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Essentials

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Following on from EFAC’s video series at the Anglican Conference in Melbourne 2018, we now meet Anglicans from around the world. When you think of an Evangelical Anglican in USA, you might think of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). However, as well having Evangelicals scattered through The Episcopal Church (TEC), there are also several other breakaway groups. First to be interviewed is Ryan Flanigan, who is part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) which operates as a mission society, not a denomination. Following his interview is Amanda from The Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), which split in 1873. Her church was led into Anglicanism when its pastor began exploring Church History.

 

NAME //
Ryan Flanigan, Dallas, Texas
CHURCH //
All Saints Dallas
BELONGING TO //
Anglican Mission in the Americas (AmiA)

YOU’VE HAD A RANGE OF EXPERIENCES IN CHARISMATIC, EVANGELICAL AND SACRAMENTAL SETTINGS. WITH THAT BACKGROUND, IT IS AMAZING YOU WERE ABLE TO STUDY UNDER ROBERT E WEBBER. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT HIM AND WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM HIM?

I had the privilege of studying with Robert Webber in 2005-2006 before he passed away in 2007. I was enrolled in other classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School(TEDS), but a friend of mine, the Chaplain of Trinity, and probably the only other person at TEDS who had previously attended Christ For the Nations Institute (CFNI), pulled me aside and told me to drop all my classes and to go study with Bob Webber for a year. Somehow he knew what I needed, and that Bob Webber would be taking a sabbatical the following year, and that I would miss my opportunity to study with him if I didn’t do it now. So, trusting my friend, I did as he said, and I have never looked back. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. What did I learn from Bob? In a nutshell, Bob gave me the vision for bringing the best of all Christian traditions together into one cohesive worship life. He was the first person to tell me that I didn’t have to choose between being charismatic, evangelical, or catholic. At first he called it “Convergence Christianity,” but later it came to be known as Ancient-Future worship: the way forward for the church in the West is to rediscover the ancient practices of worship that we find in the historic liturgy, which have been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. Bob himself was an Episcopalian, in part because Anglicanism had enough space theologically and in form and expression for him to be a charismatic, evangelical catholic. He passed this vision on to me. That year and for the years to follow I oozed Bob’s vision from my pores. I immediately put his vision into practice at the Vineyard church where I was leading worship, and have continued evangelizing to all my friends in the charismatic and evangelical worlds for the recovery of the ancient practices of worship. One thing I will never forget about Bob is how available he made himself to his students. He offered to take us to Starbucks after every class, just to shoot the breeze or to ask him crazier questions. He was full of so much joy and was such a non-anxious presence.

I LOVE THAT ALL THIS HASN’T BEEN JUST THEORETICAL FOR YOU, YOU’VE FOUND WAYS OF LIVING THAT OUT. TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK AS MUSIC DIRECTOR OF ALL SAINTS CHURCH DALLAS AND FOUNDER OF LITURGICAL FOLK?

After a very intense three-year season of vocational wilderness in 2011-2013 (the non-denominational church I was serving got tired of my vision for ancient-future worship, and my identity was wrapped up in my work, and so I suffered from some extreme discontentment and took the church’s rejection of my vision very personally), and after a friend pastored me back to health in 2014 and helped me discern the Lord’s calling into a tradition to which my worship convictions aligned, in 2015 I joined the staff of All Saints Dallas, a three-stream Anglican church in the heart of Dallas and part of the Anglican Mission in America, a mission society for church planting and new apostolic works. By 2015 I had been leading worship in churches for 17 years. I had come to know my strengths andweaknesses and was able to articulate them to All Saints during the interview process. Together we crafted a job description that would enable me to thrive in my strengths. Basically, I spend half of my time planning and performing music for church services, and the other half of my time on music projects and artist development outside of our church. It is no exaggeration to say that I moved from a culture, 2011-2013, in which I spent 90% of my time trying to convince people we needed to be worshiping differently, to a culture here in Dallas where I spend 90% of my time freely working in my calling. I am now four and a half years in, and it’s still dreamy. As far as Sunday worship and other special services, I love how the songs serve the liturgy. I love how the liturgy speaks for itself and doesn’t demand that I add words between songs to create a seamless worship set. I love the spiritual formation my family is receiving through immersion in a liturgical community that is serious about the transformational power of the historic practices. And I love that this vision has been around for hundreds of years, and that I don’t have to convince anyone that we need to be doing it this way. The joy I have found leading music in the church has freed me to spend the rest of my time writing songs, developing songwriters, and pouring into the lives of other artists outside our church. I’ll talk about two special organizations in particular: Art House Dallas and Liturgical Folk.

