Fall Youth Retreat

14 Oct

Last weekend Briar Street hosted its first youth retreat in conjunction with youth from 3 other Hispanic Anglican churches in Chicagoland. The retreat’s theme was “Receiving the Love of the Father” and was a highly evangelistic retreat given that most of the kids are new to the church or not in church at all (yet). Below are some pictures.

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9 Sep

This past Sunday, almost exactly a year after moving in, we formally launched Briar Street Anglican Church and blessed Zach as a Catechist, or lay pastor, in a wonderful time of worship and celebration.

Fr. William and Anne Beasley were with us and Fr. William shared from Ephesians 4 on the gifts given to the Church and of the presence of Christ with the Church. A highlight for us all were several kids from our soccer team who joined us and actively participated throughout the service (and sermon!) singing, praying and raising their hands to ask questions.

Some of the questions (all great questions asked in a very serious manner) :
1) Is God always in back of us and invisible?
2) Why did they keep hitting Jesus?
3) What church is giving out the gifts?
4) Does God give Santa the presents?

It’s great to have an environment where everyone is actively participating together in worship and learning.

We are excited to see what God has in store for Briar Street Anglican Church.

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The church, a church

9 Aug


Briar Street

Sunday evening dinner has become Sunday evening dinner and Bible study.  For the past five weeks, our faithful group of about ten friends and neighbors has eaten together at our apartment and then read and discussed a chapter of the book of Mark.  After that we break up to pray for each other in small groups and then come back together for a final prayer.

We have been hoping that this group will grow into a regularly meeting church congregation.  Two weeks ago, we had a discussion about what a church is and what a church does.  I prepared to share several of the typical arguments and reasons why we can call ourselves a church even through our sanctuary is also our living room: Where ever two or three are gathered in my name; there I am with them; a church is a group of people not a building; we are already doing things a church does; etc.

To our surprise, however, our congregation needed no convincing to accept that we are a church.  In fact, one lady made the rest of the people go around and say why they liked “this church” better than other churches they had attended.  It probably isn’t healthy to go bashing other churches to promote our church, but the theme of what most people said is that they enjoy the informality and the personal interactions that more naturally arise over a bowl of chili than across the pew and across the coffee table than across the aisle.

So here we are: Briar Street Anglican church. Eleven months after moving into our apartment and praying for our neighborhood.

First Briar St. Bible Study

1 Aug

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True Submission

22 Jul

‘…the Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…’

-Isaiah 61:1

I have recently been reading ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard J. Foster. In the book Foster talks extensively about submission. He asserts that true submission is liberating and gives us the freedom to serve, value and take greater interest in other people. It allows us to love unconditionally, not relying on receiving anything in return to make ourselves feel worthy. It is obedience to Christ then, that sets us free. It is a wholehearted submission to his call of discipleship that opens the prison to those who are bound.

In the lead up to our first bible study at Briar Street I was somewhat nervous about what would happen. Not only was it to be our first explicitly Christian meeting, but ours was also a very unlikely group of people who would not be expected to ‘gel’ in any normal setting. The demographic goes a little like this: A middle aged Puerto Rican woman and her teenage Puerto Rican-Mexican niece and nephew, a middle-aged African American pentecostal woman, a single Mexican man who speaks no English, four white Americans and a token Brit. What striking diversity! Within the group there is also a wide range of brokeness, some of which is very painful and deep-rooted.

So it was in submission to Christ, not through much confidence in our ability to bring these people together, that I approached the evening. How freeing to be able to commit the bible study into God’s hands and not feel the pressure of having to live up to any level of expectation. We started with a meal, which is our normal Sunday night community activity, then moved on to some singing. I have never experienced anything quite like the worship on Sunday night. It was brought to life so brilliantly through the vibrance and energy of the participants that it was hard not to feel that God was present, evident in our joy. Songs finished with shouts of ‘Amen!’ and “Now that’s what I call praise and worship!’, a reaction that I have sadly never been exposed to in a ‘conventional’ church setting. For the study Jonathan simply took us through the first chapter of Mark, posing the two great questions of the book, ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘What does it mean to be a disciple?’. Input was high, and genuine, searching questions were asked about the passage that propelled us into useful and profound conversation about Jesus. This was followed by a period spent in small groups praying, a time that was filled with heartlfelt sharing of some serious issues. It was truly amazing to be able to pray for the healing power of Jesus in the lives of these people and trust that he is in the process of changing them.

As in Isaiah 61, Jesus is the one who proclaims ‘liberty to the captives’ and brings ‘good news to the poor’. Many of our friends at Briar Street are captives, and many of them are poor both spiritually and materially. However when we are able to submit to Jesus in the way that Foster talks about, knowing that through this we are best able to serve him, there is a release from from any spiritual shacklement that remains within us and a greater ability to partake in God’s saving work. Let us hope and pray that our friends will come to know the joy that is found in serving God through submission to him and his will, and the freedom that gives us to live and work to his praise and glory!

Posted by Nick Raven, British intern from the newly formed AMiE (Anglican Mission in England).

