Receive the work of our hands

On Saturday, September 20, we consecrated our new building.  We welcomed Bishop John Guernsey,  The Reverend John Yates who preached, clergy from our diocese who came to offer their support, Kenny Sieber who was our job superintendent, Charles Sinclair who was the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, and David Hunter who works for Arlington County.  I was so grateful that they would come and that we would have an opportunity to thank them for the significant roles that each of them played in the dream, design, and construction of our building.

My favorite part of the service was an intentional time to pray over each of the building ‘spaces’.  We asked God to fill them with His Holy Spirit and to set them a part for the work that we have been dreaming He will do.  It was significant for me to imagine kids growing up in our small group rooms, and people gathering for snacks, and our staff laboring to serve those in and outside our church, and people sitting in our pews worshiping and giving thanks to God.

So, I wanted to share that part with you.  Matt Hoppe created a constellation of images for each space.  I wrote a prayer that was prayed by the Bishop and then the congregation prayed a collect from the Book of Common Prayer.  As you think about our church settling in to this building, I invite you to pray over each space.  We need to be praying for our church.  May these images and prayers be a place for you to start.  


(If you click on the image, it will shift to full screen and you can see all of the fun detail!)

Receive the work of our hands in this place, now to be set apart for your worship, the building up of the living, and the remembrance of the dead, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.




Bishop: Everliving Father, watchful and caring, our source and our end: All that we are and all that we have is yours. Accept us now, as we dedicate this place to which we come to praise your Name, to ask your forgiveness, to know your healing power, to hear your Word, and to be nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son. Be present always to guide and to judge, to illumine and to bless your people.

Kids’ Small Group Rooms


Bishop: Father in heaven, thank you for a place to disciple children. Fill those rooms with the presence of your Holy Spirit and lead them into the knowledge and obedience of your Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Bishop: Praise the Lord, you children of the Lord:

People: Praise the Name of the Lord.

People: Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


Fellowship Hall

Fellowship Hall

Bishop: Father in heaven, thank you for the fellowship hall and a hospitable place to welcome the stranger. Fill that room with the presence of your Holy Spirit and let conversation lead to conversion and friendship, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Bishop: Above everything, love one another earnestly:

People: For love covers many sins.

People: Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Office and Mezzanine


Bishop: Father in heaven, thank you for a place where staff and leaders can gather to work. Fill that space with the presence of your Holy Spirit and turn labor into love for your Gospel and your people, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Bishop: Prosper, O Lord, the work of our hands:

People: Prosper our handiwork.

People: Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift: Send down upon our clergy, and staff, and upon our congregation committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of they grace; and, that they may truly please you, pour upon them the continual dew of your blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Chancel for Musical Worship

Chancel for Musical Worship

Bishop: Father in heaven, thank you for voices and instruments that help us express the wonder of your creation and the grace of your Gospel through the songs we sing. Be enthroned upon the praises of your people for the glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Bishop: Praise him with the sound of the trumpet;

People: Praise him with strings and pipe.

People: O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Chancel for Proclaiming the Gospel

Chancel for Proclaiming

Bishop: Father in heaven, thank you for your Holy Scriptures and this place to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. By the Holy Spirit, empower your Word and those who preach it. Give us ears to hear and hearts to follow through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Bishop: May the words of our mouth, and the meditation of our heart,

People: Be acceptable to you, O Lord our God.

People: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Bolivia team returns….

photo-2From July 5 to 11, 2014, six persons from Restoration (Endel Liias, Kate Raymond, and the Wallin family) joined with 14 members of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Boston on a mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The purpose of the trip was twofold:  (1) To learn about Niños con Valor (NCV) and engage with the children and staff in the three group homes for children it oversees and (2) to explore a possible relationship and provide practical help to La Trinidad, a local Anglican church.  Endel Liias, a Restoration vestry member, is a founder and board member of NCV. photo-1

Preparation for this trip occurred during the Tri2 Bolivia Small Group, when we learned about Bolivia and its culture as well as struggles (it is the poorest country in South America) and began considering opportunities for RAC to connect with Bolivians and other Latinos in our area.

