A friend who is very familiar with my pilgrimage of the past few years recently asked me, “Do you think your transition to Anglicanism has been worth all that it has cost… emotionally, socially, materially?” My immediate, less-than-thoughtful response was, “Not yet.” In this post, I want to consider that question a bit more carefully.
By almost every measure, our decision to identify with the Anglican communion has been costly. It cost me my job as a Bible college professor. It cost me relationships with friends and family who simply cannot understand why I exchanged the “simplicity” of faith in the Anabaptist tradition for the “complexity” of Anglican Christianity, especially the “smells and bells” of liturgical worship.
The process of preparing for Holy Orders (ordination) was costly in terms of both time (two years) and money (for tuition, books, and travel). And who knew that clerical shirts and liturgical vestments were so expensive? (Well, all my colleagues knew, but they never told me; they probably feared the shock would be too great.)
Not only did it cost a lot to become Anglican and to prepare for ministry in this communion, it all had to be undertaken with the knowledge that, even after I was ordained, I still would not likely have a “paying job” as a brand new priest in this brand new diocese of the brand new Anglican Church in North America. My new ecclesiastical home, I would soon discover, has tremendous potential but limited resources. If I were to find a context for using my gifts in ministry in this communion, I would likely need to “create” it.
So I shared with my Bishop a vision for planting a new Anglican church in a community just west of downtown Columbus and close enough to the OSU campus for students to be an important part of our ministry focus. With his blessing, I summarized my vision in writing and began sharing this Prospectus with anybody who expressed interest. Then I sat back to wait for the thunderous response. The silence was deafening.
Although it pains me to admit this, I confess that the situation left me neither gratified nor grateful. As recently as three weeks ago, I was up to my armpits in what John Bunyan called the “slough of despond.” In one really, really cynical moment I summarized my circumstances like this. “It seems that the Anglican communion is saying to me, ‘If you want to be part of us, come ahead. Bear the expense, take the risks, pay the price. If you can somehow generate sufficient interest in and support for what you want to do, and if it gains traction, takes root, or otherwise becomes a reality, then, despite the fact that we couldn’t underwrite the endeavor in any way, we’ll still let you be accountable to us.'” (Please note, I said this came out during one really, really cynical moment.)
And then, as He so often does, God intervened. The good people of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, a brand new work just getting started on the northeast side of Columbus, informed me that they sensed God telling them to underwrite the rental cost for a small office in Grandview Heights so that we can begin to have a presence in that community. Even as I type those words, my heart is so full of gratitude, to them and to God, that I cannot compose a sentence which adequately conveys what I am feeling.
It has been a very long time since a group of God’s people has reached out to Shirley and me in such a tangible, material, and sacrificial way. St. Augustine’s is a small congregation, just getting started. Their commitment to help us lay the foundation for St. Patrick’s Church represents an expenditure which they could readily, and justifiably, put to good use in their own situation, meeting their own needs. And yet they have chosen to make outreach and mission a part of their congregational ethos from the beginning. My admiration, and my gratitude, knows no bounds.