For the last 16 months, our family has been attending International Anglican Church in Colorado Springs. We happened upon this particular church in an unusual way. One afternoon in October 2004, we picked up a new book by an author we like, who also happens to be a Christian counselor in the Springs. On the acknowledgements page of the book, she thanks the "thirsty hearts at International Anglican Church". My writer husband is the only person I know who actually reads the acknowledgements page of a book, but read it he did, and then proceeded to look it up on the web. He told me he thought we should check it out, which we did the following weekend. Our first visit was extraordinary, and we both knew that our hearts had found a resting place. We haven't yet officially linked ourselves to this church, but it has been a "home" to us in many ways these last sixteen months.
International Anglican Church is affiliated with the Anglican Mission in America. The Episcopal Church falls under the Anglican umbrella (though Episcopal is a term unique to the United States; everywhere else in the world, they're known as Anglicans). The Anglican church is governed by bishops who each oversee a geographical province. Episcopal bishops here in the US have the same responsibilities. If you keep up with current events, you know that the Episcopal church has taken an extreme liberally stance on many issues in recent years, some of which were in direct violation of scripture. Again, this liberal stance is unique to the Anglican church in the United States (the Episcopals) and is not characterstic of the larger Anglican community. So, back in 2000, a group of conservative Episcopals broke away from the Episcopal church and sought to establish a more conservative congregation under the authority of an Anglican bishop from Rwanda. Hence, the formation of the Anglican Mission in America. Interestingly, the first AMiA church in the United States was formed in Little Rock, AR. What developed was a network of churches committed to the supremacy of scripture, to the person of Jesus, and to salvation through faith in Christ. Our church in the Springs was formed just 3 years ago.
Ours is also a liturgical church. The word liturgy means "the work of the people" and our service is very interactive, so yes, we WORK! We're not up and down and kneeling as much as I remember from my Catholic upbringing, but we do participate very much in the service. We sing, we have responsive readings, we pray out loud during certain times, we stand when God's word is read, and we go forward for Communion each week (see, kinda similar to our Baptist roots). We follow a liturgical calendar which breaks the calendar year into seasons like Advent and Lent. I read somewhere that AMiA churches borrow from from three different movements to form an evangelical, liturgical, and charismatic body. PLEASE don't let the charismatic element freak you out. We're not exorcising demons or anything like that. It simply means that the Holy Spirit has an active (as opposed to passive) role in our worship and teaching. Our worship is very contemporary and very similar to what we've been used to. Yes, people in our church raise their hands and move about, but we love that they have the freedom to do that! When that expressiveness stems from a pure heart, it is a beautiful thing!
Hopefully that is enough to give you a feel of what we're a part of at this time. Allow me another paragraph or two to tell you a few things I love about it. First of all, I love going to Communion EVERY week. Yes, it takes more time and makes for a longer service but it is SO worth it. There is something really special about rising to your feet, walking up an aisle, moving TOWARDS Jesus (while reflecting on His sacrifice), and receiving the bread and wine (gasp...yes, REAL wine!) This just feels like the "real deal", folks. Not some measly, stale cracker and a swig of grape juice, but a hunk of bread and a sip of wine. I can't explain it fully, but the first time I received communion at this church, it felt like I had received it for the first time. Like I was getting something "meaty" and not just crumbs.
I also really like the Lenten season. During the 6 weeks or so before Easter, we refrain from using the word, "Alleluia" in our services. This is a somber season, and "Alleluia" is a celebratory word. It is normally used a handful of times during the service but not during Lent. Last year, on Easter Sunday, we all brought bells (all types--cowbells, even) and rang them madly each time we said "Alleluia". Even thinking about it now brings tears of joy to my eyes...what a CELEBRATION!!! Two years ago, while at our church in Palmer Lake, we made palm leaves out of construction paper for the children to wave as they sang a song during the worship service on Palm Sunday. Well...last year on Palm Sunday, we all congregated outside our church, and were given real palm branches (I mean the REAL thing) and we all walked into the church waving them and singing HOSANNA!! Everytime we said "Hosanna" during the service, we waved our branches in the air. It was amazing to see everyone's branches filling the church, and it was a far cry from the construction paper ones I watched the children wave the previous year.
Everything about this church just seems REAL, and I like it that I feel like I have a part to play and I'm not just a spectator here. I like it for many more reasons, but I'm afraid I've already written too much. Hopefully, this answers some questions/concerns you have. I have a link to our church's website (right side of this page) which explains far better than I ever could about the actual theology and traditions. If you're interested in learning more, check it out.
One friend in Arkansas was befuddled about our choice when we mentioned it last year in our Christmas letter. As I tried to explain to her that we were in a GOOD place, she asked her bottom line question...are we going to end up in the same place when we die? The answer is YES, YES, YES!!!
**Thanks J and C for pointing out my typos! Yes, even I mess up on occasion! (smile!)