Skip to comments.Members focus on 'God's mission' [Christ Church, Midland TX]
Posted on 06/06/2005 8:49:01 AM PDT by sionnsar
Though the sanctuary of Christ Church Midland may have been void Sunday of plush pews, elaborate paintings and other features, what was present were the sounds and spirit of worship.
The estimated 324-member congregation gathered for its first worship service at Midland Classical Academy after the church split over dissention of Biblical teachings, including -- but not limited to -- same-sex marriage blessings and the denomination's appointing an openly gay bishop.
In 2003, St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church had an average of 323 present on Sundays, the highest attendance of any Episcopal church in the diocese in West Texas, said the Rev. Jon Stasney, the church's rector.
Stasney said he was overwhelmed and touched by the crowd. "It looked to me like the same church, just a different location," he said. "There's a spirit of excitement, even though it's uncertain of what lies ahead, we're walking in faith."
With the help from some, the gymnasium was transformed into a festive sanctuary. Member Steve Clarke handcrafted the church's wooden portable alter, processional cross, flower stands and candle holders.
St. Stephen's Catholic Church loaned the folding chairs and a huge wooden alter cross that centered the pulpit. The choir sang uplifting songs right beneath a basketball goal to the congregation that warmly greeted one another. Additional bleachers were hauled out to accommodate the swelling crowd that continued to enter the sanctuary, which was near capacity about five minutes after the 10 a.m. service began.
Stasney delivered the church's first sermon, 'Abraham Deja Vu," which paralleled the congregation's journey with that of Abraham, who through faith, left behind familiar surroundings to fulfill God's mission.
"The people of God who were formerly known as St. Nicholas' Episcopal Church and who are now known as Christ Church Midland now realize that we're not there yet, that we are on a long journey and engaged in a long struggle," Stasney told the attentive congregation.
"..Abraham was told 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.'...I don't know about monumental, but we've left behind some very nice architecture and some very nice artwork and church furnishings...And whereas this is certainly much better than a tent, it is not your usual church building," he said.
"Abraham also had to leave family members behind in order to respond to the call of God. Whereas most of us did not have to leave blood relatives behind, we did leave brothers and sisters in the St. Nicholas' family with whom we had worshipped together for many years. That hurts and it causes grief, especially since we're told that the waters of baptism are thicker than blood...And what about us? We're having to give up our identity and security as Episcopalians...Yet in recent decades the faith practiced and expressed by parts of the Episcopal Church USA has departed from the faith and practice of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the one, holy Catholic and apostolic church. And that to me is our fundamental identity and heritage ....That's why I've said all along that when it gets down to a choice between an apostate and sectarian Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, I'll stay with the Anglican Communion," Stasney told the audience, clapping in thunderous applause.
Some of the parishioners said they are ready to embrace the change and press forward.
"The heart of worship is never within the building. It's in the hearts of the people who want to make Christ known. It's in the hearts of the people of Christ Church Midland," Valerie Dungee, a member, said.
"I just think with all of the controversy, we want to move forward. We're going to move forward and do the work that we've been called to do, which is to know Christ and make him known."
Words of encouragement to the church came from all over, from a man in England, to former parishioners in Virginia and Plainview to First Baptist Church right here in Midland.
This summer, the church will adjust to its new location, said the Rev. Jonathan Hartzer, associate rector. Beginning next Sunday, the church will resume its regularly-scheduled three worship services and on June 19, Sunday School classes will begin. On June 15, Wednesday night service and dinner will start. All worship services and related activities will be held there at Midland Classical Academy.
"We're not thinking about facilities and buildings. We're thinking about worshiping God and ministering to the people of Midland," Hartzer said. "And when God wants us to move in a physical way to a permanent location, we will. But for now, we're ministering and worshipping as a family of God."
Looks like we were both posting this story at the same time...
My church. We had a wonderful first service.
Please contact our priests and give them words of encouragement.
Father Stasney: email@example.com Father John: firstname.lastname@example.org
I just opened my very own church-in-a-box (actually several boxes). We'll be meeting every week and looking for better quarters. The Spirit is moving!
It's probably been a while since Stephanie has seen an altar.
A member of my sunday school class, mentioned he was life long friends with several members of Christ Church members, and in support of them, he had written a $500.00 check, and sent it off to them, as the start of a building fund. Encouraging others to do something too.
Also in the morning service both last week and yesterday, Dr.Gary Dyer praised the stand taken by your members and committed the assistance of the First Baptist Church to the Christ Church. Prayers are powerful and accomplish much.
"If God be for me, who can be against me?"
Yes, it tends to go that way, doesn't it? We're actually still using our folding altar, though it hasn't moved in 18-1/2 years.
Thank your friend for me!
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