Over 150 people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Chicagoland gathered to worship and pray for unity for the sake of mission and for a diocese that is part of a revival of Word and Sacrament in the midwest.
What do the Midwest Anglican Unity events mean for us spiritually?
I have been following the Midwest Anglican Unity meetings closely this spring and summer. As a long-time member and staff member at Church of the Resurrection, I started attending a couple of years after the break from The Episcopal Church and was there for the birth pangs of Common Cause, then The Anglican Mission in America. I was there when we sent Fr. Christian and Molly Ruch to plant Church of the Cross. I worked close (proximity-wise) to Fr. William and heard him continually espouse “we are all one!” even as the Greenhouse moved from AMIA to the Anglican Church in North America.
Then my husband John & I moved to Kenosha and joined Light of Christ. We also have felt keenly the lack of stability in the last year without a true mother Church to attach to. As a vestry member at Light of Christ, I breathed a sigh of relief when we voted to move to ACNA and have rejoiced to see Resurrection, Church of the Cross, Light of Christ and the Greenhouse all under the same roof again and now joining with more brothers and sisters in Winsonsin ACNA churches under Dean Munday.
It may seem plain that the move to ACNA made sense administratively, but what might not be so clear is how it makes sense for us all spiritually. In fact, what the Midwest Unity events were all about, first and foremost, was what the Spirit was doing among us. The question on the table was not whether we were all called to ACNA or not—that question was addressed on a parish-by-parish basis. The question really was “has God called us all here in the upper Midwest to a unique work together?”
The answer to that question is an emphatic “YES!” At the first Unity meeting in Minnesota, there was a movement of healing and reconciliation among the deans. Dean Munday prayed that we might be “perpetually pregnant with new churches.” They were then able to articulate a unified theological platform as the basis of a diocese. At the Wisconsin meeting at Nashota House, Fr. Stewart preached about it being a Joshua moment of going forward into the promised land, and uttered the phrase “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the word ‘diocese’ became synonymous with ‘revival’?” (This concept apparently rattled Fr. William—which I didn’t know was possible!) In Chicago, Fr. Christian delivered a message on I Corinthians 13, on love, and love was practiced in embracing our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the city. Last week in Wheaton, Fr. William preached about the unity that is already coming about. “There is no more ‘us’ and ‘them;’ it’s ‘we!’ Did you see Resurrection’s beautiful new building?” he asked. “That’s our building.”
You can see the movement of God in these sermons, but even more remarkable is the sense we got in the services of the rightness of not only the formation of a diocese and the birth of a common vision, but the birth of unity itself. I attended both the Nashota House and Wheaton events and can tell you—we are truly all one church! We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit who does the work of uniting us together to work together for the purposes of God not only for ourselves, but for the sake of others.
It is clear that our mission as a diocese has something to do with spreading the Gospel. The Deans had several people present at the service last Wednesday share prophetic words they had received. Two had to do with mission: not only loving the lost, but liking them and to be salt and light; the other two words had to do with unity: a reminder to “lift holy hands without dispute” (I Timothy 2) and that Christ’s own weakness is his glory and our unity—the partaking of the broken bread of his body.
I think we have some tantalizing clues about what the Lord has for us all together in the future. Commit to pray, seek, ask, and dream about what the Lord is doing here. Talk to your church friends about it, let your church leaders know your thoughts. And whenever you can, visit one of the churches that are a part of the pre-diocese-in-formation. Worship with them, and let the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ make you a part of their church, just as well are all a part of One Church.
Story by Lisa Traylor. Visit her blog Devotions from Daily Life for more of her spiritual reflections.
Photos by Josh Blaney Photography
Listen to Fr. William’s sermon here.
Read about and see pictures of the other Unity Services here.