On April 3, 2011, the family and I made a visit to St. Gabriel's Anglican Church in Springdale, Arkansas. It was Rose Sunday.
I had been a FaceBook friend of the Rector, Fr. John Slavin, for some time, and was glad of the chance to finally meet him in person, as well as to worship at St. Gabriel's.
We dragged the kids out with us for the 9:00 am Adult Education class. It was a great class, nominally centered around a particular icon (the Hodegetria), but with a rich survey of background information including a review of the 5 historic Patriarchal sees (Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria) and four levels of religion (belief, faith, experience, and transformation). Other interesting points of early church history were brought forward as well. The class was well attended. In my roamings through Anglicanism over the years, I have noticed that a healthy, vibrant Adult Ed program (that is actually attended!) goes hand in hand with robust worship.
Everything about the Holy Communion service was lovely. 1928 BCP, the Hymnal 1940, no funny stuff added, nothing subtracted. I particularly liked the Processional (Jesus, lover of my soul - #415) and Recessional (Lord, who throughout these forty days - #59) hymns!
I hate to harp on this point, but I really appreciate that the service wasn't interrupted by the all-too-common "Seventh Inning Stretch" (by which I mean the Passing of the Peace). There was plenty of time for me and the family to shake hands with everyone after the service.
I was also very glad that incense was used during the service. It made me feel right at home.
One thing that seems so simple gave Cindy and me particular joy: All of the readings were read, including the Old Testament lesson, which is not done everywhere.
The worship space was very attractive, and tastefully decorated:
Fr. John's sermon was very lively, to say the least. Fr. John is a very dynamic person, and a very energetic speaker. I thought to myself how he had pulled off the impossible: a Baptist-length sermon delivered in only the time of a typical Anglican homily. Winning!
The sermon focused on Ephesians 5 and, other than being a bit too personally convicting to me at parts, was great. Fr. John explained some wrong ways (and then the right way) to look at St. Paul's commands, such as the edict to not associate with unbelievers.
As Providence would have it, we attended on a day when a potluck meal was scheduled after the service, and so we stayed for that, and were thankful for a great meal. Finally, Fr. John took the time to show me around the grounds. As he did so, he gave me some of the history of the parish and of his own involvement with it. This is a cool little chapel they have out back, which has 24-hour access via a keypad on the door.
One thing more needs to be said, and to me it was perhaps the most encouraging thing about the entire visit: There were plenty of young kids at this parish! There is much reason to be hopeful for the future! God is at work at St. Gabriel's.