Art House Dallas exists to cultivate creativity for the common good. The founding director is a parishioner at All Saints, so when I was hired I was expected to jump right in with their community of songwriters, and I have loved every minute of it. I have also helped them develop a spiritual formation program in which we help local artists connect their faith with their art.

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Liturgical Folk is a new apostolic work of the AMiA, which I started when a retired priest and I began writing new hymns together. We are seeking to reimagine the hymnal for a new generation of worshippers. We attempt to make beautiful and believable sacred folk music for the Church and the world. We believe that the Church can once again become a credible artistic presence in the world. Our music is multi-generational, multi-racial, and ecumenical. Our goal from the beginning in 2016 was to release six volumes of new liturgical music in three years; to throw a critical mass of this (new?) kind of music at the wall of the church and to see if it sticks. We have identified a problem in the church’s imagination of the reduction of appropriate music to either “traditional” (choir, organ, hymns) or the “contemporary” (stage lights, fog, arena rock). We believe there is a third way that is grounded in the sounds already resident in a place, and whose words are historically-rooted and socially-informed. Half of our music is service music (liturgical settings, simple choruses, etc.) and the otherhalf is new hymnody, written by Father Nelson Koscheski and tuned by myself and other skilled melodists. We have already released four volumes of music (Table Settings, Crumbs, and Lent), and we have just recorded and are about release Advent and Psalm Settings. We have also beentouring the projects for a couple years, spreading the word and casting a vision for the appropriateness of liturgical folk music in the church. We have seen a decent amount of success with hundreds of thousands of streams and stories of hundreds of churches around the world using our songs.

HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE A MINISTRY TEAM TO MOVE THEIR CHURCH BEYOND THE ‘WORSHIP WARS’?

My friend Brian Hehn points out the helpful fact that“traditional” and “contemporary” are misnomers; they don’t describe anything about the music itself, except that it “happened a long time ago” or that it is “happening now.” Both sides of the war have a reduced imagination for what music can be in the church. On the one hand you havechurches that think organs, choirs, hymns, and the like are theonly appropriate musical elements for worship. And on the other extreme you have arena rock, stage lights, and celebrities that project the ideal for what church music should be. In my estimation when a church reduces its musical imagination to one of these two sides it can too easily become a monolithic institution represented mainly by a narrow segment of the kingdom, especially in age and race. Not to mention how difficult and expensive it can be for the average church to pull off really good “traditional” or “contemporary” music. I am finding that a folk approach to liturgical music in the Western church is able to bridge the divides(or blow up the walls of traditional and contemporary, allowing parishioners to experience the breadth of Christ’s kingdom, especially its intergenerational and multi-ethnic nature. I’m talking about the music that bubbles up from the ground of a place. I would encourage ministry teams to put their ear to the ground and to listen for that sound. Tap into the music that effortlessly engages the soul. God put it there for us to find. And the best musicians are able to capture it and reflect it back to the people. The metric I use is whether the children and the old folks are engaged. They are the ones living the most down-to-earth lives in our congregations, so they will often be the first to access and engage with the music in the bones of a place.


Text Box:

NAME //
Amanda McGill, Dayton, Ohio
CHURCH //
Christ the King Anglican Church
BELONGING TO//
Reformed Episcopal Church

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY?

I’m married to Jon and have two daughters who are 4 and 2. My husband and I grew up Baptist, were both Bible majors at a Baptist college and went to a Southern Baptist seminary — where we became Anglican. From early on in college, we were consumed with questions about the Church and troubled by the reality, “We want to give our lives to the Church, why do we hate Sunday morning so much?” While in seminary, we were able to connect with Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. We were his summer interns in 2012, and going to his Anglican church really sealed the deal that we were Anglicans. We moved back to the Dayton, Ohio area (where I’m from) where we are members of Christ the King Anglican Church. I’m the music director and my husband, now a web developer with an M.Div is senior warden.

 

WHAT MADE YOU START THE BLOG THE HOMELY HOURS? WHAT DOES THE TITLE MEAN?

My friend Bley and I followed a lot of wonderful Catholic liturgical living blogs, but couldn’t find similar resources in the Anglican tradition. Bley is an artist and had already made a lot of liturgical living printables (such as her Jesus Tree Advent printables so starting a blog together seemed to make sense, mostly as a service for our own parish. We decided to call it “The Homely Hours” because we were talking about the fixed prayer system of the “Divine Hours,” and the word “homely” seemed very fitting as a description of our “hours” — cozy, but also fairly dishevelled

>YOUR CHURCH BECAME ANGLICAN THROUGH EXPLORING CHURCH HISTORY, TELL US ABOUT THAT SHIFT?

The church started as a non-denominational charismatic college ministry. Six years after officially becoming a church, Fr. Wayne unexpectedly became the pastor. He found himself overwhelmed, but felt led to read church history for wisdom. Over many years, he led the church toward Anglicanism. It was quite a dramatic shift — we actually use the 1928 Prayer Book, so you can imagine. But Fr. Wayne has always had the long vision and promised that after 10 years or so, it would get into everyone’s bones. That was in the 90s. My husband and I became part of the church around 6 years ago. It’s beautiful to see how much more at home everyone is in the liturgy even since we became members.

SO, WHAT ARE YOUR SUNDAY SERVICES LIKE?

Our church is quite traditional, using the 1928 Prayer Book (i.e. we all have to learn what “succor” and “vouchsafe” mean) and the new Reformed Episcopal Hymnal (which is inspired by the 1940 Hymnal). However, we probably look different than what someone would imagine when they hear that. We’re located in a depressed area in our city. Homeless people come in and out. We have a ministry to a group home, and our members from there faithfully attend and add so much to our service — sometimes, at the wrong times, but that’s part of it. We also have a ridiculous amount of young children for a small church and we’re committed to having them mostly in the service with us, though sometimes that makes things crazy. So, our liturgyprovides a welcome structure when people are coming in and out and all the littles are disgruntled. With all this, we maintain a very real sense of Christ’s presence among us, which is highlighted by the presence of the “least of these” in our pews.

HOW HAVE YOU INCORPORATED “ANGLICAN­NESS” INTO YOUR FAMILY LIFE?

It’s always changing. In terms of daily worship, we do the shorter form of morning prayer every day, after we sing our hymn of the month; then we try to do evening prayer at night and sing the Nunc Dimittis. This year, it was our first time really doing something for Michaelmas — I bought a dragon pinata from Amazon. We “slayed” the dragon, and processed around the house with his head, singing A Mighty Fortress is our God. My kids loved it, though my 2 year old keeps coming downstairs in the morning and reassuring herself that there is no dragon. Generally, I’m just trying to do what we have on the site, buy the children’s books, etc.

YOUR CHURCH IS A PART OF THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH. HOW DID REC COME TO BE?

Early in the 1870’s a substantial number of clergy sought to reform aspects of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Their efforts met with firm resistance resulting in a separation in 1873. One significant issue was a commitment to open communion with other Christian denominations. In our liturgy, we have this introduction to Holy Communion: “Our fellow Christians of other branches of Christ’s Church, and all who love our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in sincerity, are affectionately invited to the Lord’s Table.” I really appreciate this emphasis. One thing I love about Anglicanism is that I can still embrace all the very good things I received from growing up Baptist, and that we believe in sharing the Table with Christians from other traditions.

THIS INTEREST YOU HAVE IN LITURGY AND THE SAINTS, IS IT UNIQUELY “YOU” OR SOMETHING YOUR CHURCH AND DENOMINATION ARE INTERESTED IN ALSO?

Our church community definitely has a strong interest in liturgy and the saints. I’m so thankful. In the past 5 years, two of my friends that have also been part of the Homely Hours, established our Godly Play program for young children. It’s such a beautiful program– this past week, the kids learned about baptism by going through the actual service, standing in the places of the parents and godparents. We try to plan our church gatherings around feast days, etc. We have big house blessings when anyone moves. Starting the Homely Hours was much less about our individual families, but integrating church and home — bringing what is already happening at Christ the King into our personal and family devotions