The trip to Bolivia provided a wealth of opportunities to serve, learn, and grow.  The tightly packed, well organized schedule included several sessions of activities and relationship-building with the children, maintenance projects at the NCV homes and La Trinidad, two large gatherings at parks, and a “reality tour” of three orphanages in the city.  We traveled on a “Partridge Family” bus to activities, and each day brought multiple new experiences to both bless and challenge our team.  Endel was our group leader with the assistance of several members from Christ the Redeemer.  Kate and Mitch gave a talk to La Trinidad leaders and other childcare workers on basic first aid.  Susie, Evan, and Carson showed the NCV boys how to build LEGO cars and the girls how to make rubber band bracelets.  Making kites, painting, and playing soccer were loved by all the children.  In between were meals and fellowship at NCV group homes, times of reflection, and singing and prayer with the 20 mission team

We worshiped at La Trinidad, which has a similar service structure to RAC (except in Spanish) and met with Rector Tammy Firestone, her husband, and other church leaders.  We learned several things from them:  (1) They are currently focusing on discipleship, (2) they are interested in planting a church themselves, and (3) they are in great need of children’s ministry support, especially in light of the fact that the NCV children have recently begun attending La Trinidad.

We look forward to discussing and sharing our trip with others at RAC in the coming weeks.  God is working in Bolivia through the Anglican church and NCV.  We are praying and dreaming for potential next steps as God leads.

-Mitch, Susie, Endel, Kate

Telling our story

Telling our story


This week, Josh Chambers and I will be giving a seminar at the Anglican Assembly.  I am really looking forward to the conversation we will have as we seek to help churches do a better job telling their story.  Here are some things for which you can pray:

  • For the workshop–  that participants would use their most creative ideas to invite their neighbors and communities to follow Jesus.  Our thesis is that all of us are doing marketing.  But are we marketing what is best about the Gospel and the church or are we passing off a lesser story?
  • For the Assembly–  that participants would be encouraged and that we would affirm what is central to our life together.
  • For Restoration–  we want to be ready for all that God has for us on Quincy Street as we get ready to use our new facility.

Thanks friends.  See you on Sunday at 5pm.  I’ll have lots to share!


Grounding our church in prayer

Hello friends,

Two exciting things are happening this week — one for our local congregation, and one for our wider Anglican family — and they each bring great opportunities for prayer:

  1. praying on the floorTomorrow, June 18, from 2 – 3 pm, our new sanctuary will be open for us, and we can literally “ground” our sanctuary withprayer. The finished flooring is about to go in, but before it does, we’ll have a chance to cover the subfloor with scripture and prayers. We want everything we do at Restoration to be rooted in the truth of God’s word and in prayer — and this is a great way to symbolize that foundation. Plus you get a sneak-peek at the building. Closed-toed shoes required!
  2. Starting this Thursday evening, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (that’s our denomination) will meet to pray and elect a new archbishop. Outgoing Archbishop Robert Duncan has served his five-year terms with great faithfulness, wisdom, and devotion to Christ and his Church. Please pray for Archbishop Duncan as he steps down, and please pray for the College of Bishops, including our own Bishop John Guernsey, for wisdom and discernment as they elect our next leader. If you’d like some more prompts on how to pray, this blog post has some excellent ideas.

I hope to see many of you tomorrow afternoon, and I’m grateful to pray for our church alongside faithful people like you.

– Erin

Anglican — what’s that?

I’ve been told by Liz and David that shameless self-promotion of our small groups is perfectly acceptable, so here goes:

You should really join my small group.

David with fellow Anglicans in Nairobi

David with fellow Anglicans in Nairobi

Why? Because we’re going to be talking about what it means to be Anglican. After all, it’s a third of our name. The “Restoration” part comes from the big project God is up to in the world, and the “Church” part is pretty self-evident. But that whole “Anglican” bit? Not so much.

“Anglican” is part of our name. And it’s the name of our denomination. But it’s more than that. I describe Anglicanism as a particular way of being a Christian. It’s certainly not the only way of being a Christian. But it’s a really good one. And at Restoration, it shapes our worship, grounds our theology, provides a pattern to our spiritual lives, and connects us to an entire community of Christians throughout the world.

So why would you want to learn more about what it means to be Anglican?

