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I am greatly looking forward to this:

Rod Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland and immigrated as a child to Canada with his parents. He has served as President of Regent College since 2000. Originally trained as a clinical psychologist, Rod pursued theological training after the completion of his doctoral work. He has been involved in the field of counselling and consulting for over 30 years and held various positions at Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto from 1978-1995: Professor, Dean of Students, Vice-President and Academic Dean. From 1983-1995 he held part-time staff positions in two different churches and from 1995-2000 he was the teaching pastor of a growing church in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada. In 2004, Rod received an honourary doctorate from Trinity Western University in recognition of his gifts of leadership and acuity of vision. He is the author of Counseling and Community and How Do I Help a Hurting Friend?—both award-winning books— and the co-author of Exploring Your Anger and Helping Angry People. He lives in Burnaby, BC with his wife, Bev.
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The Table at Holy Trinity

At Holy Trinity-Chatham, we are actively thinking and praying about when to move to Sunday morning worship services, as well as where to hold them. As I was thinking, the thought occurred, “What are the essentials to equip a place of worship for the ministry of prayer, and sacrament?” Having been a part of a church plant that moved into temporary Sunday morning facilities in a school and is now in a rental space, there can be a number of challenges to doing worship well on Sunday mornings. What did Anglican churches do in the days before amplifiers and powerpoints?

From the Canons of 1604, LXXX–LXXXIII, Cardwell, Synodalia, pp. 292–3.

LXXX The church-wardens … of every church and chapel shall, at the charge of the parish, provide the Book of Common Prayer.… And if any parishes be yet unfurnished of the Bible of the largest volume, or of the books of Homilies allowed by authority, the said church-wardens shall within convenient time provide the same at the like charge of the parish.

LXXXI There shall be a font of stone in every church and chapel where baptism is to be ministered; the same to be set in the ancient usual places: in which only font the minister shall baptize publicly.

LXXXII Whereas we have no doubt, but that in all churches within the realm of England, convenient and decent tables are provided and placed for the celebration of the holy communion, we appoint, that the same tables shall from time to time be kept and repaired in sufficient and seemly manner, and covered, in time of divine service, with a carpet of silk or other decent stuff, thought meet by the ordinary of the place, if any question be made of it, and with a fair linen cloth at the time of ministration, as becometh that table, and so stand, saving when the said holy communion is to be administered: at which time the same shall be placed in so good sort within the church or chancel, as thereby the minister may be more conveniently heard of the communicants in his prayer and ministration, and the communicants also more conveniently, and in more number, may communicate with the said minister; and that the Ten Commandments be set upon the east end of every church and chapel where the people may best see and read the same, and other chosen sentences written upon the walls of the said churches and chapels, in places convenient; and likewise that a convenient seat be made for the minister to read service in. All these to be done at the charge of the parish.

LXXXIII A pulpit to be provided in every church.…


The Canons of 1604 spell it out fairly clearly:

  • The Book of Common Prayer and then the Holy Bible. 
  •  A font of stone for baptisms.
  • A table properly appointed, the Ten Commandments displayed to the east, and chosen sentences in view upon the walls.
  • A pulpit.

“The Book of Common Prayer”: The BCP contains the means by which the people of God can pray and worship together. The liturgy is, in large part, mostly Scripture or at least rooted in Scripture. The Psalter in its entirety would have been provided and many would know them and their set tunes by heart. By having the BCP, each church ensured that each participant was just that: a participant in the worship of the Triune God. At Holy Trinity, we make the liturgy available as much as possible in our orders of service. We print the Psalm appointed for that day, the full Gospel passage, and the Eucharistic prayers in their entirety to encourage full participation.

“A font of stone for baptisms”: Yes! It is essential to emphasize the sacramental reality implicit in Christian Baptism and to let your worship space reflect that reality! For reasons I understand, there aren’t many contemporary church planting resources which would encourage one of your first considerations for worship to be a baptismal font. Yet if we believe as we pray that in the waters of Baptism we are both “buried with Christ in his death [and] by it we share in his resurrection,” shouldn’t there be some water in the room when we gather to worship? There is the little water mixed with wine in Communion. But there is something to the making of water available for the faithful to touch, to sign themselves, and to remember their baptism.

“A table properly appointed…”: The table, as the place where our “souls and bodies are quickened to eternal life,”  the apex of each of our services. It should therefore be attired appropriately with the season’s liturgical color, clean linens, and beautiful patins and chalices. One of the things we are more and more convinced of here at Holy Trinity is the call of God to be a local parish church, committed to and standing in solidarity with Christ and this community. We are hopeful to be able to appoint our worship space with locally crafted furnishings and ornaments to reflect our commitment to this place – rather than choosing the convenience of catalog shopping.

