well), which has stretched me in my own thinking and has given some solid, practical ways to build substantive unity–the unity to which I am called each week in the Eucharist.

Time with friends around the friends-giving table gave each person an opportunity to share snippets of his or her local custom, creating a new community around a table built of various different stories. Each contribution was good, helpful and fun! And each person’s contribution added to this new experience of being around the table. Powerful discussion happens when we meet together frequently, eat together, pray together, worship together, and most importantly, listen to one another. The Church, being fed on the body of Christ, participates each week in the very physical, spiritual, and political act where we remind ourselves frequently that we (the Church across time and ethno-linguist boundaries) are one new nation, a royal priesthood, created to praise Him who has called us from darkness to His glorious light.

-Fr. Morgan Reed, Church Planter for Incarnation Anglican Church

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

 

 

 

Life Everlasting…Amen

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September 3, 2017 – Morgan Reed

Listen to the songs here.

Keeping God before our Eyes

Benedict

Rhythms

We accomplish so many tasks during the day without thinking about them: getting up, brushing our teeth, getting kids ready for school, having seemingly meaningless conversations at work, trying to make it through the day so that we can get home. And then once we get home what should we make for dinner? And once we finally get kids to bed or watch our favorite show we snuggle into our own sheets and maybe for a brief moment this thought pops into our head: “what just happened today?” Our rhythms often betray our own survival mentality which lacks coherence or purpose. It is this question (What just happened?) which reminds us of the importance of taking a spiritual inventory of the moments of our days.

Sunday Sermon

Rev. Liz just preached a sermon today (August 13– see here) as part of the series on the Apostles’ Creed which focused on the phrase “…He will come to judge the living and the dead…” and in her sermon there is a helpful reminder that we need to live our days with the reminder that God is Holy. Yes, God in His mercy has paid for the sins of His people, and yet it is also true that time itself is a stewardship from God to be used to show His glory and love to the world. Each day invites us to turn from our past sins and to see Christ in the people we meet and moments we are given. However, many of us struggle to create healthy rhythms of life which redeem our daily moments and relationships that God puts in our path.

Small Group

In the Fall, there will be a Thursday evening small group for those interested in reexamining how they live the daily rhythms of their lives. It’s like the old hymn says “…take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.” We’ll will look at how this can be done. This small group will be a foundational piece of who we will become as Incarnation Anglican Church (the future Restoration church plant in south Arlington) and as such this small group will be hosted and led in south Arlington so that we discover how we can daily love Jesus more in our work, families, and in our neighborhoods in south Arlington. We would love for you have the opportunity to invest in south Arlington through this small group by signing up here once the registrations open up. Again, we will meet Thursdays from 7:30-9pm. You might be wondering more about what we will study….

Rule of St. Benedict

Unreflective survival is not a new difficulty in the history of God’s Church, so one of the ways that earlier saints have responded to this problem is by creating a rule for communal life. Maybe you are afraid that using the word “rule” sounds legalistic. However, a “rule of life” is not the same thing as setting up a bunch of arbitrary rules to measure someone’s spiritual prowess. A rule of life is a bit more flexible and has a well thought through goal. One such rule of life was created by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE) and can be read in English translation here. No other prayer rule has had more impact on English spirituality (which includes its influence on the Book of Common Prayer itself). St. Benedict desired that people be daily turned towards repentance and a love of God (even though his audience were monks in a monastery and under an abbot). He writes about roles, relationships, desires, prayer, eating, sleeping, conversation, and other aspects of community life in order to bring them together into a cohesive life of holiness in which someone turns to God in the daily relationships they have and moments they experience. He says in his prologue (v. 44), “…While there is yet time, while we are still in the flesh and are able to fulfill all these things by the light which is given us–we must run and perform now what will profit us for all eternity.” This brings us back to Rev. Liz’s sermon in which we are called to contemplate the ways in which God judges his peoples’ deeds. The rule written by St. Benedict has now been tested and found helpful by the Church for almost 1500 years and I believe it still helps us today to frame the ways in which we keep a healthy fear of God before our eyes daily. We are not cloistered monks living under an abbot, but many of us are neighbors and in small groups together and as such we are called to work together for the same goal.