  • You, like me, are kind of a church nerd, and just think this stuff is interesting. [Crickets…]
  • You really like Restoration, but you don’t really know why we do a lot of the stuff we do (like reciting scripted prayers, or baptizing babies, or making the sign of the cross, or having Communion every week). You’d like to learn more about the church, what we believe, where all this stuff came from, and why it’s relevant today.
  • You’ve decided Restoration is where you belong, and you’d like to take the next step in your faith commitment — by being confirmed.

What’s it mean to be confirmed? I’ve written about it more extensively here and here (ignore the date-specific details — the posts are a couple of years old), but the brief explanation is that confirmation is an opportunity to make a public declaration of your Christian faith, to express your desire to live out that faith in an Anglican context, and to have a bishop lay hands on you and pray for you to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit for the work God has called you to do. It’s a powerful experience.

Greg, a Restoration member who was confirmed last year, described why he was choosing to be confirmed:

My time at Restoration has truly cemented much of the transformation that was begun in 2005.  Restoration truly has been a source of healing from wounds that I am still identifying. Communing with fellow members weekly, hearing the word from David, singing as a community with Matt, and our fellowship with Erin, has given me a taste of the redemptive beauty of the body that Christ suffered and died to create. The intimacy that Elaine and I shared with Ray and BJ during pre-marital counseling offered a glimpse of the type of fellowship described of the Churches in Acts. And, perhaps most important of all, I am astonished by the beauty that is the Anglican liturgy and the manifestations of our faith at Restoration. My confirmation in the Anglican Church of North America is the next step of God’s redemption of my life.

If you’ve experienced something like Greg has during your time at Restoration, then confirmation might be a great next step for you.

Bishop John Guernsey will be visiting Restoration on March 30, 2014, and he will celebrate confirmations then. If you would like to be confirmed, you must be part of this small group. But the small group is open to everyone, whether or not you’re interested in confirmation. We’ll meet Monday evenings beginning on January 27 from 7:30 – 9:00 pm in the Library at Little Falls.

So go ahead and register today! Questions? Leave a comment below, or hop over here and choose “Confirmation” from the drop-down menu.

– Erin

Nairobi #3

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

We closed the final session of GAFCON2013 singing Before the Throne of God Above.  After many hours of conversation, debate, teaching, and testimony, these words hit me in a way that they have not before.  My friends, it is this amazing truth of substitutionary atonement that is the unchanging hope for those who believe in the Gospel.  We follow a Savior who put Himself in our place.  And when God forgives me, He does it because He is looking at Jesus.  Why would we ever want another Gospel?  Why would we decrease the necessity of Jesus’ death in our place?  Why would we not exalt Him for what He has done?

As we discussed the future of the Anglican Communion and the choices of so many to believe a false Gospel, this song and these words captured what makes us tick and why the Church Universal is the hope of the world.  How precious is the Gospel!  How precious is the truth that we have a way out of temptation and forgiveness when we sin and a Leader who sets us free.  Thank you God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

New to Anglicanism?

One of the chief ways that Anglicans define who they are in communion with is by ‘showing up.’  If you are invited to a meeting, it means there is a desire to be in communion with you.  If you say no or if you are not invited, it means there is a break in communion.  So meetings like GAFCON are significant because ‘showing up’ means something.  And we do this at all levels of our interaction–  diocesan meetings, provincial meetings like our Anglican Assembly next June, and global meetings like GAFCON.

When Anglicans get together, they usually write a paper.  They want to remember what God said and did.  They want to capture the conversations, significant teaching, and things that still need to be settled.  For GAFCON, that paper is called The Nairobi Communique.  It is excellent.

It was written by a team over the week of GAFCON.  They received input from our studies in Ephesians and from each of the mini-conferences.  All of the delegates were presented a draft and allowed to offer comments and critique.  The team took all of that feedback and edited the draft.  When it was read this morning, by John Senyoni and his wife [from Uganda Christian University], I was in tears.  Sure, I cry a lot.  But, I had a strong sense that the communique was a gift from the Holy Spirit–  and a probably source of future suffering.  It is so helpful to be clear.  But clarity invites pushback.  I urge you to read it–  especially if you worship in an Anglican church.  It is a key part of our present history.

