A Time of Hope and Discovery
Fri 24 March 2017
It’s easy to believe, often incorrectly, that the Anglican Church is only what we know of it. Serving as a Rector in a traditional Anglican parish in regional New South Wales I’ve been guilty of this. Sometimes we even make it worse by assuming that the only models of successful churches worth copying are also within these limits of our experience.
Surrounded by an ever increasing number of contemporary evangelical churches, I’d sadly come to believe that the only hope for the Anglican Church might be in replicating this style. This belief was also accompanied by a persistent unease of where this may end. Despite coming from an evangelical background, I couldn’t help thinking that the loss of our sacramental and liturgical heritage would impoverish the rich and varied worship of our Church, with little to distinguish it from the countless other
churches in our neighbourhoods.
Just over a year ago I accepted a call to become Rector of St John’s
Wagga Wagga, because I believed that if the richness of Anglicanism
was going to continue within our Diocese, then it was crucial that large churches such as St John’s showed how mission and evangelism could be done, and I wanted to be at the forefront of this. The only question was, where would I find my inspiration and a model to follow?
Graciously God answered this question by giving me the opportunity to attend the third Anglican Leadership Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the month of January I had the privilege of living and studying with 16 wonderful people from Africa, Asia, Australia, South America and the United States, all Anglican, from 12 enormously different socioeconomic situations, yet all united in Jesus Christ and all one family; laughing, singing and having fun together.
As the month progressed and my ears filled with accents from all over the globe, I began for the first time to understand the breadth of Anglicanism and the vastness of its potential in Christ Jesus.
The generosity of our South Carolina hosts and their willingness to invite us into their homes reinforced to me how powerful hospitality is in bringing people together, whether it was a ‘Low Country Boil-up’, an ‘Oyster Roast’ or some irresistible Southern Style Cooking.
Talking with my African brothers from Ghana, South Sudan, Tanzania,
Burundi and Nigeria, I was humbled to learn that there are today Anglican priests and bishops faithfully planting new churches and growing new Dioceses, without money or resources, leaving behind families and enduring persecution for the sake of the Kingdom. This commitment to mission was vividly brought home to me at the end of the course when I was filling up my suitcase with new clothes and shoes, while John from Sudan was filling up his with pencils and exercise books for the pupils back home for a school he had started.
The friends I made from Sydney, Asia and Northern Ireland allowed me once again to experience the excitement and joy of starting off in ministry and the endless possibilities that wait for us when we answer God’s call. Likewise, listening to great speakers from Vancouver, London and Philadelphia, as they shared their wisdom on Post-Modernism, Biblical Counselling, Leadership and historical leaders, served to remind me of the great treasury of knowledge that lies within our church and kindled fresh enthusiasm for mission within me.
The thing I treasured the most however, was having the opportunity to see Anglican churches with a strong liturgical and sacramental focus, passionate about evangelism, planting new churches and having significant healing and prayer ministries. It has instilled within me a new sense of hope and purpose, and the knowledge that the future of Anglicanism is not monochrome but diverse and vibrant.
by Venerable David Ruthven