“…the Ten Commandments displayed to the east, and chosen sentences in view upon the walls”: Not only does the Decalogue provide the revealed “way of living a God-pleasing life,” but it provides a visible reminder by which you should “judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.” The Law reveals our limitations and our inability to live as we should. But for those of us in Christ, it  kindles our dependence upon and our gratitude for grace.

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).

“A pulpit to be provided in every church…”: The pulpit is the place where God’s Word is proclaimed afresh. According to the introduction to “Book I” of the Homilies: “Considering how necessary it is, that the word of GOD, which is the only food of the soul, and that most excellent light that we must walk by, in this our most dangerous pilgrimage, should at all convenient times be preached unto the people, that thereby they may both learn their duty towards God and their neighbors, according to the mind of the holy Ghost, expressed in the Scriptures.” At the moment, we’re content with a music stand. But one day…. When that day comes, I’d like to have inscribed these words from John 12:21, so that every preacher who ever preaches in this church  will be reminded  before they preach:

Sir, we’ve come to see Jesus.
Our Anglican grandparents in  the faith have much to teach us about what to prioritize in our places of worship. If we were to take these canons to heart at Holy Trinity, not only would we major in the majors, but we’d be aligned with some very time-tested practices of the church. We’d likely save money for more almsgiving, as well. There’s much to consider. We appreciate your prayers.

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The Journey of Egeria, Abbess and pilgrim to Jerusalem, late fourth century, Pilgrimage 30–1: SC 296, pp. 270–4, Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage, tr. Gringras, pp. 103–5.

The following day, Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, which they call here the Great Week. On this Sunday morning … everyone assembles for the liturgy according to custom in the major church, called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is on Golgotha, behind the cross, where the Lord suffered his Passion, and is therefore a shrine of martyrdom. As soon as everything has been celebrated in the major church as usual, but before the dismissal is given, the Archdeacon raises his voice and first says: ‘Throughout this whole week, beginning tomorrow at the ninth hour, let us gather in the martyrium, in the major church.’ Then he raises his voice a second time, saying: ‘Today let us all be ready to assemble at the seventh hour at the Eleona.’ When the dismissal has been given in the martyrium or major church, the bishop is led, to the accompaniment of hymns, to the Anastasis, and there all ceremonies are accomplished which customarily take place every Sunday at the Anastasis following the dismissal from the martyrium. Then everyone retires to his home for a quick meal, so that at the beginning of the seventh hour everyone will be ready to assemble in the church on the Eleona, by which I mean the Mount of Olives, where the grotto in which the Lord taught is located. At the seventh hour all the people go up to the church on the Mount of Olives.… The bishop sits down, hymns and antiphons appropriate to the day and place are sung, and there are likewise readings from the Scriptures. As the ninth hour approaches, they move up, chanting hymns, to the Imbomon, that is, to the place from which the Lord ascended into heaven; and everyone sits down there. When the bishop is present, the people are always commanded to be seated, so that only the deacons remain standing. And there hymns and antiphons proper to the day and place are sung, interspersed with appropriate readings from the Scriptures and prayers.

As the eleventh hour draws near, that particular passage from Scripture is read in which the children bearing palms and branches came forth to meet the Lord, saying: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ The bishop and all the people rise immediately, and then everyone walks down from the top of the Mount of Olives, with the people preceding the bishop and responding continually with ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ to the hymns and antiphons. All the children who are present here, including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents’ shoulders; all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led. From the top of the mountain as far as the city, and from there through the entire city as far as the Anastasis, everyone accompanies the bishop … the whole way on foot, and this includes distinguished ladies and men of consequence, reciting the responses all the while; and they move very slowly so that the people will not tire. By the time they arrive at the Anastasis, it is already evening. Once they have arrived there, even though it is evening, vespers is celebrated; then a prayer is said at the cross and the people are dismissed.

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Dorsett’s Old Paths

The Anglican Mission’s Winter Conference was held last week at Greensboro. I confess, most of my productive time at Winter Conferences was spent in meetings with friends and peers to catch up or to discuss theology, liturgy, and church planting. However, I was greatly looking forward to getting to hear The Rev Lyle Dorsett speak. I’ve heard a great deal about Lyle from our many parishioners who knew him at Wheaton. I was disappointed when I learned he was speaking on Saturday because I had to return home on Friday.

Thankfully, David Virtue put together a nice write-up on Fr. Lyle’s talk here.