Some other quick highlights…

Peter Lebhar, IV staff in FL

Peter Lebhar, IV staff in FL

This is Peter Lebhar.  He is on InterVarsity staff in Tallahassee, FL.  I had a wonderful conversation with him about the possible future transition from IV staff to being the Rector of a parish.  He is doing great work on campus, but also exploring how he can take his passion for the Gospel and his desire to see people reconciled to Jesus into an Anglican church plant.  I was so encouraged that there are folks like him considering ordained ministry.  I loved talking about InterVarsity staples:  Inductive Bible Study, New Student Outreach, and Multi-Ethnicity and how those things can translate into a parish.  Could their be a nascent pipeline of InterVarsity staff coming into Anglican Parish Ministry?  It’s happening in Florida.

The Bishop of Paraguay and his wife

The Bishop of Paraguay and his wife

On the bus this morning, I sat down next to the Bishop of Paraguay.  We talked about all the things that God is doing in that nation.  We also talked about how the US has done ‘missions’ poorly in the past and the need for American teams to enter as learners and servants.  He directly spoke to the unhelpfulness of ‘paternalistic relationships’.  I really appreciated his experience and wisdom.  It’s a conversation that I hope to continue.  Restoration is seeking to actively develop ministry partnerships in Arlington and abroad with our brothers and sisters from Latin America.  Who knows how God will continue to grow the good work that has already begun in places like Casa Chirilagua?

Myanmar Theological Teachers

Myanmar Theological Teachers

I’ll admit it.  I was scared.  The three of them were standing by themselves–  maybe waiting for somebody.  I couldn’t think of anything to say to them beyond ‘hi.’

But what I wanted to say was–  ‘I admire your courage and your faithfulness.  Thank you for loving Jesus in a REALLY hard place.  I have a dear friend who is from your country.  I pray for what God is doing there.  I wonder how a church like mine could support you.’  It felt a little too gushy.  But that’s where my heart was.

So I walked over and introduced myself.  I awkwardly said, ‘I don’t really know what to say, but I am so glad you are here.’  They told me about the college they teach in.  They told me about their families.  They told me about their hopes as theological teachers and I asked if I could pray.  It was feeble, but heartfelt.

The Gospel will change the world.  It is growing on college campuses, in the mountains of Paraguay, and in a small building that teaches Myanmar pastors how to declare the incredible truth that Someone stood in our place–  And it changed everything.

Thank you for praying me through GAFCON.  Looking forward to GAFCON 2018.


Nairobi #2

Studying Ephesians at GAFCON

Studying Ephesians during Morning Prayer at GAFCON

When I was on InterVarsity staff, it was a huge privilege to help lead the  Urbana Missions Conference every three years.  And one of my favorite parts of that conference was the morning expositions given by gifted theologians from around the world.  Yesterday, we heard an exposition of Ephesians 2 that was extraordinary.  It was given by Kanishka Raffel, a Sri Lankan Anglican priest from Australia.  He is the Rector of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.  It is very difficult to take a large chunk of Scripture and explain it clearly.  It very quickly becomes unwieldy.  Kanishka broke the chapter into 2 parts–  our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with each other and then talked about the images of plight, power, and privilege that describe the new humanity that God is bringing through Christ.  45 minutes passed in a flash.  I wish Australia was closer to the US so we could get him to preach at Restoration.

The Holy Spirit

The larger GAFCON conference broke into 9 mini conferences yesterday and today on topics like ‘re-evangelizing the west’, ‘the challenge of Islam’, ‘aid and development:  building self-sustaining churches’, and ‘marriage and family’.  Each of these ‘mini conferences’ contains 12 hours of teaching, discussion, and paper writing.  They are like mini seminary courses!  The challenge of Islam was particularly powerful because of the candor and courage of Africans for whom Muslim evangelization is not mere theory but a matter of life and death.  There was a holy reverence as several men and women told stories of being on the fault line between Islam and Christianity in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Southern Sudan.

I am taking the Holy Spirit mini conference.  I loved our afternoon lecture by Ashley Null.  He covered three centuries of Anglican history [16th, 17th, 18th] as a means to explain how we have our modern expression of 3 Anglican streams:  evangelical, catholic, charismatic.  It was FASCINATING.  The best part is the Q&A that happens at the end of each session.  I love hearing the PRACTICAL questions that my fellow pastors are asking–  Why does the Holy Spirit give gifts to people who sin?  How do I help people receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  What’s going on with the baptism of John in Acts 18?  Why does God seem to give the gift of tongues very often, but the gift of interpretation very rarely? These are really great pastoral conversations and I am learning a lot from my colleagues in Africa and Latin America.

Anglican Relief and Development Fund

Restoration has been a generous donor to the ARDF.   One of our members, John Westbrook, serves on their board.  The ARDF grew alongside the new ACNA province as a means for our churches to give generously to needs around the world.  The ARDF takes initiative to seek out opportunities to serve and also receives grant requests for aid.  Last night I attended a special dinner at the Muthaiga Country Club (did you see Out of Africa?  that’s the club) for the family of folks who have helped ARDF launch.  It was such a celebration!  Over $7million dollars have been given through ARDF to projects around the world.  Here is a quick video that tells the story of one project in the Congo.  It is well worth the time to watch.  I met Bishop Andy and he is a Godly, courageous, humble man.

The Rev. John W. Yates III preaching on Ephesians 4

The Rev. John W. Yates III preaching on Ephesians 4

Finally, this morning, my friend John Yates III preached through Ephesians 4.  What a wonderful explanation of what it means to walk in the way of Christ.  I particularly appreciated his distinction between sensuality and sensitivity.

Sensuality is the tireless pursuit of your own pleasure.  Over time it de-sensitizes you to the needs of those around you.  Sensitivity is the determined awareness of people and circumstances around you.  It flows from a heart that is softened by the Gospel.

Day by day, I want to say no sensuality more and more.  I see how the pursuit of my own comfort and pleasure makes me less aware of the people around me.

And day by day, I want to say yes to Jesus making me sensitive to the people and the circumstances around me.  May I be quick to respond and generous to give and humble in gratitude.

May we all grow more and more to look like Jesus and to love the world wide expression of His church.





David Hanke and Patrick Ware (Rector of Winchester Anglican Church) outside All  Saints Cathedral Nairobi

David Hanke and Patrick Ware (Rector of Winchester Anglican Church) outside All Saints Cathedral Nairobi



I have been so grateful for the opportunity to be in Nairobi this week.  Yet, as I left our fall retreat on Saturday, my heart was so torn.  Steve Hayner and I had a great conversation on the way to the retreat.  So many of my favorite people were gathered at Massanetta Springs–  how could I leave??  I love the fall retreat!  I love hearing good preaching!  I love playing football and the bonfire…

But I was also excited about heading to GAFCON and seeing what God had for us there.  I left the fall retreat around 1:30pm on Saturday.  27 hours of travel later, I arrived at 11:30pm on Sunday in my hotel room.

Let me just stream of conscious things I’ve been noticing and experiencing:

