Sunday, November 29 begins the season of Advent, which lasts until the feast of Christmas. The word advent is from two Latin words meaning “coming to,” and during Advent the Church remembers the two great “coming to us’s” of Christ: his first coming to us as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, and his second coming to us as the Judge and King of the universe at the end of time. The latter is one of the reasons that judgment is a recurring Advent theme. While not a truly penitential season like Lent, Advent is a time of muted joy and expectation; hence the purple vestments and church hangings, the omission of the Gloria in excelsis from the Liturgy, and our use of the Merbecke setting of the Kyrie eleison and the Sanctus and Benedictus, which is more solemn than the Willan setting we use for most of the year.
I’m finally getting around to posting audio files and PDFs of some of my previous sermons preached at St. John’s. Please consult the Sermons page if you’d like to listen to or read them.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.—from an Easter Sermon by St. John Chrysostom
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is this Wednesday, February 18. Unfortunately, due to the condition of the roads in our area as well as of the parking lot at the church, we will NOT be able to hold a service at the church on this day.
Ash Wednesday is one of the two fasting days of the year in our Church, the other being Good Friday (BCP, p. li). Jesus Himself recommended and practiced fasting (Matt. 6:16-18, Lk. 4:2, Matt. 17:21, Mk. 9:29), as did the early Church and faithful Christians in every generation.
The general rule for Lent that has come down to us in our tradition is this: Each day consists of one full meal and two smaller portions of food. Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence from flesh meat. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of complete fasting. No food is eaten until sundown. Medical issues and age are reasons to moderate the fast of food.
January 31 is the Feast of St. John Bosco (1815-88), one of the greatest men living in Italy at that time. He was the son of peasants near Turin, and by the time he entered the priesthood, multitudes were moving into cities like Turin as the industrial revolution got going in Italy. The boys and young men of the new slums and tough neighborhoods formed gangs and were in a downward spiral into crime, chaos and exploitation. Don Bosco began to bring them into the church were they could be catechized and taught a trade. How he relates to them is inspiring, and is the subject of a first rate movie called Don Bosco, The True Story of the Apostle of Youth, produced in 1988.
The cover jacket reads “Ben Gazzara stars in this classic film about St. John Bosco, the beloved 19th century Italian priest who sought out the homeless youth of Turin to help them have a better life. He overcame incredible challenges, including the government who wanted him out of the way, an archbishop who tried to silence him, and the revolution that put a price on his head. But nothing could stop Don Bosco from rescuing the poor and outcast children to give them a home, teach them work skills and catechize them in the Catholic faith.
“Don Bosco is the inspiring true story of a brave and holy priest whose single-handed battle to save the children of the streets inspired the formation of the Salesians, which is now a worldwide religious order that carries on his work with youth everywhere. Blessed with tremendous gifts, a creative imagination and a great sense of humor, Bosco had a winning way with youth and was a brilliant educator.
“Having suffered much in his own youth and growing up without a father gave him compassion for the many orphans he cared for, and his profound charity shines through in this film. His deep devotion to and trust in Our Lady was a great source of blessings and strength for his work with youth that continues to this day. Patsy Kensit and Karl Zinny also star with Gazarra, and the film is directed by Leandro Castellani.” The DVS is available at Ignatius Press, 1-800-651-1531.
–Bishop Paul Hewett
Since its very beginnings, the Church has affirmed the sanctify of human life. The Constitution of the Anglican Catholic Church states: “Every human being, from the moment of conception, is a creature of God, made in His image and likeness, and an infinitely precious soul, and this Church reaffirms the ancient Christian principle, enunciated by the early Fathers and Councils, that the intentional taking of the life of an innocent human being at any state is a grave sin and condemned under the Sixth Commandment.”
The feast of the Epiphany (January 6) celebrates the first manifestation, or showing, of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, in the persons of the Magi, or Wise Men, from the East. In the Eastern Church, this feast is called the Theophany and recalls Jesus’ baptism, during which all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity were revealed. In England, Epiphany was called Twelfth Night because it occurs twelve days after Christmas and marked the end of the traditional Christmastide celebration. In many Hispanic countries, the giving of gifts takes place on Epiphany, following the example of the Wise Men, who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. According to tradition, there were three wise men, and their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. We don’t know much else about them although tradition says that they were kings. This is almost certainly because of the prophecy in Isaiah 60:3 that “the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” As well, Psalm 72:10 predicts that “the kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall give presents; the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts.”
