People of the Spirit, worshiping Jesus in all places, at all times

Posts tagged ‘prayer’

Parish, Mission, Campus

This morning marks the beginning of a new campus ministry endeavor. This is now my 8th academic year as a campus minister. I served in campus ministry as a student, as well, so I’ve been doing this work at Geneva College for over a decade in one form or another. I started it as a Pentecostal who was attending a reformed charismatic congregation, and now continue as a priest in the Church, in the Anglican tradition. There’s a lot of change and adjustment and healing that has occurred in that decade.

One of the fascinating elements of the Anglican tradition is the parish system. There are boundaries and responsibilities that the local church and its clergy have for particular geographical areas. John Wesley and the others of the Anglican clergy working with him got in trouble with several bishops because of the boundary crossing he did in dioceses and parishes alike. But the parish model is a good thing–and the sense of responsibility for ministry that it encourages tends toward the overall health of the Church and congregations.

Campuses occupy an interesting place in that. Historically, universities had their own assigned clergy, and they were not attached to the local parish. Higher education has its traditional notions of its autonomy and it isn’t likely to release that anytime soon. So even in America, even in a day of non-sectarian schools and the emergence of the parachurch, the college campus will brook no outside assignment.

So, I’m a priest in the parish of Ambridge, in the diocese of Pittsburgh. I’m also a campus minister with the Coalition for Christian Outreach, assigned to Geneva College. There’s a local Anglican parish with its own clergy and leadership who have responsibility for ministry in Beaver Falls. So, in bridging these, I have a responsibility for ministry on the campus, and to connect students with the local parish, so far as it is possible. Despite the oddities of organizational boundaries, what we are united by is a common love for Jesus Christ and His gospel of grace. We share a common desire to see students liberated by His absurd love. And we have each been given a place to speak, to honor Christ, and to hear and pray with the community of the campus in our own roles–one as the parish, one as the itinerant. God bless us all, and let us with one voice offer God the praise through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with Him and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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[Worship Practice] 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Dcn. Ben leading a team (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Truth (Revelation 3:14-22 and Psalm 16), Dcn. Laura (John 6:56-69)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Everlasting God
  • We Will Feast in the House of Zion
  • Here in Your Presence
  • Before the Throne of God Above

Offertory

  • Lord, Enkindle Me

Communion

  • Refiner’s Fire
  • Lord, I Need You

Dismissal

  • Nothing But the Blood

Collect for the Day

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I read an article recently about things that small churches should do. #5 on that list was that they should start at time, and that waiting for a critical mass to gather to start doesn’t help. I fully believe and support that. I try–I really do–but it’s not something that happens despite all. I vested 10 minutes before service. The music team ceased rehearsal 5 minutes before service. I thought we’d pray and get done on time….but no. Folks scattered, dispersed, conversed, and then I find out that my dear rector has “sabotaged” my efforts by making the clock slow by a few minutes. What can a man do?

We prayed and took our respective places. I welcomed everyone and voiced expectation that we would encounter and hear the Word of God in our worship and invited everyone to engage in that expectation. We proceeded through the Acclamation, Summary of the Law, Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words smoothly before entering our songs of praise. The worship was preparatory, acknowledging God’s presence, emphasizing the need for hearing God’s Word. Dcn. Ben’s leadership is often pastorally sensitive to the condition of the parish. In the silence afterward, a parishioner read from Colossians about the glory and kingship of Christ as He stands sovereign over all creation. I also had an impression to speak a word of assurance. So, addressing the fear of what might be exposed or brought to light in speaking boldly or giving testimony for Christ, I read from the first few verses of Romans 8, and then picked up the final flourish from “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The Collect for the Day felt like a seal and response to the beginning of our worship.

As we listened to the reading of the Scriptures, prayed the Psalm, and stood hearing the Gospel, the juxtaposition of the letter to the church in Laodicea with the challenge of Jesus to the Twelve to forsake him because of hard teaching highlighted the words of Peter, “Where else will we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Even as Fr. Dennett preached on the realities of our life in America as very much like that in Laodicea–wealth, power, self-confidence, and ease of self-deception to detract us from the love of God in Christ. It was a powerful call to repentance–a reminder that repentance is the substance of our discipleship, and that the love of God to offer forgiveness and hope to all who repent remained constant.

