Easter celebrated at All Saints Church, Almancil, Algarve

This year we celebrated Easter with ASCA. This church is GAFCON affiliated. I remember early days of blogging on this site as the Gafcon/Lambeth split was occurring.

I was really pleased to have written an essay, prior to my visit to this church, on the Anglican Covenant because after exploring reaction to it, my understanding of the Gafcon split is now a little more informed. I am not giving away too much about my views, only that I have more ponderings and less reactions these days to difficulties in our communion. I am more interested and even less interested. There is too much other stuff to be getting on with. I am more interested in discovering the people behind, or rather, in front of, the issues.

A few years ago, I would have visited this church with lots of presuppositions, reading Atherstone and Goddard and several other diverse critics of the Covenant, I have come to realise that everybody has an opinion of some kind or another and many of those opinions do not tie neatly into some kind of confessional package where one point of 'orthodoxy' fits with the next. There is such variety and divergence in us all, really, that we all need one another and we live through the ups and downs of a Communion that seems to make friends and break friends as many times as do children in a playground.

If you google ASCA, you get a lot of Anglican Mainstream material. Some of this I have tried to read through, some of it requires background knowledge of the situation evolving in the earlier days of the ministry of this church.

...So we met in the Almancil Community Centre, distinctive with its pink and blue paint and were ushered in and greeted by both the priest in charge and people who would sing later in the choir, Dora and Colin, who sat in front.

I wonder if I was rather expecting modern worship music, guitars and prayer ministry, influenced by reading Atherstone's descriptions of that 'lively and vibrant Christianity.' It was very much more high-church than i had anticipated, very liturgical. Three people conducted the service with Father Joe, whose last service it would be before returning to America, preaching. There was lots of genuflecting and traditional hymns to a small electronic keyboard. The choir sang quite beautifully and were quite a spectacle in their turquoise shawls.

Father Joe, a rotund and charming American with a story to tell about a missing forefinger which we never heard, preached a lively sermon about how Easter, if it should be about anything, should really be about forgiveness. He illustrated the weight of hurt that we can carry around with us with a suitcase which he dramatically threw against a wall to express how Jesus releases us from this weight if we can learn to forgive. He also talked about toxic people and how we need to be strong and not doormats; we can wish people well but not have to live with them if they bring us down all the time. It was a very real and brave preach. He asked the congregation lots of tough questions about being hurt, whether they had been divorced etc. When the congregation responded, he told each person he loved them in the way that only Americans can with their wonderful accents.

There was a baptism and they forgot to present the candle and called us all back as we were leaving for this bit. There was a real sense of relaxation despite the liturgical rigidity, as if, 'really, when push comes to shove, if we're meant to leave bits out, we will just do that, it will all get sorted in the end.' There was a Kenyan blessing to finish the service where we threw our difficulties at the cross, symbolically, with a hand gesture, as if flinging something across a room. This was quite powerful.

The congregation were going on to Father Joseph Wingo's villa for his leaving-do to which we were invited, which was so kind, but we thought our children might be in need of a beach and somehow it felt a little strange to fling ourselves on the hospitality of this church family whom we would only be visiting just this once.

So that was ASCA. It's great to see the Anglican Church (even if it is struggling with its Anglican identity) worshipping with such variety. At times you felt you were in an Anglo-Catholic church, the preach felt quite non-conformist and the choir almost pentecostal in a choral sort of way, if that doesn't sound too weird. There was a huge variety of different peoples, Kenyan, Asian, South African, British, Canadian and American. There was an ordained woman on the leadership team and a range of activities usually available for children had it not been Easter.

All in all, we were very glad we struggled for fifty minutes to follow directions to this church which actually turned out to be only ten minutes down the road from our holiday villa (note to self - purchase suitable Sat nav app for mobile phone when abroad next time!)


Fr Joe said...

Thank you for worshiping with us last Easter. I didn't know you blog an article about us until today. When I was at All Saint, we embraced the three main streams of Anglicanism (evangelical, charismatic, and catholic) as one but tried never to lose sight as to what the Lord wanted us to be which is his children thanking him in worship for what he has done, is doing,and will do.
I pray we meet again,
Fr Joe
Reform rotund priest in charge, All Saints

Rach said...

Thank you Father Joe. Actually that sermon you preached was confirmed by two more on the same theme shortly after in our church experience. Through it God challenged us to let go of a person whom we had been carrying around who was impacting our marriage for the worse. God said to us both through your sermon - "You have both served me well in serving this person, but now give them back to me, someone else will pick up the burden." Our lives have moved on significantly. So we thank God for God speaking through you that day and for your passion and energy and integrity. Every blessing with your ministry.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions