This is part 2 of a six part series filled with some of Liz's incomplete and gentle reminiscing about the start of Incarnation!
As 2018 launched we were honing our guiding principles and settled on these (they've been tweaked and simplified over the years, but the heart remains the same!):
Vision + Mission
A vibrant worshipping community in the Anglican tradition, faithfully reaching its neighbors with the love of Jesus. We will do this through:
Worship: Incarnation will be a place where people of all ages find or renew faith, perhaps for the first time. Every week, we will gather for Spirit-filled worship in the Anglican tradition. Our historical rootedness gives us a glimpse of transcendence in an area marked by transience and instability.
Welcome: We will establish a faithful presence in South Arlington, taking the time to listen, mourn, and laugh with our neighbors young and old, many of whom are vulnerable. We will share the gospel in the context of authentic friendships and acts of service, both in our neighborhoods and around the world.
Wonder: We will be a community of people who delight in growing closer to Jesus. We will cultivate lives of faith that remember God’s stories, enjoy his creation, and draw deeply on his refreshment. And we will follow Jesus’ pattern of learning and praying in small groups.
In January 2018, we started our first two home groups: we studied a book called The Art of Neighboring. This was so helpful as we learned about knowing and loving our neighbor! To start by listening. Learning. Being willing to serve. We joined the Arlington stream cleanup (until COVID this was becoming an annual tradition!).
Meanwhile, our core team meetings now included me, Amy, Morgan, Josie and Beth. Our servant team started microteams covering things like outreach, prayer, evangelism, kids, music… and fun! Each of these microteams was encouraged to pray and brainstorm and look at other models and begin to work out Incarnation’s way of being. It was so fun to have nearly everyone in our community wrestling with what kind of church we wanted to be in at least one area of our life! We also had a strategic plan, a budget, and partnerships growing with individuals and other churches and we were beginning to form community. This little church plant was on its way!
On June 3, we began to meet every week at 5pm for evening prayer at our home. Different members of our community shared in the ‘homily’ slot every week (many of those homilies, along with summer updates, are posted to our blog here). Once a month, we lingered for potluck and made materials for our Atrium under Josie’s watchful and enthusiastic eye. In June, Amy and I also attended the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem as part of Bishop John’s team — what a joyful privilege to worship and be with Anglicans from around the world. Meanwhile, Morgan was organising drop-in soccer games at the park, and constantly looking for ways to engage with our neighbors. At this point in Anglican-speak we were described as a ‘Mission Fellowship’.
And on September 9 (which happened to also be Poppie’s first birthday) we had our public launch: beginning to meet weekly at Greenbrier Baptist Church. What a delightful day that was (HUGE shout out of gratitude to Pastors Pam Chisholm and Artemia Tamayo for their grace and kindness as our first landlords!).
Over the next months….
We served! Meals at Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA), made connections with friends at L’Arche, supported Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), sorted food at Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). We encouraged everyone in our community to go through child safety training.
We prayed! We offered private, personal prayer at the end of every service (prayer at the back … ). In addition, we started a weekly ‘confidential prayer’ list with requests and the ways God has answered those prayers. We prayer walked our neighborhoods every month, usually followed by brunch in the neighborhood.
We sang! Right from the start, a unique feature of Incarnation has been the large number of musicians from many musical traditions who joined our community and were shepherded by Beth DeRiggi.
Beth adds: What our musical worship program had from the beginning was an embarrassment of riches. God sent so many musicians to worship together at Incarnation—flute and ukulele players, pianists, guitarists, bassists, djembe players, French horns and flugelhorns, vocalists, and no less than three cellists! There was an intention from the start to value high participation over perfectionism. God really blessed that endeavor by bringing vocalists and instrumentalists out of the woodwork who would otherwise not have felt “talented” enough to stand up and lead a congregation (including me!). But they blessed and were blessed in return by making musical worship seem accessible to all worshipers. We sang in the languages that represented our church and local community as well as those that reminded us of our partners throughout the global church. Some bold vocalists even put together a beautiful choir for special services, and the kids’ music from atrium was incorporated into the main service as a link between our youngest members and us grown-up worshipers.
We studied Scripture! Both together on Sundays and in our midweek small groups (we preached a series called "Walking with Jesus" through Mark, then started Acts). Our kids were being formed through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and regular worship in "big church" during our weekly Family Sundays and time spent in the children's nook at the back of the sanctuary (now a permanent feature of worship at Incarnation). We encouraged people to good habits of daily prayer using the Anglican daily office and other tools.
We engaged our neighborhoods! That fall, we gathered in our various neighborhoods for a weekly meal and invited our neighbors to our tables, a practice we called "Common Tables." We attended neighborhood events along the Pike, met local business owners and churches, and continued to listen and learn. During this time, we also began planning in earnest to run the Alpha course at Theatre on the Run starting in January 2019.
We had fun! As we continued to look outward and meet our neighbors, we also so enjoyed building community through Beth’s monthly ‘music jams’, July 4 picnicking (Beth wrote a beautiful reflection here!), various men's and women's gatherings, even an Incarnation trivia team that became a strong presence at New District Brewery (named ‘The Golden Shells’ for a common Anglican baptism implement—and the Golden Shells' WhatsApp group chat was the origin of what is now the Incarnation WhatsApp group chat. If you aren't on it and want to be, let us know!)
We grew! And then—a milestone in our formation—on Nov 7 we were voted to be a ‘Mission’ at our annual Diocesan Synod. This meant we'd met certain thresholds for attendance, governance, and financial sustainability; it was one step up from ‘Mission Fellowship’ and one step closer to being a ‘Congregation.’ That's when I became known as a Vicar (a Vicar leads a Mission; a Rector leads a Congregation...Anglicans and their words!) and we re-named our house ‘The Vicarage’.
We celebrated our first Christmas together! Our 2018 Advent sermon series was “Dreams and Angels” and so we prayed that many in our neighborhood would have dreams and see visions and come to know that Jesus was Lord of Arlington as well as the rest of the earth! We finished the year with a joint Christmas Eve service with Greenbrier Baptist Church — what a privilege to find good ministry partners along the journey.
Next time — 2019 — a year of steady growth! Meanwhile, do you have a favorite memory from 2018? PLEASE add it in the chat below!
In other news:
It's around two weeks until the start of Lent (Ash Wednesday, March 2). This is a good time to think about how you will mark this season. Traditionally, during a penitential time you may choose to give something up — perhaps to 'mortify the flesh', but for most of us it provides a daily reminder of the ways we indulge ourselves and what relinquishing can feel like. It reminds us to pay attention to our appetites, and to make sure that we are allowing God to be in charge of our bodies, minds and spirits. An alternative can be to take something up. Use a Lenten devotional, or take up a new spiritual discipline. It could be as simple as deciding to take a walk every day and pay attention to your surroundings and remember that all things beautiful come from the creative heart of God. Plan to do something. Be mindful. Pay attention.
Have you checked in on your neighbors recently? Perhaps you could take a moment to pray and ask God how you can serve them in these last days of winter.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture our congregation on a Sunday morning. Who came to mind - can you pray for them this week?
Always ready to pause for coffee or go for a walk, let me know if you want to chat!