What was experienced by the rest of the parish, I’m not sure of. For myself, I was keenly aware of the lack of holiness, and my presumption in the different ways I’ve tried to reflect holiness–the definite need for repentance. As we concluded the Ministry of the Word with the Creed and the Prayers of the People, that was my work. Fr. Dennett handled the announcements–which were extensive due to an appeal for participation in a healing care group that is starting in the parish and by an interview by one of our seminarians of two Kenyan seminarians about their summers at home, and where they are coming from, and what God is doing in their dioceses. Church of the Savior has long supported and welcomed students from across the globe into their community.

From the offertory into the Ministry of the Table, there was a restless quiet as some members of the parish had a ministry–a community lunch– to prepare for as the service was running long. My sense of responsibility in that is I will do my best, but the Sacrament is to be celebrated and received in reverence. So, there was no hurry in moving through the Holy Communion, and as the parish received, we went through two songs in worship (contrasting to our usual one). To me, the Table was an answer to my repentance, a Word for my hunger and desire for the holiness of God. It was not made or earned or taken by me. It was given freely, graciously, and fully by Christ. And that bread and cup were sufficient. I had no hunger–not even physical hunger–after that. That is the faithfulness of the Jesus who speaks to His Church so constantly and truthfully.

[Worship Practice] 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, other guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Michael (2 Corinthians 4:1-12 and Psalm 81), Cn. Dave (Mark 2:23-28)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Come People of the Risen King
  • Trading My Sorrows
  • Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
  • Our Father

Offertory

  • God, Make Us Your Family

Communion

  • The Church’s One Foundation
  • Communion Hymn (Behold the Lamb)

Dismissal

  • Give Us Clean Hands

Collect for the Day

O God, the protector of all those who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ordinary Time typically brings a loss of focus for many people. When the Church is not commemorating any specific event, after the expansive and all-involved drama of Advent through Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, it is easy to wonder what we’re doing when we get together. The return to the liturgy of the Anglican Church in North America, and the rhythms that go with that signal that a new season has arrived. That effect is slightly delayed for us at Church of the Savior, because we are continuing our series on listening to the voice of God.

That life of the Church is actually the core of Ordinary Time. That we were singing about what it is to be God’s people, and to have that life: the great exchange of the fallen life in the world for the joy of salvation drew us in to that place where we were aware of one another. The prophetic exhortation I believe God gave me to deliver following that singing pointed to the great exchange that Jesus made for us, and the things we are invited to bring together and trade out–with a God who is much better than the god of the “prosperity gospel.” I closed with the Collect for the Day, which appropriately asks God that “we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”

Appropriately, Steven’s message was about listening to God speak through the counsel of other believers. We stepped into that place of learning to improv in this time beyond the Scripture’s, waiting for the return of Christ and the restoration of all things. Sure, we’ve got a mission, but we’ve also got day-to-day decisions to make. Stevan dove into wisdom, and circumstances, and having the awareness to pay attention to what God is saying in order to bring life to us.

We continued with the Creed, and the prayers of the people. We recently switched to a version of the Prayers offered in the ACNA Renewed Ancient Rite, and encouraging people to offer their own exhortations in connection with the biddings. This seems to work really well for us, and gives a greater sense of cohesion to our corporate prayers. I flew briefly through the announcements, and then we entered the time of Holy Communion. The worship we offered in receiving from the Table, and singing these words of unity in the songs “The Church’s One Foundation” and “Behold the Lamb” fed into our dismissal with an awareness of our need for God’s grace on us as we dispersed: “O God, let us be/ a generation that seeks/ that seeks your face, O God of Jacob.”

Amen. Let us be such, O God of Jacob.

[Worship Practice] 6th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Martha (1 John 4:7-21 and Psalm 33), Cn. Dave (John 15:9-17)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • You Never Let Go
  • Power of Your Love
  • Tis So Sweet (To Trust in Jesus)

Offertory

  • Show Me Your Ways

Communion

  • The More I Seek You
  • Word of God Speak

Dismissal

  • Great Are You Lord

Collect for the Day

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Rogation Sunday is one of those bits about the liturgical year I confess I don’t fully understand. At least it’s still Easter–THAT I understand. We continued to worship according the to the use of the Kenyan liturgy.  I gathered the congregation with a few things from my Pentecostal background–expecting congregational responses to “Good morning” and, what finally worked, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” responded to with “Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I invited us to acknowledge God’s presence, and to be confident that He was at work among us and to break barriers and bring renewal. We moved through the opening acclamation and songs of praise with ease–with a building awareness of the Holy Spirit’s brooding presence. Following the songs of praise, we had silence for an extended period when Pastor Joe (our founding pastor) offered thanks to God for His work.  By the time I approached the lectern again, most of the congregation was seated. Recognizing the Presence, I opted not to tell them to stand for the collect. Many of them stood when we began praying the collect for the day.

