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ACNA'09 -- Are You Ready ...YES - Mary Ann Mueller

ACNA '09 -- Are You Ready ...YES.

By Mary Ann Mueller in Bedford, TX
June 22, 2009

The soon-to-be-archbishop of the emerging Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) delivered the challenge.

"Are you ready?" Bishop Robert Duncan asked the overflow crowd at St. Vincent's Cathedral.

"YES." came the reply of the assembly made up of priests, deacons, bishops and laity.

"Are you willing?" the Pittsburgh bishop again queried.

"YES." was the thunderous response.

The face of Anglicanism on the North American continent is being purified by a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit. This action comes from years and decades of orthodox Episcopalians wandering in the arid wasteland left behind by the spiritual disintegration of the Episcopal Church.

The suffering has been great. For today, at least briefly, that suffering has been turned to joy as like minded Anglicans from around the entire Anglican world gathered in the stifling heat of north Texas to help bring about the birth of a new Anglican province.

This new Anglican child could have as profound an impact on modern America as the English Reformation changed the face of Tudor England.

The struggle to see a purified Anglicanism in America is not over. The celebration of the opening Mass was a moment to reflect on the past and look forward to the future with confidence and hope.

Heartfelt prayer was lifted to God on the wings of song and chant soaring together on clouds of incense. The fragrant smoke hung in the air over the congregation as shafts of light streamed through the cathedral's triangle shaped windows.

Today's opening Mass falls on the Feast of St. Alban, long proclaimed to be Anglican's first true martyr for the faith.

For many of the delegates to the inaugural assembly, the trail of tears that led them to Bedford has been a sort of martyrdom.

The direct martyrdom may have lifted, but the continuing challenges to see the growth and flowering of ACNA are just beginning.

The unity brought about by the Holy Spirit was evident as the cathedral filled with Christians spanning the entire Anglican universe. There was a sea of color, white faces, black faces, brown faces, priests in black clericals and cassocks, bishops in purple with gold pectoral crosses, deacons with scarlet stoles, choristers in black cassocks overlaid with white surplices, acolytes in white albs, and the laity arrayed in every shade of the color spectrum.

The altar was dressed in deepest blood red honoring the blood of St. Alban that was spilled to protect the life of a fugitive priest.

Hosting Bishop Jack Iker and visiting Bishop Duncan wore flowing gold embroidered ruby copes. As the church filled before the Mass began, there was a sense of joy. Friends met friends, bishops connected with their brother bishops, priests were reunited with former parishioners, as familiar and not so familiar faces flowed into the cathedral filling every available seat.

When the organ pealed the introductory notes of the opening hymn, a hush fell over the congregation. The procession was already formed in the back of the crowded edifice ready to step off as the first words were sung, thus bringing the ACNA provincial assembly into being.

For three days the delegates, guests and visitors will undergird their entire creative process with liturgical prayer anchored upon the Eucharist and enhanced by Morning Prayer and Evensong.

When the final Amen is recited at Thursday's midday liturgical celebration, there will be a new North American Province in the ever -widening Anglican Communion.

The eyes of the Christian world are focused on Texas. An eclectic mix of Anglican and ecumenical visitors are on hand to witness the creation of the new Province. Notably there is not a representative, either officially or unofficially, from Lambeth Palace or TEC.

However, many of the Global South provinces are represented as well as ecumenical visitors, looking over the shoulders of their Anglican brethren, from the Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics.

---Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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