  • Starting with the mundane… the weather is incredible.  Mid-80s during the day, no humidity.  Gets hot in the cathedral, but gorgeous outside.
  • Security is pretty high.  Lots of reminders to not be outside after dark.  The hotel is only a mile from the church, but we have to take a bus each way.  Bags are checked and bodies are wand checked everywhere we go.  Security guards in all the hotel elevators.
  • The largest delegation is from Nigera–  450 strong.  Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya are next in size.  There are about 100 delegates from North America and 100 from the UK.  There are delegations from Israel, from Papua New Guinea, and from Southern Sudan.
  • Today we heard a series of interviews, called ‘you are not alone’.  It began with a report on the ‘persecuted church’–  specifically the situation for Christians in Syria.  It was heart wrenching and reminded me of the talk we heard at Restoration on Sept 8.  Then a report on the ‘suffering church’ which was given by the Archbishop of Southern Sudan [it just came into existence in the last 2 years].  Then the ‘compromised church’ with reports from New Zealand, Brazil, and England and the difficulty of still ‘doing church’ in a setting that is mostly not orthodox.  Finally a report on the suffering experienced by the church in North America.  It was so encouraging to hear stories of God’s faithfulness, to remember that ALL authority has been given to Jesus to send us to teach and baptize and to remember that He is with us Always.  We have some spiritual studs in the Anglican Communion.
  • This morning we heard a talk by Michael Ovey, the principal of Oak Hill College in London.  He explained how the inculcation of ‘cheap grace’ has produced the current culture that is being experienced in the West.  It was by far the most insightful talk I have ever heard on how we ‘ended up’ in this situation.  Michael has been asked to post a transcript on the GAFCON site and as soon as it is available, I will tweet a link.  It is one of those messages that I want to read several more times.  I felt light bulbs going off as he drew connections between a lack of repentance, a presumption on God, an idol of human rights, a doctrine of entitlement, and no requirement of duty or responsibility.  It was BRILLIANT.  And heart-breaking.
  • I have been praying for the right conversations that God wants me to have.  God is so faithful.  I have met several people who are in charge of Anglican work in SE Asia–  Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar.  I have talked with folks who were recently with Jesse and Sarah Blaine (they are doing great!).  There is a cadre of people, missions organizations, and churches that are working in SE Asia and are excited about the conversations that Restoration is having and excited to dream with us about how we might get engaged.
  • I really enjoyed dinner last night with John Yates III and his wife, Alicia (this is the son of TFC’s John Yates).  John and Alicia have 4 kids and are leading a church in Raleigh that is in the middle of a building project.  Sound familiar?  We shared fun anecdotes about capital campaigns, architects, and parking…  Holy Trinity Raleigh is a strong and growing church– and he’s preaching through creation and fall this autumn as well.  How cool is that?
  • We began this morning with Holy Eucharist lead by the Church of Nigeria.  The preachers each morning are working through the book of Ephesians and today was a careful exposition of Ephesians 1 by The Most Reverend Emmanuel Egbunnu.  I was reminded of my gratitude for the spiritual blessing of being ordained a priest in the church of Nigeria.  I am grateful that they gave me a place to enter my calling as a pastor.  I have also become aware that they are an extremely ordered church.  If the worship guide says it, that’s what they are doing.  So when the man leading music this morning started the recessional hymn and it was different from the worship guide, the archbishop stopped him mid-note and ‘requested’ that he do the hymn in the worship guide…  and he did.  Nice.
  • Finally, I had tea with Bishop Laurent Mbanda, Bishop of the Shyira Diocese in Rwanda.  He also serves on the board of International Justice Mission alongside our good friend Nicole Sedaca and our retreat speaker, Steve Hayner.  Which brings me full circle to where I started this post.

I love the church of Jesus Christ.  I love our little expression of it in Arlington.  My cup is full.  What a day.

Miss y’all,



Worship is for Lovers: summertime at Restoration

Sign-up here now!

“Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

 (Psalm 1:1-2)

Thousands of years ago, the Psalmist recognized something that our modern era is only slowly learning to appreciate again: ritual. If there’s a word in our Christian vocabulary that’s gotten a bad rap in the last couple centuries, it’s “ritual.” Sometimes you hear it as shorthand for mindless acts of devotion that keep religious people busy, or for something quaint and sentimental, like when secular people put up Christmas trees in December.

Psalm 1 speaks of ritual practice, but it’s hardly mindless or sentimental. Granted, it doesn’t deal with “rituals” like religious festivals or fasting. But notice how the Psalm speaks of routine activities we perform with our bodies: walking, standing, sitting, meditating, and that day and night. That’s because the “law of the Lord” is a four-dimensional thing, something lived in space and time (though also contemplated in the mind). Israel’s book of worship opens with this hymn, suggesting that this is somehow what worship—indeed, life—is all about. We train our affections to delight in the law of the Lord.

I think the book of Psalms begins like this because rituals are routine practices that shape who we are at the most fundamental level of our lives. They give shape to our desires and fashion our loves. They are everywhere, and most of the time we aren’t even aware of it when we perform them. As Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith puts it, we are worshipping animals.

You know who really gets this? Starbucks. When I worked there as a barista, their mission was to become our clientele’s “third place,” after their home and work places. So we hoped to seduce coffee-lovers through what might be called a Starbucks liturgy. A smiling barista would greet you from behind the counter as soon as you enter the door, and (if possible) would welcome you by name. After reading the bulletin (our menu), admiring the icons (our quirky wall-art), and making an offering (at the register), you would partake of the elements in your favorite pew (a plush loveseat) with the rest of the congregants enjoying the aroma of the coffee-scented incense. Ideally for Starbucks, this simple routine would become embedded in your daily rhythm of life.

