Glocal Mission: Connecting the “Here” and the “There”

969585_689234712828_1281648185_nI just returned from a week long trip to Mexico. I traveled with Bp. Frank Lyons to visit two current Anglican congregations and to begin to think and pray towards how we can multiply Anglican congregations there.It is the beginning of a new thing in Mexico! This is a huge country that is yet to be thoroughly evangelized and is ripe for a new Anglican church to be re-birthed there.

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After spending some time with a Mexican clergy couple in Aguascalientes, and with Iglesia del Gran Pastor (Planted by Fr. Dorsett of Church of the Great Sheppherd 15 years ago) in Fresnillo, I spent two days in a small “rancho” or rural town called “Las Adjuntas del Refugio.” More than half of my parish in Chicago is from this small town or the immediately surrounding towns. 

We live in an age in which mission is, to use the Lausanne Conference’s words, “from everywhere to everywhere.” Mission is increasingly an intertwined global and local reality. Two days in this little town of less than 50 families was an amazing time of planting seeds for a potential new congregation there. It has also already opened doors for mission back in Chicago where there are more people from this town than actually currently live there.

For some more pictures of the trip click here.

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Convening Conventions and Other Such Meetings

People often ask me:” What is it that you do day to day?” or “What does being a pastor/church planter involve?” I usually answer, somewhat jokingly, in one word: meetings. In the Anglican church, which places a high value on leadership and voice, and in church ministry in general there are a lot of meetings: worship team meetings, vestry meetings, leadership team meetings, clergy meetings, all parish meetings, diocesan council meetings, and on and on.

This last Saturday morning was a big meeting with a long and blood stirring title: Diocesan Convening Convention. This was to be a four hour gathering of representatives from 30 conveningdifferent congregations coming together to ratify the “constitution and canons” for a new diocese in the Upper Midwest. Now, I know that the thought that immediately rises in your mind is “wow, that sounds exciting! I wish I had been there!” Furthermore, I bet you thought “that would be a great meeting to invite some of your youth to!” And you if you thought that you’d actually be right.

In addition to lay delegates from Greenhouse’s six Spanish speaking congregations, three young delegates ages 15, 12 and 16 came to represent New Generation Anglican Church. I was a bit unsure how this would be for them, but by the end I was so glad they were there. And they loved it.

When asked what they thought they all said it was a bit long, but were quick to excitedly comment on how much they liked the time of worship through music or how cool it was hearing from and meeting Bishop Nathan Gasatura from Rwanda who was the guest preacher and who brought some Pentecostal fire and passion to the gathering. They, as IMG_1892official delegates, were given the privilege to sign a document ratifying the constitutions and canons, the foundational framework for a Diocese which will, God willing, impact countless generations to come in the Upper Midwest for the Glory of God. Receiving copies of this document, they were quick to show it to their parents on returning home, excitedly pointing out with pride their signatures on a document very much looking like the Declaration of Independence.

I realized that when the Church comes together it honors God and the Spirit is truly present in a special way. The Church gathered with the presence of the Spirit is in itself a powerful Gospel witness and testimony, especially when it is both culturally diverse in nature and includes representatives from around the world, such as Bishop Nathan from Rwanda. For members of a specific ethnic group and small local congregation, such as New Generation, it wonderfully broadens their understanding of the one, holy, catholic church and the work of God around the world.

What could be better for the formation of these young followers of Jesus who have only been a part of the Church for a year or less?

Praise God for “meetings”!

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New Generation Retreat, Spring 2013

New Generation Retreat, Spring 2013

We had almost 50 young people. The largest retreat yet!

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Reflections from the Anglican1000 Summit

by Canon William Beasley on 03/08/2013 (From: http://www.greenhousemovement.com)

We sang Alabaré with Chicagoland’s Hispanic/Latino Choir Monday night at the Anglican1000 Summit, and I thought to myself how very different this Anglican Church is from the one I was raised in! Two days later we heard Melvin Tai, a Singaporean priest from Toronto, give an impassioned call to help convert the nations of the world to Christ by reaching out to the many immigrants around us with the good news because they can be the most effective missionaries for their own countries, and I began to realize that the vision for the nations among us in North America is growing. Then when I saw the ACNA bishops embrace African American pastor, Bishop Gregory Bowers, after he had led us in heartfelt worship, tears welled up in my eyes, because I knew that we as a church had truly changed. We will never be the same. These are first fruits of a church committed to reach all peoples in our midst throughout North America, and throughout the world.

