Sunday, August 13, 2006

SacNaz Honour Roll Spotlight: Epworth Chapel on the Green

If you haven't noticed, I made good on the promise to start an "Honour Roll" of Nazarene (or, in one case, quasi-Nazarene) churches which are making gestures toward more liturgical and sacramental ways of worshipping. So far we have 10 churches on the list (in the right-hand sidebar), and are of course always keen to add more, so keep the nominations coming.

I sent out emails to the pastors and staff of all the churches who had been nominated to inform them of this great honour, and I have received a few gratifying responses, gratifying if only because this indicates that the pastor or church apparently cares enough to read my email, have a look at the site, and type a response. For instance, Rev. Dr. Brook Thelander, rector of Epworth Chapel on the Green, wrote:

Thank you for honouring Epworth Chapel on the Green in your attempts to recognize churches working toward sacramental and liturgical renewal. Even though Epworth is now "independent," the core group of people who started the church were Nazarenes. I myself am an ordained Nazarene elder, and still work with the Intermountain District to get permission to minister here... Thanks for noticing what we are trying to do. It means a lot to us.

It means a lot to us, too! I have to applaud this creative and deliberate approach to being a local church that situates itself within a tradition that does not really exist (yet). What I mean is, by being a "Wesleyan-Anglican" church, they are carving out a "traditioned" identity that does not exist per se as a Tradition (proper), or which did not exist heretofore except by absence, by the gap left by the lack of any such tradition. While I suppose a very high-church Methodist congregation could describe themselves as "Wesleyan-Anglicans," as far as I know, Epworth is entirely unique in their solution to the "problem" of situating their Wesleyan-holiness identity within its proper Anglican ecclesial and liturgical tradition, of reconciling these two aspects, once inextricably joined but now almost entirely divorced.

This testimonial about Epworth, which I ran across on another blog, seemed to me worth sharing:

We had a very good visit to Epworth Chapel on the Green in Boise yesterday. It’s a Wesleyan-Anglican church that is totally liturgical, and stresses the right kind of ecumenicity as well as evangelism. The people were exceptionally kind to us and the liturgy was wonderful. The cantors and the organist were first-rate which made it a great listening and singing experience. We were so excited to find this diamond in the rough so close at hand when it seemed like there wasn’t much around here in an Anglican stream that wasn’t totally liberal and corrupt. It was interesting to me to observe how my kids reacted to the liturgical service. They seemed interested, maybe because it is so new to them. But I think it would be a really positive environment for them to learn Christianity in...

*Sigh*...oh, to hear such things said often of Nazarenes churches. I wonder, though: would it be possible to follow Epworth Chapel's lead without becoming independent? Or was their detachment from the denomination a kind of necessary sacrifice? Is there room within the COTN for churches who are compelled to move so fully and deliberately in this direction?

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