St. John’s is dedicated to the faith and worship of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church within the classical Anglican tradition. We are a parish of the Anglican Catholic Church, continuing the Biblical, orthodox, and Catholic Anglican tradition in doctrine, worship, and discipline.
Our faith is revealed in the Bible, summarized in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and taught by the early Church Fathers and Councils of the undivided Church. We worship using the traditional Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1928 American edition) with music and hymns from the rich treasury of Christian hymnody.
At St. John’s we seek to develop and nurture Christ-centered lives, and to bring new people to faith in Jesus Christ, through worship, prayer, the sacraments, Bible study, preaching, outreach, friendship, and good stewardship of the time, talents, and resources God has given us.
Our priest is available for pastoral care and services including baptisms, weddings, funerals, sick calls, Christian education, private confession and absolution, and spiritual direction. Our goal is to be a vibrant and transformational church in South Hampton Roads. We cordially invite you to join us!
Our Beliefs and Practices
We believe in the One, Holy, Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, and that most holy name is Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth. We believe that only through Him is the full revelation of God given to man and that we have the awesome responsibility to preach the Good News of salvation to all nations and tongues.
We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the authentic record of God’s revelation to man, a revelation that is valid for all men and all time. In the Bible we have God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and His moral demands. We believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16).
We believe the Catholic Faith as set forth in the three recognized Creeds of Christendom: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and that known as the Creed of St. Athanasius. We receive and believe them in the sense they have had always in the Catholic Church.
We believe in the holy Tradition of the Church as set forth by the ancient catholic bishops and doctors, and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church.
We hold dear the seven Sacraments of Grace, namely, the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, and Unction of the Sick. We believe them to be objective signs of Christ’s continued presence and saving activity among us. We believe in the holy sacrifice of the Mass and that the body and blood of Christ are truly and really present in the Holy Eucharist.
We believe in God’s gift of the apostolic ministry to His Church, asserting the necessity of a bishop in apostolic succession (or a priest ordained by such) as the celebrant of the Eucharist.
Furthermore, we hold that the Holy Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons consist exclusively of men in accordance with Christ’s will and institution.
We believe in the sanctity of human life; that life begins at the moment of conception; and that the willful taking of that life in the womb by abortion to be a grave sin.
We believe in the family, in the God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman. We profess that sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
We believe that man is very far gone from original righteousness, is in rebellion against God’s authority, and is liable to His righteous judgment. We believe that all people, individually and collectively, are responsible to their Creator for their acts, motives, thoughts, and words, since we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
We believe it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.
We acknowledge that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic.
The Mission of Our Church
A Return to the Faith
Our Catholic and Reformed faith has a prophetic message for Christians today. For more than a generation now, churches have purposely abandoned tradition with the idea that this was necessary to attract believers in the modern world. In a replay of ancient iconoclasm, crosses and pictures were torn down and religious symbols were discouraged. Talk of sin was muted. The focus came to be on whatever might attract a larger crowd. Religion became another consumer product.
The inordinate desire for what is new, coupled with the abandonment of the received faith, has had negative consequences. Much that is called Christianity today is not very Christian in any biblical or historic sense. As one commentator said, “She who marries the spirit of the age becomes a widow in the next generation.” This is why St. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We call for a return to “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
A Return to the Bible
As a Reformed church, we also realize that many people who think of themselves as Christians need to be introduced to the Jesus of the Bible. Many of the problems in the Church in the modern world result from ignorance of the Bible. Church leaders were able to promote non-biblical teachings and practices because the people did not know the Bible. Consequently, we emphasize Bible reading and study.
The tradition of the Church provides a fruitful environment for Bible study. We follow the church calendar that leads us to worship through the life of Jesus, from birth to Ascension, each year. We follow a plan for daily Bible reading that takes us through the Bible each year. Our services are composed of biblical prayers and expressions. Our church members are exposed to a great deal more Bible than is typical for those who attend what are known as “Bible churches.”
A Return to Prayer
We believe that prayer is essential to the Christian life. The Church’s life of prayer is centered in the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, which we celebrate each Sunday. The life of prayer is continued in daily hours of prayer, which incorporate the praying of the Psalms, Bible reading, and prayers. These daily hours of prayer are perpetuated in the Anglican Tradition in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. Many Christians do not have a daily sense of communion with God in Christ because they do not pray. We encourage people to begin to live a life of prayer.