Want to know more about St. Benedict before you sign up? Here’s a cool video:

 -Authored by Morgan Reed+

Incarnation … curious?

19225076_10155001833148600_7716981644433032854_nHopefully it is no secret to you by now that Restoration Anglican Church has begun the process of planting a new community in south Arlington! Incarnation Anglican (this new church plant) will be spending quality time together over the summer playing and praying. We’d love for you to join us for some of the events that are happening over the next several months.

We want you to know what things will be happening, so here are a few ways to stay informed:

Google Calendar

Below you will find our calendar embedded (this will eventually be embedded on our website). You can subscribe below to our calendar:

Google Group

We regularly send out info about events and ways that you can be praying for Incarnation Anglican. If you would like to receive these emails let us know here.

Facebook and Website

Like us on Facebook. We will be using Facebook to post pics and discuss informal get togethers. We have not fully designed our website, but stay tuned, it’s coming….

~Morgan, Liz and Amy

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Incarnation Anglican

unspecifiedAbout 10 days ago we had our first ‘Interested in South Arlington’ evening. It was a lovely time. 35 people came and we talked about South Arlington, Restoration and the strategic plan; the what and why and some of the how of a church plant.  We announced that this new worshipping community is going to be called ‘Incarnation Anglican’.

So let’s start there – why ‘Incarnation’? Well, to be honest, it’s how God finally wooed me to saying ‘yes’ to leading this whole crazy adventure! I was praying one day and he dropped the idea into my brain – and my excitement level rose perceptibly! Why? One of my favorite Bible accounts is Luke 8:43–48 where Jesus heals a hemorrhaging woman with his ’contagious holiness’. She reaches out and touches the hem of his garment and is instantly healed. He then turns around and ensures that her healing is not just physical but social and relational and emotional as well. God in flesh ‘incarnate’ bringing wholeness.

Touching Jesus brings healing. And hope. And fullness. And an encounter with the Holy Spirit. And forgiveness. And life. And as we are called to be the people of God, we are called to be ones who help others to encounter Jesus and his amazing contagious holiness. Jesus touched people who were ‘unclean’ in that culture, and yet they became ‘clean’ rather than him being contaminated. This is our dream – to head into a part of town where people are perhaps not aware that they are looking for Jesus, but are aware of their own brokenness.bus stop

We will go and pray and talk to people at bus stops and in coffee shops. We will look for opportunities to chat and drink tea. We will search out corners of South Arlington where there are people who have struggled with ‘internal bleeding for 12 years’and who know they need answers. We will keep our eyes open for men and women ‘of peace’ (Luke 10.6) who are ready to hear about Jesus. We want to help people see that the incarnate Christ is in their midst and all they need to do is reach out and touch him.

We are glad to be Anglican. There is much to be delighted about: our liturgy brings a sense of history, permanence, and tradition; the delight in beauty brings a sense of the transcendence of God; being Anglican brings a reminder that we are part of an historic, global church, reaching all nations; and so much more…20170222_112820 (1)

Do you live in South Arlington? Or might you move there? Do you have a heart for the nations (108 languages are spoken along Columbia Pike!)?

The Incarnation core team comprises Liz Gray, Morgan Reed and Amy Rowe. If you want to learn more, do reach out to one of us, we’d love to tell you more. After Easter there will be an ‘Interested in Incarnation’ small group – sign up, come and help us pray as we refine our vision and begin to plan our next steps. Come even if you are just curious! We will also be arranging prayer walks, ‘compline in the park’, and other events over the next months… all are invited!

Whether or not you are interested in joining Incarnation, please pray for the team, and for this tiny seedling plant: for ideas, inspiration and most of all for God’s favor (and a place to worship!). Send us an e-mail if you’d like to be kept in the loop.

Rev. Liz Gray, liz@incarnationanglican.org

Rev. Morgan Reed, morgan@incarnationanglican.org

Amy Rowe, amy@incarnationanglican.org

© Copyright Restoration Anglican Church