The kids were invited up and prayed for and dismissed to their class. Martha read the epistle reading from 1 John, prefacing it with a testimony of how God had been moving in her life in the week before to remind her of His loving presence and the providential circumstances that she would be reading about God’s love for the worship. We prayed Psalm 33 responsively. Since our deacons were otherwise occupied (children and nursery), I read the Gospel. Stevan came up to teach on barriers to hearing from God. He began with a confession and asking the congregation’s forgiveness for not keeping a commitment he had made. And when he started to continue, Pastor Joe stood up, and asked that we receive Stevan’s apology and demonstrate our forgiveness as a congregation. It was a beautiful moment. Stevan continued and it was evident that he wasn’t quite teaching in the way he had prepared to (as it didn’t match the outline provided, strictly) but it was an anointed teaching that called us to recognize that God’s silence often stems from (1) not asking, or asking with wrong motivations (James 4:-3), (2) presumption (Numbers 14:39-45), and not listening to the last thing God told us (Isaiah 1:15-16; Isaiah 30:15).

To conclude, Stevan invited us to take some time to listen–to repent of where we did not obey God’s call and to ask “What’s next?” The music team returned to the stage and sang “The More I Seek You” as the congregation engaged in that time. If I thought the Spirit’s presence couldn’t be heavier, I was proved wrong. I was reticent to approach and continue with the Creed, and the Prayers of the People, but it needed to happen. There was an energy to those acts of faith.

At announcements, Fr. Dennett interviewed a parishioner about a music ministry time she had initiated with others at a local assisted living facility that had drawn over 40 residents. We then celebrated Pastor Joe’s birthday, and prayed for him as he continues in ministry. The legacy of Pastor Joe’s vision to reach people who are so often forgotten has shaped the ministry and heart of Church of the Savior in an indelible way. When we finished the offertory, I addressed the congregation with the reminder of the invitation we had received from Stevan to ask God “What’s next?” and further encouraged us to remember that God does not call us to what He won’t enable–and that what we receive at the Table is strength for whatever is next. My experience of celebrating that Holy Communion was a keen awareness of our congregation being caught up in the presence of the heavenly worship.

As we sang “Great Are You Lord” at the conclusion, I could see the Spirit working, and I think Stevan caught it, as well, because he drew the song out as much as could be done reasonably. The Pentecostal pastor in me would have loved nothing better than to invite people forward to pray and spend time in God’s presence at “the altar” but the way “coffee hour” is done in the rear of the sanctuary makes that quite impossible. It’s something to wrestle with–attending to the move of the Spirit, and honoring the liturgy and freedom of those who are released from what is going on. How do we as Anglicans disciple into that kind of space? How can we make room for it in our churches?

[Worship Project] 4th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Tom leading a small team (vocals, keys or drums, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Stevan (Habbakuk 2:15-20 and Psalm 62), Dcn. Andrea (John 10:11-16)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Praise is Rising
  • Oh How I Need You
  • All Creatures of our God and King
  • Something About that Name

Offertory

  • Give Me Jesus

Communion

  • Christ Be All Around Me

Dismissal

  • Oh How I Need You

Collect for the Day

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

One of the fascinating things about leading worship in this community is the way that time is not our primary consideration. We are gathered to be the people of God. Despite my best efforts as an officiant, it’s a challenge to gather, and pray before 10 and start by 10. But I continue to press it–and as I tell the team–if we start at 10, people will show up at 10. The worship is that important. But there’s also another contradiction in that: I take my watch off. It’s a recent thing, but it’s an intentional thing that I need to step away from the worldly concerns and the worship of the clock/schedule to be part of leading God’s people in something that’s eternal and timeless.

There was something reflective of the cosmos in this day of worship. We gave our praise, invited all creation into that praise, asked for God’s help to sustain our lives…and at the end of it all was just…silence. Silence. It’s what Stevan taught and invited us into. He gave voice to that time of simply being in God’s presence waiting to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful teaching, and at the end of it, he led the congregation into two minutes of silence and waiting, and the invitation to bring that into our own day to day lives. There’s an anointing on this season of teaching and the worship that has everything running in sync, and it’s a gift to us from the Lord.