It is one thing to think that we are a church that will reach “minorities” and quite another to know that we are all equals before the cross of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners in need of the redemption of Christ. There are no favorites in the Kingdom of God. No matter what our heritage or cultural context, we all stand as equals before the cross and redemption of Christ. We are all the prodigals who find the same loving embrace of our merciful Father when we turn to him.

The church is growing, and in the cities and towns throughout North America, we can potentially reach all peoples in all contexts. Not only has the conversation of our church changed from maintenance to mission, but our mission field is broadening to socio-economic and cultural groups here present in North America. We are moving with God’s heart to reach all peoples with his transforming love.

I am thankful for every one who has stood faithful in the truth of the Gospel to form the Anglican Church in North America, and I am thankful that the mission field is shifting toward the full embrace of our Heavenly Father’s love for all in our midst.

 

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Movement Dynamics: Leadership Development

ImageLast Friday over fifty men and women gathered in Franklin Park from six different Hispanic congregations throughout the city for the second class of the Instituto San Pablo (Saint Paul Institute), a three hour time of intensive leadership training, prayer and relationship building. It is all quite exciting! This is the future of the Hispanic Anglican Church in Chicago. These are 50 potential new leaders who will be challenged and trained to start new congregations throughout the city as well as to deepen the ministries within the established congregations.  

One of the key elements in any movement is how to develop new leaders. We are just beginning to learn how to do this in a Hispanic context, but here are a couple of the key ingredients we’ve learned:

  • Do leadership training at a regional level: There is much synergy that occurs when leaders from different congregations, small and large, gather together as one church on a common mission. Every church plant benefits by the support of all. 
  • At each session we have a mix of large group teaching and small group accountability and interaction: Transformation doesn’t occur simply through Imagehearing one way teaching from a talking head, but requires the accountability and discussion that can only take place in a small group setting. 
  • Prayer! Leaders are grown through prayer and through praying for one another
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A Tale of Three Churches

Three Hispanic congregations, a similar struggle:

  • One of the largest and recognized Hispanic churches in the US with thousands and thousands of members struggles with barely a dozen or so staff  and with the Anglo side of their church which views them as a “department” of their church and who own the building.
  • A small, startup Hispanic congregation rents a church building of a church from another denomination, but struggles to grow.  One challenge is that often they are unable to have services because the “host” church decides to have other events during the “renters” usual service time.
  • A large, growing congregation is more than triple the size of their “sister” Anglo congregation that owns the building they meet in and basically controls the building and rents it to them though they are of the same denomination. The Hispanic congregations is referred to as a “mission congregation.”

power-imbalance-1024x299I have tried to keep out too many specifics on the congregations since the point isn’t to criticize specific congregations, but I list these to highlight a similar struggle that I have seen over and over and that is common to Hispanic churches across the US regardless of denomination or context:  buildings. The struggle for buildings relates to finances, but really masks a deeper issue: power dynamics vis a vis the established, usually Anglo, church. This is reflected in terms such as “department,” “tenant” “mission congregation.”

The Hispanic church is the fastest growing section of evangelicalism in the US and really is a key to the future of the Church. Yet, they continue to be treated as second class citizens and as target of mission by the Anglo church, rather than equal partners and agents in mission alongside Anglo leaders (an issue Soong Chan Rah points out in the Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, a key book for church leaders). It is key time the established church to release the reigns of power and control and to allow room for the emerging Hispanic church and its leadership. This will mean a radically different way of doing things.  It may mean even mean giving away some buildings! (Though if you really believe Ephesians 4 then you aren’t giving anything away to “someone else” since you are already part of the same church.)

More on this to come…

Posted in Immigrant church, multi-ethnic church, Partnership | 1 Comment

Iglesia By The Years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Last Saturday at Iglesia we took our (belated) yearly photo. Every year it’s a helpful exercise to look back at the last year’s photo and compare. What new faces are there? What faces are no longer there? Here I’ve placed each one of our yearly photos. Let me assure you, though, pictures tell only a small part of the story. This is definitely NOT a story of linear, steady numerical growth…

Iglesia2009iglesia 2010Polaroid Iglesia Jan 2013

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Circuit Riding

ImageA few weeks after being ordained a priest I found myself preaching and leading four different services each weekend in Wheaton, Little VIllage (Chicago) and Berwyn. How did that happen? In Greenhouse we call this circuit riding, hearkening back to the good old days of the Methodist revival here in the US where circuit riders were one of the keys to the explosion of the church. Our goal is to similarly multiply congregations throughout the city of Chicago with a lay pastor or catechist at each congregation overseen by circuit riding clergy who visit multiple congregations a weekend. Currently my circuit is Saturday afternoons at Iglesia in Wheaton, Sunday mornings for two services at Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Villita, Chicago (where I am helping out  Fr. Jose Landaverde with his growing congregation), and Sunday evenings in Berwyn at our new church plant: San Marcos. Pray for my aging, but faithful, steed (Honda CRV) that is nearing 170,000 miles! 

