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Recently, Fr. Bryan Wandel wrote about how his Pentecostal faith set him up for the Anglican Church. Because I have similar sentiments, I shared it with several of my Pentecostal friends, and I recommend that you read the post.
However, if I might add personal reflection to Wandel’s piece from my own journey, it is this: “As a Pentecostal, I received the Spirit of Christ. As an Anglican, I receive the Body of Christ.”
That may sound like a bizarre and very un-theological statement, but it best represents the sentiments and experience my family has had on our journey.
My Own Anglicostal Journey
In short, I came to repentance and faith in Christ in November 1995, from a non-church-going family, through a local Pentecostal congregation. It was the oldest one in our county, about 70 miles from D.C., just across the state line in West Virginia. It was a dramatic experience, and our youth group was active in evangelism, national and international mission trips, and other typical fun youth events like Newsboys concerts (Peter Furler days!).
My first mission trip was in 1996, and we did one every summer. Our youth pastor, unlike so many others, took 12 of us through a six-month discipleship course that covered, essentially, my first two years of Bible college theology classes. I read my first systematic theology book at 16 because of his leadership. We were engaged in mission, evangelism, discipleship, and, as Pentecostals, the dynamic presence of the Spirit in gift and power.
Pastoring and Planting
Eventually, I was ordained in 2002 in our Pentecostal denomination (which traced its roots back to the Azusa Street Revival), and I began senior pastoring in 2003.
We did this until 2012, when we left the senior pastorate and our denomination. I was honored to serve, as one of their Ordained ministers, on a few boards and committees. This was a hard transition, and our steps of faith were shaky. As we were making these major changes, our ministry focus was on church planting rather than on pastoring existing congregations.
Here was the question my wife and I were considering (she was a cradle Pentecostal, by the way):
How do you take people just off the street and bring them into a ‘concert of prayer’?
Here’s what I mean by ‘concert of prayer.’ In our historic Pentecostal tradition (roots to the Azusa Street Revival in 1906), it was common for the pastor to call up the congregation around the front of the church when everyone lifted to their voices (not always loudly) to God together. For the first 6 months of my Christian life, I just repeated the words our senior Pastor said!
My church planting question, since we were starting from scratch, was how to move people into a vibrant prayer life, intentionally, since most people are not sure what to say to God. After being filled with the Spirit and learning more from the Bible, eventually the psalmist’s phrase, “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer,” could be true of a believer (Ps. 45:1).
But what about before that, right at the beginning of one’s journey of faith? What about those who never knew that kind of stirring or gifting?
At that time, I took my Book of Common Prayer from the shelf and began to look through it for more than just Wedding and Funeral services. Every English-speaking pastor I knew had one, but only consulted it for those services. What I read was a shock – here was language for my experience. The prayers, the flow of the liturgy, the focus on Scripture and Sacrament, all reflected our experiences in the Pentecostal movement!
I had heard about a “charismatic Anglican church” close to our area, Church of the Holy Spirit, in Leesburg, VA. One morning I stopped in and asked the Rector, “How do you have both a liturgy and the gifts of the Spirit in operation alongside each other?” His answer resolved some of the questions I had. He showed me how the liturgy was not a rigid script, but it can be understood as an elastic shape meant to direct our worship and not restrain it. So, we set out to plant a Pentecostal church with an Anglican liturgy… in West Virginia.
First Taste of the Liturgy
That conversation was in March 2012, and it was not until August 2012 that I stopped in for a morning worship service and experienced the liturgy, with a charismatic flavor.
I was wondering if my car had turned into a DeLorean and I was back in time, though the music was admittedly newer. I’d never seen the liturgy, let alone considered that the dynamic Presence of the Spirit would be there.
As I watched the man in a white robe with a scarf across his chest pour water into wine, I remembered Justin Martyr’s words, “wine mixed with water” (Apology, Book 1, Ch. 65), which prompted me to pay more attention to the symbolism.
I wrestled with whether I should go forward to receive Eucharist since, as a Pentecostal, we did not drink alcohol. In fact, “We don’t drink, we don’t chew, we don’t run with those who do,” was a mantra many of us lived by. I asked the Lord if I could, and felt that, since the Spirit was making His Presence known (at least to me), I would be able to partake with a clear conscience. After I received, and as I was walking away, I was so overcome by God’s presence that it reminded me of the night of my conversion in 1995.
Conclusion: The Spirit and the Body
When I make the comment, “As a Pentecostal, I received the Spirit, and as an Anglican, I received the Body,” I am not making a theological distinction because we cannot divide the Presence of the Lord from the Sacrament. It seems to me “that which God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” has happened too much in our Church history so that we are all approaching
Instead, during my Christian walk, this is what happened. Since that first Sunday, I completed my Masters of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary, have been ordained a transitional Deacon, and am to be ordained a Priest on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. We are planting our “Anglicostal” Church where we celebrate the union of God’s Spirit and His sacraments, proclaiming Scripture.
What I have discovered among fellow Anglican clergy is that many have had a similar experience like mine. It cannot all be a coincidence, can it?
Darryl Fitzwater works on staff at Church of the Holy Spirit in Leesburg, VA. He is planting, “Church of the Ascension,” near Martinsburg, WV, in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. He and his wife, Becki, have been married since 2000, and they have two children. He has been active in preaching, teaching, evangelism, and pastoral ministry since 1996.