I have mentioned several times in these blog posts that I am an Anglican priest. I was ordained on May 10, 2011, by the Rt. Rev. Roger Ames, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes, which is part of the Anglican Church in North America. I have also noted that Anglican ordination is not generic. The new priest is ordained, or receives Holy Orders, for a specific ministry. In my case, when the Bishop laid his hands on me in ordination, he also commissioned me to plant a new church near downtown Columbus, Ohio, which would identify with a particular local neighborhood but would reach out to the nearby campus of The Ohio State University as part of its vision for mission and ministry.
For the first few months after my ordination, I gained some necessary experience in serving as a priest by assisting the Rector (the Anglican term for Senior Pastor) at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Lewis Center, OH, on the northern edge of the Columbus metro area in southern Delaware County. Then beginning in August last year, Shirley and I spent about three months preparing ourselves for our church planting ministry by visiting a number of other churches in our community and beyond.
We visited Anglican churches in order to observe how other parishes adapted the liturgy for their particular setting. We visited churches in college towns to observe their ministry to students. We had lots of questions. For example, how does a church that values identification with a local community balance that with an outreach to transient college students? How does a ministry to students affect or influence the shape and character of public worship, particularly with regard to styles of music, where tastes and preferences might differ greatly between generations?
Along the way I read lots of books on church planting and attended several conferences and seminars on related topics. In January 2011, for example, I attended the Church Planting Summit sponsored by Anglican1000, the arm of the ACNA which coordinates the denomination’s effort to plant 1000 new Anglican churches by 2014, a visionary challenge issued by the Most Rev. Robert Duncan at his investiture as Archbishop of the brand new denomination in June 2009. I also attended workshops on the use of social media and the value of liturgy, music, and the arts in the work of church planting.
By late fall, I was already tired, and we had not yet begun the hard work of actually planting a church. I was also discouraged. In September I had written a prospectus in which I outlined my vision for a new church, to be called St. Patrick’s, along with a broader, more comprehensive ministry which I sensed God was calling me to explore in conjunction with the church plant. I worked hard on that prospectus, made it as crisp and succinct as I could, and sent it out to about fifty people. Then I sat back to await what I expected would be an enthusiastic response and a chorus of voices calling out questions like “How can I be involved?” and “What can I do to help make this vision a reality?” Instead of responses like that, however, the silence was deafening.
Just at that moment, the good people of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, most of whom had never read my prospectus, reached out to Shirley and me. They invited us to consider St. Augustine’s our home until such time as God raised up the kind of support we would need to undertake the ministry of St. Patrick’s. At the same time, purely on their own initiative, they pledged to underwrite the cost of renting a small office in Grandview Heights, a municipality just northwest of downtown Columbus and virtually adjacent to the OSU campus. Their generosity was a godsend and a source of great encouragement.
Still, we are facing some significant obstacles as we consider our next steps. First of all, the broader orthodox Anglican community in central Ohio, which includes the parish out of which I was ordained, has not owned this vision nor rallied to this cause. That is both perplexing and discouraging. In addition, Shirley and I live about thirty miles northwest of Grandview Heights. We know that we cannot plant a church at that distance, but we are powerless to relocate unless or until God makes some provision in that regard. I have not been gainfully employed in almost four years. Our personal finances are depleted, and the diocese is strapped for cash, so it cannot assist us in this endeavor.
I have often said that I do not want to formulate a vision for a ministry and then ask God to bless it. Rather, I want to discover what God is doing and join it. It may be that God does not intend to bless the efforts to plant a new Anglican church near the OSU campus in Columbus, OH. From a human perspective, that is difficult to imagine, since the need is so real and the potential benefit to the work of the Kingdom of God seems so great. Still, the need alone does not constitute a call from God. Even Jesus, during His earthly ministry, did not regard a need, however legitimate, to be the sole determinant for where or how He would exercise His power. He did and said only those things which His Father in heaven directed Him to do and say.
I have done my best to make this opportunity known and to invite participation in this vision. I have made it clear that I am not a “lone ranger” personality. I bring a certain gift set to this endeavor, but I cannot and will not undertake it on my own. So far, response to my plaintive cry has been minimal. I believe I could conclude, based on the lack of response, that this is not God’s time to undertake this ministry of church planting, and I could turn my attention toward other avenues of service without a sense of abandoning this effort prematurely.
I am, however, going to take one additional step before I conclude that God is not in this endeavor. With this blog post, I am announcing an exploratory meeting for all persons who have any degree of interest in the possibility of a new church of the sort that I have described in this post and many earlier ones as well. The meeting will be held at the Rosedale International Center, 2120 E. 5th Ave., Columbus, OH, just northeast of downtown, on Thursday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m.
At this meeting I will review the prospectus I have written, and I will share my vision for the church in general and for St. Patrick’s in particular. I will address any questions which arise and will encourage all who come to join the conversation with comments, counsel, and suggestions of their own. The meeting will last not more than two hours and will be mainly interactive.
You do not have to be Anglican, nor even exploring Anglicanism, to attend this meeting. In fact, part of the rationale for the meeting is to determine whether God wants to bring this vision to reality through the Anglican community in central Ohio, whether He wants to use others to bring it about, or whether we should conclude that God is not in this vision at all, at least at this moment.
Your attendance at this meeting will not obligate you at all, in any way. You will not be asked to make any commitment to the work of St. Patrick’s at the meeting. It is exclusively for information-sharing and to help determine the viability of the vision.
If you think you might be interested in attending, it would be helpful for our planning if you could let us know ahead of time… helpful, but not essential. Please don’t be dissuaded from coming just because you might not be able to make that determination until the last minute. There will still be adequate seating and enough coffee for everybody. But if you can let us know of your interest ahead of time, please send that information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (You may also contact me via a personal note on Facebook.)
Finally, if you would like to read a copy of the prospectus which summarizes the heart of my vision for this ministry, whether or not you plan to attend the meeting, I will be happy to see that you get a copy, as a .pdf file, by email. (We don’t have a website yet, since it has seemed a bit premature to develop one before we know if there will be sufficient support to get the ministry going.) Use the above email address to request a copy of the prospectus, and I will send it right away.
Thanks for reading this post. Thanks for praying for the meeting on April 12. And thanks for considering this invitation to attend. I hope to see you there.