I was particularly attracted to this part:

Lyle contended that the secret of the power of the Wesleys and other evangelists is prayer.

  1. The preached everywhere and anywhere so women and young people could hear the Word of God not just men.
  2. They proclaimed with simplicity.
  3. They preached fervently and directly.
  4. They based their sermons on the “old paths” on Scripture.
  5. They taught the total corruption of human nature.
  6. They maintained that the death of Christ was the only satisfaction whereby we could be saved.
  7. They preached the universal necessity of heart conversion, the need to be born again.
  8. They preached that God hates sin but loves sinners.
  9. They proclaimed that prayer and Holy Spirit will empower people and He promises you will be persecuted for your efforts.

“The truth is we don’t do these things for two reasons. The first is we are afraid of men. Many love the praise of men more than the praise of God. The second reason is poor teaching. We have been told for too long that we need to come up with new models. Not true. Let’s excavate the old models. They are well preserved in the sands of time.”

As an Anglican priest, I’m obviously a proponent of the “old paths.” This is mostly because of years spent bushwhacking “new paths.” Briefly, Martha and I were involved in the non-denominational, mega church and parachurch youth ministries for the first several years of our marriage. Each year in our youth ministry, we were handed a new book, by a new guru, who finally figured it out. We were to sit at his (because it was almost never a her) feet, absorb the material, and duplicate their model.

It was an incredibly exhausting and unstable way to live and minister. Moreover, we saw the same tendencies active in the local church we were attending. That same exhaustion and instability became our experience of the Christian faith for a season. In God’s grace, in time, we were led to worship in the Anglican tradition. Its “old paths” of liturgy and prayer permitted us to exhale and then to notice a glorious panoramic view of the Christian life. We’ve never looked back. The Anglican tradition is not the only way but it is a good and faithful way to worship the Triune God.

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We had a wonderful Advent Vespers service and Eucharist last Friday here in Pittsboro. It was a sweet time to be with friends here in Chatham County, to proclaim the Gospel, and to duly administrate the sacrament! Glory to God!

We met in Martha’s studio. It was fun to hold such a service above the din of the local pub that was having its holiday party directly below us. Seems about right that every preacher worth his salt should grow accustomed to preaching  the Gospel over the noise of a bar!

By God’s grace our service was attended by 50 people. Many who came expressed interest in joining us in breaking new ground for the Word and Sacrament here. A good core of our launch team is forming and growing with great unity in a sincere commitment to planting a faithful Anglican parish in Chatham County. I am astounded at God’s goodness!

Here’s an excerpt from Our Story: If you’re interested in finding out more, just let me know! I’m quite excited to share.

Back in 2006, a small group of Chatham County residents who were commuting to Durham to worship at All Saints Church began gathering regularly in our Chatham County homes to share life together as friends and fellow Christians. Over time, our group grew in numbers and in our conviction that God was calling us to break new ground to plant a biblical, liturgical, eucharistically-centered
church in the Anglican tradition here, at home, in our community.

We have collectively noticed a hunger in ourselves and in our neighbors for Christian worship rooted in the traditions of the church and longings for genuine community, radical discipleship, dependent prayer, and committed mission. It is our sense that God is calling a church into being, by his grace, to directly address these needs.

Last week’s service was a first step in answering this call.

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My favorite sonnet by William Shakespeare, set to melody by Rufus Wainwright:

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

In 1994, I was living on the southern coast of Spain working this sonnet over with a professor for an academic project. At the time, I was not a follower of Christ. Over the course of my time there, the words of Shakespeare got into me. I wrote about this sonnet. I talked about this sonnet. I dreamed about this sonnet. I inhaled and exhaled it for months.

One night, lying in bed, lonesome, weary, awake, and thinking about these words, I experienced grace. I cannot explain it other than to say at that moment I knew I was not alone. Not only did I know I was not alone. I knew I was beloved by God and that this God was not just some aloof, transcendent deity. He was the thee of the sonnet and at the moment in the encounter of his sweet love, something changed within me.

In that moment, I knew that one day I would serve him and his people as a pastor and priest. I don’t think I could have articulated it. I didn’t know how this would happen or, honestly, even why. I just knew. For a 21 year old guy whose father had been dead for 9 years, this was an incredible experience of the father-ness of God. It was a reassuring nudge, a prod to go in a certain direction, a safe guarantee that, “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

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…that Jesus changed the world by revolutionizing the hearts of 11 men (Judas excluded).

We get so intricately locked-in to complicated strategies. Jesus’ strategy was simple: he made disciples and those disciples went and made disciples.

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