Rachael Lopez is a writer exploring both ancient and future practices of discipleship and worship. Full versions of these interviews may be found at www.alivetradition.com
Summer smells. Sometimes, depending on where you are, it really stinks. The smell of a Christmas tree has strong connotations for me of late night worship, preparation for holidays, and a new year of opportunity coming up. Even the stench of rotting seaweed and dead fish has positive reminders of spiritual conversations with my grandfather as we spent hot summers on the beach. The best smells are the ones that indicate there is fresh life and a fresh start. I’m not sure what Essentials smells like for you when you open it, maybe a bit of a plastic and ink combination, but I hope the connotations you have is that there is something helpful and encouraging waiting for you inside as you read. This edition has a fresh new look and a trial of some new features so we’d love to hear your feedback on what works and what doesn’t work so well. It would be great to see our membership base grow and have an even larger readership so that gospel ministry stays strong in the Anglican church of Australia. EFAC can go places and support ministry in ways that other groups can’t so if you like Essentials then once you’ve finished reading this please find someone who’s not a subscriber and give it to them. If you’re in a position to make a donation or sponsor EFAC in an ongoing way then please give generously at efac.org.au. Inside we find out about some fascinating innovation happening in Tasmania to overcome some of the difficulties of small and remote locations. We also have some discussion around the impact and opportunity of church planting, we have an all new ideas page, and we get to know some Anglicans we have probably never heard of. And there’s more! We hope you enjoy this issue and may we continue to spread the pleasing aroma of the knowledge of Christ everywhere we go.

Watch out mega-churches, video sermons have a new frontier!
Essentials speaks with Joel Kettleton
about pioneering something new in a digital era.  Joel Kettleton and his wife Kristina

WHAT IS YOUR MINISTRY SETTING?

I’m the rector of the Anglican Parish of Sorell, Richmond & Tasman in the south-east of Tasmania. I’ve been here for eight years, initially as a curate then a locum and now the Senior Minister for the last five years. My context is a combined parish that has been joined together in some form for 130 years and we have a mixture of small congregations as well as larger ones. We meet in convict built buildings with small isolated congregations as well as a growing new church plant in a satellite suburb of Hobart. From top to bottom I have to cover 120 kilometres. A typical Sunday is that I’ll be at one service in the morning and one service in the afternoon but we have concurrent services happening in other places at the same time.

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THAT GENERATE?

There is a big challenge of having good preaching that is consistent at each service every week. We have people who are able to help run services but they are not able or willing to preach.

I have the challenge of juggling many things at the same time. None of the congregations are the same but each has a unique identity and rhythm to their worship life. This makes it hard to manage the whole parish and use our limited time well. The question we have to keep asking is how do we grow a healthy church in each place, whether it’s a congregation of 5 or 50. We really want to identify people’s gifts and mobilise them for ministry so that they are confident disciples. We want them to be sharing their faith and making disciples themselves. This is really difficult when there’s 5 and you don’t live in the area and you’re not even there each week.

WHY DID YOU EXPLORE USING VIDEOS FOR SERMONS?

I wanted to be able to multiply the delivery of messages. Having seen large churches like City on a Hill do this across large congregations made me think this made sense to do this in smaller remote congregations as well. In places where I could train people to run church services but I couldn’t train preachers I’d rather have our local content that we were working on together delivered by video than just buying sermons off the shelf. When you buy or use someone else’s videos it’s not personal so when we’re talking about pastoring and preaching to your congregation that’s a big problem. Many videos are made for another cultural context so it can be hard for people to connect, they are like “yes, we’re just watching a video”. But there’s a real pastoral connection when we can make videos and preach to our congregation when we’ve got their feedback, when we’ve incorporated their story into the content. When we use b-roll from their location, it makes them feel like they’re part of the sermon.

WHAT MADE YOU THINK YOU COULD DO IT?

I watched a lot of youtube! Even the simplicity and effectiveness of video calling supports this. If such a simple thing could be done in a way that it is presented well, the technology is there now to be able to do that easily. I made my own youtube channel making music and car related videos and this helped me learn about the equipment and the craft of basic videography and content creation. I then spent a lot of time learning how to produce videos and once I’d done that it was a simple thing to combine video creation with preaching.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?

I have a high threshold for failure. I didn’t know anything about lighting since I didn’t come from a photography background, so just used gear that I had. I learnt that it has to be short, no more than 10 mins unless it’s excellent and has different sections in it since our attention span on screen is very different to being in person. I learnt a lot about looking into the camera to engage with people, simple things that people who make videos know but takes some effort to turn it into a habit when you’re starting out. 

I wanted to include the words of scripture on the screen so I spent a lot of time listening to feedback about how it didn’t quite work out, it was either too short or too long. It was interesting to find out about how people listen and read in different ways. 