The Christian Church, of course, has its own liturgy or set of rituals, which are designed to channel our deepest desires to the Triune God, who is love. And this Church exists in a world of competing liturgies, like those of Starbucks (or nation states, neighborhood associations, fraternity and sorority houses, corporate structures, etc.), which are always trying to direct our loves toward other things. In this class I want to examine how Christian practices (ancient, everyday-things-people-got-martyred-for practices that we still do today) play this role of formation in our lives.

In our first four weeks, we’ll study in depth the practices of worship and devotion that the Holy Spirit has used over the centuries to shape the church into the Bride of Christ, who adores (imperfectly, in this life) her all-loving Husband. These include our Sunday liturgy (especially the Eucharist), scripture reading, daily prayer, the creeds, the church year, etc. I am an historian of the Bible and ancient church by training, so my hope is that you’ll gain a fresh appreciation for what we do in the present by digging into the past.

In the last four weeks, we’ll turn our attention to the situation in which we find ourselves in the postmodern world. This part of the class will be much more creative. What forces are at work in our culture, at the level of practice, competing for our loves in our corner of the world in 2013? How can we identify and respond to them in a way that is relevant yet rooted in our historic faith? I’m open to seeing what issues are of interest to the group; potential topics include the arts, internet and social media, the institutions in which we work, etc.

So please join me Wednesday nights in July and August to study (or, better, pursue) the Christian life as one of worship. It is something we do body and soul, “day and night.” It is a historic pattern of practices, and the goal to “delight in the Lord.” That is: worship is for lovers.

David Griffin

Time: Wednesdays at 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Dates: July 3- Aug. 21

Location: The Treehouse Room, Little Falls Presbyterian Church

What’s a bishop?

Hey Restoration,

We had a wonderful weekend with Bishop John Guernsey and his wife, Meg.  I hope you were able to ask questions at our reception or worship with us during confirmation services.  I recognize that many of us grew up in traditions that did not have a bishop.

So here are a couple thoughts on the office of ‘episcopos’. This is how the apostle Paul described what he was looking for in a bishop.  He is writing to one of his church leaders, Titus, telling him what sort of people he should seek for the leadership and administration of the church.

Titus 1:5    This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and  appoint elders in every town as I directed you—  6  if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,  and his children are believers and not open to the charge of  debauchery or insubordination.  7 For an overseer,   as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not  be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent  or greedy for gain,  8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy,  and disciplined.  9 He must  hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in  sound  doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

From this little introduction, we learn three things about bishops:

  1. They are to put things into order.  They build systems that allow churches to be connected to each other.  They lead leaders and help accomplish more through the aggregation of resources and efforts.  Bishop Guernsey oversees relational opportunities for clergy, he encourages people in similar church positions to collaborate on projects, he brings together like-minded thinkers to share best practices.  Bishops provide an umbrella for partnership in mission.
  2. Bishops are to have character that is exemplary.  They are to model what maturity in Christ looks like.  There are clear instructions on how they treat their family, their finances, and their ability to exhibit self-control.  Bishop Guernsey is a man of great prayer.  When I asked him for any advice for starting a building program, he replied, ‘First, create a team of dedicated intercessors for the project.’  Prayer support always undergirds everything that Bishop Guernsey leads.  I really admire that.
  3. Bishops are given the responsibility of teaching sound doctrine, of refuting error, and of encouraging what is right.  Throughout the history of the church, bishops have gathered in councils to pray, discuss, and articulate what is true about the Christian faith.  The theology and doctrine we hold most dear was hammered out by bishops who were ‘contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.’ [Jude 3]  The church has always looked to her leaders for guidance and trustworthy instruction.  Bishop Guernsey preached a powerful sermon on resurrection bodies–  bodies matter, now and for eternity.

Bishop Guernsey was consecrated almost 5 years ago in the Church of Uganda.  He was elected by our Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in May of 2011.  Before that, he was the rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Woodbridge for 29 years.  I am so thankful to God for leaders in our movement like Bishop Guernsey.  If you would like to receive his pastoral letters to our diocese, you can sign up for them here.

It was a great weekend.  Hope you enjoyed it, too.


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