Resting in the Spirit

Today, I finished a weeks-long reading and reflection of The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, which has been on my to-read list since around 2013. I’ve greatly benefitted from the delay, since seminary and the 3 years following graduation gave me the opportunity to find a sense of home and peace about my theology and spirituality as a catholic Pentecostal who is ordained in the Anglican Church.  What I’ve found in these desert fathers, with their wisdom and the content of their prayers, is that Asuza didn’t come to the experience of God’s intimacy before Aleppo. Parham, Tomlinson, and McPherson had much to learn from Babbai, Isaac of Nineveh, and John the Elder.

But equally striking was the way their counsel on prayer affirmed this Pentecostal spirituality. The idea of waiting on God, on being fully focused on him in prayer, on letting the Holy Spirit guide your petitions, and the ecstatic joy of being known and loved by God while in prayer are present, and highly valued in the writings of our ancient brothers in the Syriac tradition. “What time is more holy and more appropriate for sanctification and for the receiving of divine gifts than the time of prayer, when a person is speaking with God?” -Mar Isaac of Nineveh (Discourse XXII on prayer). The very process of the Pentecostal movements origins are prophetically anticipated by the call to prayer in the desert.

But what captured my attention even further was the way that what Pentecostals have often referred to as being “slain in the Spirit” and less commonly, “resting in the Spirit” makes its appearance in the spirituality of the desert fathers. “But beyond the boundary, there exists wonder, not prayer. From that point onwards, the mind ceases from prayer; there is the capacity to see, but the mind is not praying at all.” -Mar Isaac of Nineveh (Discourse XXII on prayer). Isaac refers to what the ancient fathers called “spiritual prayer” (which he believes to be a misnomer) and “contemplation”–when the tongue, the mind, and the physical actions of the one who is praying cease because of entering the presence of the holiness of God. When the Christian ceases to do, but can only be with God. And, accurately, Isaac attributes this to the fullness of God’s grace.

The seed of this is a perpetual commitment to hearing the Scriptures and prayer before God. “Struggling in prayer” is a frequent call in the Syriac fathers–not as a striving of action, but wrestling against our fleshly desires to justify ourselves by action. Resting upon the justification declared over us by Christ in our baptism empowers all prayer. As we continue in that rest, we may come to experience the foretaste of the heavenly rest: resting in the Spirit–where, even for a few moments, we know the joy of justification without our doubts, without our personal efforts for holiness, and without the tempting condemnation of the devil.

Review: Holy Dark Places by Daniel S. McGregor

One of the insights of Daniel Castelo’s book is that Pentecostalism does not offer a tradition of “the dark night of the soul.” It’s just not something we’ve produced. Implicit in that, I think, is probably a call for Pentecostals to do so. So it was with great interest that I read my friend Daniel McGregor’s book, Holy Dark Places: Wilderness and Exile in the Christian Experience. I got to know McGregor while he was writing and preparing for this work at Trinity School for Ministry. Published this year, it’s still a fresh work waiting more exploration.

Holy Dark Places introduces contemporary Christians to the “problem” of spiritual suffering–of the experience of God’s absence in the midst of brokenness. It calls the bluff of the facades and veneers that American Christianity is insistent upon. Instead, McGregor invites us to journey into the biblical metaphors of wilderness and exile. Both of these are deeply rooted in the history of the people of God, but also find expression in their worship (Psalms) and future hopes (prophets).

As we identify more deeply with the ancient people of God in Israel, McGregor sets us up to walk through Church history–Augustine, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, John Newton, and Henri Nouwen. These theologians, mystics, and pastors engaged deeply with the wilderness and exile of God’s people within their own interior lives and in caring for the communities of which they were part. By their example and wisdom, McGregor crafts a way for us to understand our own experience of God’s absence.

On the whole, this is a solid introduction to the exploration of spiritual suffering. McGregor’s biblical rootedness and overview of historic Christian tradition, even up to the modern era will equip a generation of Christians who are otherwise lost in the midst of brokenness to continue pursuing God and receiving His love.

Specifically as a catholic in the Pentecostal tradition, the one place where I part paths with McGregor is in the separation between the individual’s interior journey and the community’s pilgrimage. In his conclusion, there is an acceptance of the separation of the experience of individual and community that Pentecostal tradition, as well as the monastic tradition of the Church catholic, would challenge. A community experience of interior wilderness and exile is not only possible, but was enjoined upon us by the Desert Fathers and Mothers (as Nouwen sketches in The Way of the Heart). That said, the exploration of such is something that would go beyond the parameters of Holy Dark Places itself. It is well worth your careful consideration and engagement, and as Pentecostals seek to articulate more about the “dark night of the soul,” this provides an invaluable beginning point for us.