I wasn’t coached through any of this by an experienced content creator and if I had other people around me and been able to do a course this would have changed how quickly it was improved. However, it gave us a big opportunity to pastorally connect with the people I was making this for over the idea and work on it together. If they didn’t like the colour of the background they’d tell me, they said that it hurt their eyes. If they didn’t like the quality of the sound then I needed to change the sound setup and use a lapel mic. In a way, each of these failures was a win because we could collaborate on it and work together. In my context and especially with the tiny remote corners of the parish this was really important because they had never experienced anything digital like this before. They had only experienced a person and a prayer book so this was an enormous change. 

Not only did I have to learn how to produce the content at my end, I had to learn how to display the content at their end. I wasn’t streaming it because our areas don’t have internet connections. Their buildings are not set up with wiring and some only have a single power point. I started with DVDs but didn’t like the way the editing program produced the DVDs, it was just too difficult. So I kept it to mp4 files stored on a USB and sent to the location. It was a challenge getting physical USB before their sermon time on a Sunday and making sure it is all set up and ready to work. I would mail it to them or I’d get someone to pick it up on their way back into the country. Several times I had to drive it out myself which is worth the three hour return trip except when they forget to turn the power box on and it doesn’t end up working! Thankfully they are resilient congregations and they have leaders to take the initiative and make the most of the time.

DOES IT NEED A LOT OF TECH GEAR?

No! Initially I just had my laptop with the webcam, that was it. My mobile phone with a microphone input actually works well enough to record something wherever I am and doesn’t require me to carry loads of gear around. However, using a DSLR or two with a Zoom audio recorder increases the quality a lot. For editing I started on Windows Movie Maker and then shifted to Powerdirector when I needed to synch audio and do other more complicated things.

WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK THIS HAS HAD?

It has meant that I can help my congregations as a pastor and teacher and they don’t feel like they’ve been abandoned. They really appreciate the energy and time put into it and it has kept our pastoral bond between semi-regular visiting. 

It has also meant I’ve had to learn how to preach differently. I don’t have a teleprompter or something to read from so that has changed how I deliver the sermon and I’ve had to condense big sermons down into smaller versions. 

This also has seeded a whole bunch of ideas for content creation in rural churches. It has led us in our parish to think creatively about how we can use pre-recorded content in places where they don’t have access to preachers. Beyond this we have joined in a bigger project picked up by the Tasmanian diocese who have partnered with Bush Church Aid. There is now a much larger scale project to produce digital content that can be released across the rural parts of the diocese.

ANY OTHER THOUGHTS FOR THOSE CONSIDERING SOMETHING LIKE THIS?

It can be daunting starting out but like any new skill, if you repeat a thousand times it becomes second nature. We’ve found that our whole staff team have become a lot more confident making videos. We’re more natural and capable, we do better editing, and we’re much more comfortable in front of a camera and watching ourselves on screen. 

There is a danger with all this if we think every person should be doing video content all the time. It really is the context that needs to drive what you’re doing with video. If you want to take this on yourself, you need to have the creative knack or someone talented in your parish because the editing takes the longest. For me it was a way of presenting the gospel as well as I could in multiple places at the same time. If I was the pastor of a single congregation I wouldn’t have had that need, so don’t make video sermons unless you have a very good reason. Video is never as good as being in person, being physically present is always the ideal.

The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father
WESLEY HILL LEXHAM PRESS, 2019

The Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father, has to be one of the most well-known pieces of Christian scripture, read as it is in public occasions, openings of parliament, and throughout our media. Its familiarity has brought great benefit to many praying it, and comfort in times of trial. But how often do we reflect on its meaning? This new book from Wesley Hill is part of a series from Lexham Press on the Christian Essentials and seeks to explore the Lord’s Prayer for the seeker and saint alike. Dividing up the prayer into the basic clauses, Wesley reads and reflects on each in conversation with the long Christian tradition, highlighting how the prayer has been used in the past and reflecting on its significance for today. Wesley Hill’s reflections are well written and draw the reader into a conversation from Augustine and Barth to Thielicke and Williams, and a host of the faithful in between. These reflections aren’t just an academic exercise in information retrieval or knowledge building, but rather an engagement in robust Christian identity formation and discipleship. In the end one finds themselves praying the Prayer along with a community of the faithful as they work through the book. True to this direction the book is not merely a description of the Lord’s Prayer, but also how Hill himself prays the Lord’s Prayer. To this end a postscript is included that draws the reader into Wesley’s own devotional practice with the Prayer and the Prodigal Son in order to model a pattern of prayer for believers and sceptics alike. The book is beautifully produced by Lexham and contains several pieces of art that are themselves worthy of reflection. While I wish this book could be longer than 103 pages, the reflections in it will sustain faithful meditation for a long time. Indeed, as Wesley Hill closes: ‘To prayer the Our Father … with Jesus’ Father in view is to find yourself praying it in a way you hope never to stop.’ (101) I highly recommend this book.