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A New Season

Receive the Holy Spirit for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to you by the Imposition of our Hands; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

With these words, I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Frank Lyons on Saturday, October 6th, marking the beginning of an exciting new season of ministry. In some ways much will change, in other ways little.

What remains the same is that I will continue to serve, though now as rector (senior pastor), my parish (family of congregations) which we are calling All Nations Anglican Parish. This parish consists of Iglesia de la Resurrección, New Generation, Briar Street and San Marcos in Berwyn/Cicero. This parish, with Iglesia as a “home-base” of sorts, is slowly growing in stability, indigenous leadership and spiritual formation, praise the Lord.

One significant change is that I am transitioning out of my facilitation role with Mosaic, a part-time position which I have held for a little over three years. This will allow me to invest fully in my work as parish priest and church planter.  I am deeply grateful for all I’ve learned with my time at Mosaic especially in the areas of multi-church partnerships, immigrant church dynamics and church mobilization for cross-cultural mission.

This transition out of Mosaic, which has been a significant source of monthly income, leads me into a new season of partnership development. I am excited to use this as an opportunity to catch up with many friends and partners in ministry and to share my vision for reaching the nations and the poor here in Chicagoland through church planting.

Some other things in the pipeline:

  • A potential new Pakistani congregation
  • A west coast trip to visit several key Hispanic Anglican congregations and leaders
  • Increased partnership with a congregation in “la Villita,” the heart of the Hispanic community in Chicago.

If you’d like to partner with me in this new season there are several ways to do so:

  • Financial partners. I am seeking to raise $1,200 in monthly support. If you’d like to contribute on a regular basis or as one-time gift please click here.
  • Prayer partners. Prayer team of 10 weekly and 10 daily prayer warriors.
  • Co-laborers. Youth mentors and leaders, church planters, soccer coaches, ESL teachers.

For all of you who have partnered and prayed for me: Thank you! I deeply crave your prayers and support in this new season as well. Blessings!

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What is a Priest?

On Saturday, October 6th I swore to “conform my life… to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ” as the Anglican church has received them” and to pay “canonical obedience” to my bishop in life-long service as a priest in Christ’s one, holy, catholic church. What is this all about? What does it mean to be priest? Let me share with you some of the thoughts I’ve recently shared with my congregation as to what a priest and a priest’s role is and isn’t.

Many folks, especially those from a Hispanic background, envision a priest or pastors’ role as that of telling other people what to do. “Now that you’re a priest, you’re really in charge” runs this line of thinking. A priest’s first calling, however, is to not be in charge, but to serve. Jesus said in Mark 10: “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”

Another common misconception is that a priest is one who has been given special powers or abilities, especially as related to the sacraments. Rather, see the words of the charge given me by Bishop Lyons as he gave me a Bible: “Take authority to preach the Word of God and to administer the Holy Sacraments. Do not forget the trust committed to you as a Priest in the Church of God.” A priest is one who has been given the responsibility or trust by the bishop for a two-fold task: to administer the sacraments and preach the word…not to perform magic.

In debriefing the ordination service with some of my parishioners many of them said the most moving moment was when I was given the stole of a priest. “When your father placed the stole on you I felt as if he was placing the stole on me personally,” said one of my young emerging leaders. He, intuitively, understood that my ordination was in a very real sense “for him.” He in a derivative sense as a baptized member of my congregation was the one being empowered for ministry. Paul speaks to the misunderstanding that priests are the ones who are supposed to do the “real” work while the rest of the “commoners” get to sit in the peanut gallery and comment on their performance. In Ephesians 4:10 he says of church leaders: “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Rather than doing all the work themselves, a priest’s role is to train up the baptized to do the work of ministry for the good of the church.

Please join myself and Mike in praying these words from the ordination service litany:

For all members of your Church in their vocation and ministry, that they may serve you in a true and godly life, we pray to you, O Lord.

Lord, hear our prayer.

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