Recently we mentioned on Facebook that we happened to visit a local Anglican church (St John’s, Highton, Geelong) the previous Sunday and were so blessed to discover several vital things that many ‘thinking outside the box’ Christians are seeking today, such as –
- Reality, not hype
- Down-to-earth approach
- Meaningful worship
- Soundly Bible-based sermon
- A feeling of spiritual safety.
Receiving lots of good feedback, emails as well as FB, we felt to add some other notations re that local church. Such as…
Warm pre-communion 1 Corinthian 11:33 type greeting
Before we were called to the communion table to partake in the sacrament, as regularly asked by the vicar, Will Orpwood, attendees moved promptly to ‘speak a blessing of peace’ to one another.
Peace – eirene – is one of the most precious NT words. And these Anglicans amicably expressed it, not as a mere ‘just turn around to people nearby’ greeting – as observed in most denominations – but also going out of their way across the aisles to, making eye contact, warmly and meaningfully verbally blessing one another with proclamations of peace!
Now Maureen was (as she puts it)’ born in Pentecost’ whereas I (Robert) was ‘born in Anglicism’ – on Sundays I went to both church and Sunday school twice!
But I never experienced a pre-communion blessing like St John’s! Nor have either of us in any Pentecostal/charismatic circles we’ve moved in after I too became a Pentie 40 years ago.
On reflection afterwards, we recalled Paul’s 1 Corinthians 11 communion instructions – especially verse 33 NTL: ‘So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other.’
‘Wait’…the Message version (emphasis ours) reads: ‘So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another.’
Brought up ‘a good Anglican’ on the old KJV I knew that translation read ‘tarry’ not ‘wait.’ And that the traditional explanation is that Paul was warning the Corinthians not to rush ahead of their brethren, especially poorer ones, nor be disrespectful ‘of the Lord’s sacrificed body’ by partaking greedily of the elements as if they had no food at home.
Actually, ‘tarry’ is ekdechomai – to wait, looking with expectation. Now, without side-tracking into word translation debates or being accused of bad exegeses, our point is that this Anglican church’s genuine pre-communion gesture toward one another touched our hearts.
Why? It released expectancy in our hearts to also receive at communion something from the God these good people honoured in their own worship style.
As biblical scholar Marvin R Vincent, best known for his 1886 Word Studies in the New Testament, indicates: there is an expectancy emphasised in the usage of this word – the farmer expecting good precious fruit from the earth (James 5:7) or Abraham’s new city expectancy from heaven (Hebrews 11:10).
Consequently, blessed by God’s people, we approached the communion table encouraged to receive even more from our creative God.
God at work – in spite of us!
The time taken and the realistic genuineness and warmth displayed by the Anglican members had touched our souls! It seemed much richer, more meaningful, than the often rushed ‘Quickly welcome one another’ at the beginning of many charismatic/pentecostal services.
Sharing this Anglican experience with good friend Brian Bell (a ‘thinker outside the box’ and contributor of March’s Opinion article Is God Real? Link: https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/03/07/is-god-real/), he commented wryly:
‘Some people foolishly find it hard to believe you can worship in an Anglican style and still be saved! I attended an Anglican mission event last year, ended up being asked to lead some singing. I was so blessed as their bishop shared his testimony. The reality is that God is working either with us or despite us!‘
Decades ago a chirpy presenter of TV ads after promoting the product’s additional ‘free gifts’ would repeatedly say, ‘But wait…there’s more…’
We certainly discover a lot of other biblically sound things this particular Anglican church does and says that bring blessing and a sense of reality, are non-hype or questionable. People obviously love and worship the Lord, talk about him and serve him in their own Anglican way.
And there was sincere one accord prayer, Anglican style for our city and its need of a new council, a local 103-year-old Presbyterian church that had been wickedly burned, missionaries, healings, kids camp…and other local needs.
A growth key
Anglican style? More like Jesus style!
Above all, the whole Godhead was acknowledged…God the Father and Jesus the Son… and the Holy Spirit was not missed! Neither was the fact that we need Christ as Saviour and must rely on him as we can’t make it without him!
All this reminded us of how the renowned author and theologian C Peter Wagner once described himself and his church: ‘I myself, for example, would rather not have people call me a charismatic. I do not consider myself a charismatic. I am simply an evangelical Congregationalist who is open to the Holy Spirit working through me and my church in any way he chooses.’
There’s the key for every Christian and every local church no matter what the denomination…allowing God to work in our church exactly how he wishes.
As long, of course, as that church is biblically balanced and not flaky or full of hype, each can serve Jesus in its own traditional way (even charismatics and Penties have their traditions!)…seeking to honour God, worship him from the heart and takes every opportunity to reach the unsaved around and overseas in need of the Saviour.
One time Jesus’ disciples complained that an unknown stranger was ‘doing things differently.’ His response (in today’s lingo): ‘So what? At least he’s doing something’ (Mark 9:38-40).
Almost a retort of ‘What are you guys doing?’ Then Jesus, the boss, added: ‘Anyone who is not against us is for us’ (v 40 NLT).
The reality is that many mainline churches do honour the Lord and encourage/bless/’grow’ their people in their own way be it traditionally, or in real freedom of the Spirit, or both. The important thing is that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (kurios –the supreme one, controller, boss) and follow his teachings – regardless of which denomination we delight to follow.