If you've ever been to Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago in the United States, you'll notice that it seems like there's a church on nearly every street corner. For the most part they're all really good ones, too, filled with godly people who take their faith very seriously. So why would anyone start yet another church in a place like this? Because God makes people in such wonderful variety and He calls each one to the work for which they're uniquely suited. And because even with so many great churches, many people in the Wheaton area don't attend church.
A calling often begins with a nagging discontent with the status quo. Many of us were Episcopalians who had come to love the beautiful and reverent worship, and the rich and ancient tradition of Anglican Christianity that we'd found in The Episcopal Church. But we also believed that that church's institutional structures had become indifferent or even hostile to some of Christianity's most basic beliefs. How could this have happened? In an effort to be tolerant and open-minded, many mainline churches over the last century de-emphasized, or even abandoned their core beliefs. We, too, value tolerance and open-mindedness, but we believe that ignoring the clear teachings of the Bible, repudiating our major doctrines, and jettisoning thousands of years of accumulated wisdom is exactly the wrong way to go about achieving them.
So in the Summer of 2004, a group of us gathered in a living room to take up the unlikely calling of starting yet another church in Wheaton. What happened next is still a blur in our memories. Within about six weeks we'd called the Rev. J. Martin Johnson to be our first rector, rented space from another nearby church, and begun holding Sunday services, midweek programs, and Christian education classes for all ages. Within a year, we'd affiliated with the Anglican Mission in the Americas, a missionary outreach of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (yes, you read that right; the Rwandans are sending missionaries to reach the some 130 million un-churched people in the United States).
In early 2006, we began renting a building of our own so that we could expand our programs and develop a worship space suited to our liturgy. We had no idea where we'd go when our lease expired, but rather than save up money, we were fairly certain God wanted us to fund the construction of a school in rural Rwanda. So, with His help, our little congregation raised over $100,000. Almost as soon as we'd reached our target, we were given an opportunity to buy the building we'd been renting.
As we were putting down roots and continuing to grow, eight formerly separate jurisdictions of Anglicans in North America were uniting to form the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). During this time of transition, we were received into the Anglican Church of Bolivia, under the care of Bishop Francis Lyons, who generously gave oversight to many parishes throughout North America. As a part of the Bolivian grouping of parishes, we joined the ACNA in June 2009.
With the presence of an orthodox Anglican body in North America, the foreign bishops who had provided oversight began releasing their American parishes into ACNA dioceses. Accordingly, in October 2010, Bishop Lyons released our clergy into the care of Bishop Alberto Morales of Quincy, and the parish voted unanimously to join the Diocese of Quincy on Pentecost, 2011. We are very much enjoying becoming part of the life of a diocese established in the 1800s, and which includes parishes in five states outside of Illinois.
The journey that began for us as we were called out to be faithful, has blessed us with friendships and opportunities to serve all around the world. Come join us on the adventure!