Could All Souls be your church? We submit to a job interview:
Q: What does it mean to be a Christian?
Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. They seek to follow his teachings and model their lives on His example. More importantly, Christians believe that Jesus is God, having become a human being, come to rescue and restore us and all of His broken creation. This restoration isn't just in some future afterlife, but begins right here, right now. As we place our trust in Him, God begins to restore us to a right relationship with Him, fixing the broken things within us that we can't fix for ourselves, giving us the ability to begin making the world a better place. If this is true, then it's certainly good news for us all. In fact, that's what the word "gospel" means. At All Souls Church we want to tell this good news to anyone who will listen. Because God is restoring His entire creation, not just our immortal souls, the material stuff of this world is important to us. We care about alleviating poverty, hunger, and disease all over the world. We care about being good stewards of the environment. We love art, architecture, music, dance, and literature, among other things, because our ability to produce these things from the stuff of this material world is a great gift from God. That's why when we gather to worship God, we strive for all the beauty and reverence that our meager resources and the riches of our tradition can produce.
Q: What does All Souls Church think of other religions?
A: We respect people of other religions and believe that their traditions have much to teach us. At the same time, our own Christian beliefs are strongly held. We actually believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and that He died to save us from our own sinfulness and to redeem all of His broken creation. We believe that He really did come back from the dead, and that He is the only way by which humanity can be reconciled to God. For us, these points are not just matters of personal preference. We have to believe them because they're true, whether we like them or not. Is that disrespectful of other religions? Not at all. Because we have deeply-held beliefs of our own, we understand it when other people do, too. While we can't all be right, we can certainly agree to disagree, and still love and respect each other. We could always tell people that anything they care to believe is just fine because, after all, it doesn't really matter what they believe, and under different language we all really mean the same thing and worship the same God, and so forth. But that would be truly disrespectful.
Q: Do you seriously mean that everyone is welcome at All Souls? Shouldn't they be afraid you'll try to get them to change?
Yes, everyone is welcome at All Souls Church. There's no standard of propriety you have to meet before you can come in. God takes each of us where we are and starts moving us to where we should be. We don't change people. God does that. We provide the loving Christian community in which people can begin to hear God's claim on their lives and discover the adventure He has in store for them. But if we're serious about following Jesus, God will certainly call on each of us to change, and provide us the means to do so in a way that we never could for ourselves.
Q: Aren't religious beliefs just private matters of personal preference? If you want to believe in God, that's not really something you can or should convince anyone else of, is it?
Atheism's become trendy again lately in the popular press, but theism (belief in God) has continued to hold its own among the philosophers who study and discuss such questions. Believing in God is more than just intellectually defensible. Many respected intellectuals would tell you it's actually your best bet. So far from being private matters of personal opinion, questions about the existence of God, where the universe came from, and the objective basis for morality are all things that reasonable people can and should debate rationally. Now, people come to belief in God and become followers of Jesus for all kinds of good reasons, not all of them intellectual. But at All Souls Church, we're willing to look at the tough questions and try not to settle for simplistic answers.
Q: What does it mean to be an Anglican Christian?
Christianity has been around for about two thousand years. During that time, it has produced many movements and schools of thought, and left a vast treasure-trove of wisdom for today's Christian to explore. At its simplest, being an Anglican Christian is to be a part of the Anglican Communion, a collection of churches all over the world (with about 70 million members) that are each descended from the Church of England. The reason, though, that we are Anglicans is that we believe it's a great way to practice the Christian faith. Anglicanism appropriates the very best of the vast Christian tradition while avoiding its excesses and errors.
Q: For those of us who already know some theology and church history, what does this Anglican synthesis look like?
We are heirs of CATHOLIC tradition: we draw for our sustenance upon teaching and practices that go back to the Apostles but flowered fully in the Church's first several centuries. The foundation laid for us, and for all subsequent generations of thoughtful Christians, by the Early Church Fathers is a rich legacy. From those early times we inherit our Creed, our sacramental worship, and our sacramental theology; these we share with Christ's true Church wherever it may be found. We see that kinship in powerful ways when we look upon our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Orthodox world. In that sense we claim, and rejoice in, catholicity.
But we also acknowledge that that Church has not always faithfully preserved its theological and spiritual inheritance, and that, in His love and care, in the sixteenth century God raised up great men of faith to REFORM the church, to call us back to the Bible as the ever-living Word of God, the reliable testimony to his grace and favor towards us in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. In that Word we see clearly that we are saved by God's boundless grace, and we appropriate that grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is this message -- which we share with all the churches that trace their lineage to the Reformation -- that we proclaim in our preaching and enact in our worship.
We strive to be a church that is fully catholic and fully reformed; and this is what we think it means to be ANGLICANS.