// CHRIS PORTER, VIC

This review was originally published on Euangelion. Book provided for review by Lexham Press.

If you’re stuck in a rut and looking for ways to keep evangelical ministry fresh and engaged then look no further than some of these thought provoking options. User discretion recommended and please see your bishop if symptoms persist. Creative results may vary from person to person.

If you’ve got a good idea to share, send it through to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

PODCAST

With amazing titles like “Teddy Bears and Penalty Shootouts” and “Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad” you’re sure to come across a good sermon illustration or two. This podcast is full of cultural factoids to empower your lateral thinking.

DOGGOS FOR THE GOSPEL

Needing an excuse to meet new people and build relationships? Buy a dog and hang out at an off-lead park. It’s instant friendliness, a whole lot of regular time chatting and has the bonus of being good for your physical and mental health. The tricky part is getting to know the humans and not just the dogs... and the financial cost of a pet

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COFFEE IS KEY

Expectations are high these days for quality coffee but it’s not easy producing a fair amount of reliable brew, especially if you need something transportable like Inner West Church in Kensington, Melbourne. You can get the Brazen, a grinder and a pump pot for under $400 and it means no pods, low waste, and it’s set and forget so it doesn’t require any skill.

ARTS & LETTERS DAILY

Arts & Letters Daily is like drinking from a cultural and philosophical firehose. If you want to see how the rest of the world is being pushed in its thinking then this is the place to go. I’m sure this is where Paul sourced his Titus 1:12 quote from. It’s a website but you can also subscribe to a weekly email update.

The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Faith
BEN MYERS LEXHAM PRESS, 2018

I have long enjoyed expositions of the Apostles’ Creed, so when I saw Ben Myers’ book on the shortlist for the Australian Christian Book of the Year, I was keen to read it. The book in the Christian Essentials series comes as a nicely designed small format hardback.

In his 130 page treatment of the creed Myers connects the creed to its roots as a confession of faith on the lips of those being baptised. Myers favours quotations from patristic writers, and sees the creed as both a ‘summary of Christian teaching as well as a solemn pledge of allegiance’ (p. 5). Breaking down the creed into 22 gobbets, this book is a series of gentle, 3-5 page meditations on the words from ‘I’ to ‘Amen’. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Jesus’ conception and birth, and his interesting last chapter on the sense in which we say ‘Amen’ to the creed. But whatever new and arresting thoughts a reader might discover in its pages (and there are many), the one thing that I imagine would be sure to raise the eyebrows of many Essentials readers, should they take up this book, is Myers’ universalism.

Universal salvation is a recurring and growing theme of the book. It begins unobtrusively, for example in the chapter on Pilate: ‘The salvation of the world can be dated. Certain people were there when it happened.’ (p. 62) (not just ‘salvation’, or the salvation of the church or of God’s people, but of the world). Later, we read that ‘As Jesus rises, the whole of humanity rises with him’ (p. 82). The Holy Spirit ‘broods over each of Christ’s followers, renewing the human race one at a time and drawing all into a common family’ (p. 101). The church is a ‘representative microcosm of what God intends for the whole human family.’ (p. 105). Belief in the forgiveness of sins means that we believe that ‘if we should ever turn away from grace, if ever our hearts grow cold and we forget our Lord and become unfaithful to his way, he will not forget us. His faithfulness is deeper that our faithlessness. His yes is stronger than our no.’ (p. 116).

Evangelical readers will be unpersuaded that the suggestions of Isaac the Syrian, or Origen, can be our grounds for belief on these matters, and moreover, will be unpersuaded that the Apostles’ Creed teaches universalism. But the questions ‘Who will be saved?’ and ‘Will they be many?’ will press itself upon us always. Myers mixes it into his exposition without comment. Perhaps the best response is to read our Bibles with those questions in mind. Can there be weightier questions?

// BEN UNDERWOOD, WA

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