Tradition: Past and Future
Traditional Christians are often accused of being stuck in the past. However, the greater danger for Christians today is an uncritical acceptance of new teachings and practices. Because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), the faith of the past is the wave of the future. As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
St. John’s is a parish of the Anglican Catholic Church, which was established in 1978 to continue the traditional doctrine, worship, and discipline of the Anglican (or Episcopal) Church. Our jurisdiction was established following a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1977, in which some 2,000 faithful Anglicans and Episcopalians gathered to decide how they might best continue the faith, order, worship, and witness of the traditional Anglican/Episcopal Church.
The participants at the St. Louis Congress sought to preserve their classical Anglican/Episcopal heritage by returning to the fullness of the faith of the undivided Church. Guided by the principles of the early Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, they adopted a statement of principles later called “The Affirmation of St. Louis.”
The Affirmation of St. Louis called for the establishment of a new ecclesiastical structure so that “the Church of our fathers” in its Anglican expression could be continued. It affirmed the need for principles and a constitution, the desire for continued relations of communion with all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion, and the duty to proclaim “Christ’s saving Truth to all peoples, nations and tongues.”
The Affirmation of St. Louis also acknowledged certain foundational principles of doctrine, morality, and worship. These included the continuing authority of Holy Scripture, of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church.
The participants at St. Louis initially adopted the name “Anglican Church in North America.” They requested episcopal oversight and assistance from faithful bishops in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, but only one, the Rt. Rev. Albert Chambers, retired Episcopal bishop of Springfield, Illinois, was willing to step forward and give apostolic succession to the new body.
In January 1978 Bishop Chambers consecrated four bishops for the newly formed Anglican Church in North America. In October 1978 the Church met in synod to adopt a formal constitution, which included the change of name to the “Anglican Catholic Church.”
Today the Anglican Catholic Church is a worldwide body with dioceses in Africa, the Americas, England, Australia, New Zealand, Haiti, India, and Pakistan.
We thus trace our origins back through the Episcopal Church to the Church of England and the ancient British (or Celtic) Church. This Church has produced such well-known Christians as C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and St. Patrick, as well as the King James Bible and the majestic Book of Common Prayer.
The Anglican tradition came to America with the first English settlers, who landed at Cape Henry (now part of Virginia Beach) in 1607 along with their chaplain, the Rev. Robert Hunt.
We worship God using the beautiful and time-honored traditional liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. In addition to being a masterpiece of English prose, the Book of Common Prayer provides an ancient Catholic pattern for public worship, pastoral services, and regular reading of the Scriptures.
We also sing hymns from the Church’s rich historical treasury of hymnody. These hymns are typically accompanied by an organist. This style of worship is quiet and meditative, as well as joyful, and reflects the same pattern of worship that was used in the early Church.
The Holy Bible
We believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired word of God containing all things necessary for salvation. The Bible, or Holy Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments, is the authentic record of God’s revelation to man and is valid for all people and all time. In the Bible we have God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands.
To understand and interpret the Bible, we look to the writings of the early Church Fathers as well as the decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church. We are also guided by the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins (A.D. 434): “In the Catholic Church we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. For that is truly and properly ‘Catholic.’”
We believe in the sanctity and dignity of all human life and in traditional Biblical standards of morality. We believe that life begins at the moment of conception and that the willful taking of life by abortion is a grave sin. We also believe in the family, in the God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman. We profess that sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
Evangelism and Outreach
We gratefully acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and as the only sure hope of salvation and eternal life. For this reason, we desire to share the wonderful Good News of God’s love for us in Christ with our family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances through prayer, outreach, friendship, and service.
Our Patron Saint
We are dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus who tradition says wrote the Gospel of John, three New Testament Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his Apostles, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). That’s how we want St. John’s to be, a group of friends of the Lord Jesus and of one another.
Our goal is to be a vibrant and transformational church in the South Hampton Roads area. We want to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, grow in our relationship with God and with other people, and share the rich treasure of classical Anglicanism with the people of our area.
Opportunities for Service and Ministry
At St. John’s we believe that every Christian has an important role to play within the life of the Church and in outreach to our neighbors and community. We therefore seek to discern the Lord’s will and divine calling for each member through prayer and their own unique spiritual gifts, talents, interests, time, and resources. Ministry opportunities include hospitality, Christian teaching, church leadership, music, community outreach, altar guild, layreaders, acolytes, and intercession. In addition, as a small, young church, the opportunities for service and ministry are great.