By Dolores Vargas
I was a first-time delegate at the 2019 Provincial Assembly. There were so many God-loving Anglicans, a sea of collars both young and old, both women and men. Excitement and anticipation around the release of the new Book of Common prayer was felt throughout the conference center. First stop for me was of course registration then beeline to the book store for my own copy. I saw delight on the faces of all as they were handed the first edition, the feel of the book cover, the feel of the pages on our hands. Many asked “could more be purchased, yes the volunteers answered”. My friend Beth Conkle bought seven to give as gifts. I also sensed an underlying sigh of relief, that in the ten years ACNA has been around, this priority project was complete; truly something that was done by the grace and strength of God and the wonderful people on the task force
The opening Eucharist was more beautiful than I have words to explain. The church building, the pipe organ, the nave in the shape of a cross, the wooden pews. When the Clergy began their procession I found myself holding my breath, when the pipe organ played along with the orchestra I felt the presence of the Lord. As we held up our new BCP’s to dedicate them there was an umbrella of red. Hearing a thousand voices singing, and reciting each section of the liturgy filled my heart with joy. It was so loud I couldn’t hear my own voice - the community of saints. I described the actual communion time to my husband like this . . . it was like a gear, people going this way, and people going that way. All were served both bread and cup. Tears in my eyes, joy in my heart to be in there.
Each of the Plenary’s allowed for a time of contemporary worship. What impressed me so much was that I was sitting in the proximity of priests, bishops, deacons and laity. No one was more important than the other. Sitting in front of me was a bishop from Rwanda, worshipping God right along side me. Each of the plenary initiatives and speakers were full of knowledge and hope with discipleship, formation and church planting as the focus. I took a lot of notes hoping to remember the wisdom they poured out on us.
The breakouts I attended were, Disciple Making through a Word and Sacramental World view with Bishop Stuart Ruch, Catechesis Masterclass with Fr. Lee Nelson and Empowering Woman in ministry with Bishop Clark. They were all so good, but my favorite was the masterclass. The simple message was of the importance of teaching our congregations the basics of Christianity through the To Be a Christian Catechism. Each of the speakers were open for questions and conversations. Their time was our time.
I met so many people that love the Lord. I got to know several people from my own San Joaquin Diocese. I met Tish Warren, author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and that was a highlight. I wished everyone from my own parish could have been there with me - to know that we are not alone, but that there is a bigger Anglican community, one that’s growing, made me so excited to be a part. All of these experiences also helped me renew my commitment to seek the Diaconate, with the Lord being my helper.
What I hope to take back to Saint Matthias and even other parishes in the San Joaquin diocese is that we, clergy and laity are the hands and feet of Christ. We must learn to treasure the word of God, we must all be discipled so we can do so to others. A way of implementing this love of the Word back into our people would be by the use of the Anglican Catechism. The masterclass gave a simple, doable way to teach it to both young and old; sing a hymn, look at an icon, and along with the catechism, the Bible and BCP, get to learning. This could be done in a “Sunday school” setting right before a main service. We also plan on using the new BCP more regularly in our services. Exciting!
I’m super thankful for the opportunity to attend this year’s conference, I’m thankful for the people I met and rubbed shoulder’s with at the Holy Grail Pub to talk about Catechist stuff, and I’m thankful for those who said they’d be praying for me. I look forward to the next time and am excited about what the Lord will continue to do in my life and ACNA. #theanglicanlife.