Briar St. Summer Update

15 Jul

By Mark

So, a lot has been happening here at Briar St. this summer.  As you read in our previous entry, our soccer camp went swimmingly and out of that we started a soccer team that practices on Wednesday evenings.  Little beknownst to us, our first soccer team practice turned out to also include our very first game.  One of the parents of one of our players had contacted a soccer team from Villa Park about playing us.  So with one week of practicing and playing together we embarked on our first match as a team.  We played well and took a 1-0 lead.  However, our lack of experience as a team maybe came into play as the other team scored a few goals near the end of the game to win 4-2.  All in all it was a good game and brought all kinds of people together and gave our team a sense of purpose for the future.

At our second soccer team practice, a Bible study in Spanish started to meet.  Jonathan floated the idea that while the kids do drills for the first part of the practice, the parents could study the Bible.  This seemed to met with interest, and for two weeks now, Jonathan and some of the parents have been studying the book of Mark.  As some of the parents have also expressed interest in improving their English, we are attempting to integrate our Spanish/English conversation club into the sidelines of the soccer team practice as well.

Another Bible study also started last week at our weekly Sunday dinner.  This one is in English, and we and some of our English-speaking friends are reading and learning the Bible together.

As you can see, the LORD is moving in our midst.  He is bringing people together.  He is providing all that we need to engage people.  And He is opening people’s hearts to His heart.  Thank you so much for your prayers on our behalf.  We very much appreciate them.

Briar St. Soccer Camp

29 Jun

As a soujourning Englishman I have been subject to a wide ambit of friendly interrogation, especially from the kids in our neighbourhood. This has ranged from ‘do you speak English?’ to the culturally inquisitive ‘is England cool?’. Needless to say all of them have been gratefully received, considered and answered to varying degrees of success. Yet by far the most frequent question that all of us, English or not, have been asked In the last few days is ‘will the soccer camp be running next week?’ Plainly this denotes some level of success, of which I would like to share in a few words.

Throughout the first day of the camp it was clear that the kids were fired up for it. They had full uniforms on by midday (6 hours before kick off) and were busy telling their friends, handing out flyers and generally doing a much better job of publicity than we ever could! It was amazing to see Edgar, Kevin and Brian (3 of our neighbours) running around the apartment complex with flyers in hand whilst Jonathan and I stood admiringly from the comfort of our living room. The eagerness and positivity of these boys represented a trend that would last the entire week. 6pm eventually came around, so with 6 coaches and a few painstakingly prepared soccer drills we set about trying to teach them a few things. Dave was on hand with a quite brutal warmup for our eager participants, and then it was on to drills, followed by 45 minutes of scrimmages. This would be the routine for the remainder of the week, not forgetting the all important drinks and snacks break which triggered some of the finest sprinting efforts I have ever seen. So to my mind the first day had been a success, however by the end of the week I was thankful to God that my idea of a successful event had changed.

Juan; mind in the game

Before the camp started I had in mind a healthy number of kids as the guage of its success, that was even my prayer. Of course I am thankful to God that sixteen came on the first day, and that the next day I was able to share this encouraging news with other people. A good turn out is great and it was a genuine reason for encouragment, however as the week continued I came to realise that what we are doing on Briar Street and the surrounding area is by no means a numbers game. The root of our mission is to love God and to love our neighbours. To base the benefit of the soccer camp on attaining high numbers of participants allows room for us to fall down in our love for God and neighbour. It causes us to accredit ourselves with a shallow accomplishment that neglects the building of relationships, the very things that create fertile ground for the mighty work of God.

With this in mind the greatest pleasure of the week came not from seeing a few more kids trickle in, but in sharing life with them and their families in a deeper way than before. Such was the sense of community created by the influx of families, camping chairs littered about the place and parents cheering on their kids that it was hard not to be struck by the inherent significance of relationship within the mission of God. You need only look to the relatively undocumented first thirty years of Jesus’ life, in which he must have lived simply in relationship with those around him, to see that sharing our lives with others forms a better foundation for the mission of God to be accomplished in those whom we have come to know and love.

Thus to return to the original, suspense filled question, we are indeed going to continue Greenhouse Soccer Training at Surrey Park, every Wednesday, 6-8pm. How exciting that we can return there to continue to know our friends better, experience missional community and best of all, watch the likes of Marco, Edgar and Juan express themselves on the soccer field in ways so individual that you can’t help but find joy in the richness of God-given diversity!

Posted by Nick Raven, British intern from the newly formed AMiE (Anglican Mission in England).

Briar Street Soccer Camp

27 Jun

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The Big Platoon

25 Jun

By Matt

Back in college, I belonged to a campus Christian group that gathered each week for Bible study, prayer, singing, and fellowship. One of my favorite memories from this time involves a girl, Meghan, who attended our meetings only sporadically. She was the sort of person who radiated joy and piety, but who often appeared understandably overwhelmed by the demands that accompany life at an academically rigorous place of learning. One week, Meghan meandered in as we were going around the room, taking prayer requests. Asked for her own requests as she sank into the nearest sofa, she smiled wearily and replied, in a tone mixing dreaminess and exhaustion, “The whole world, and everyone in it.”
            We all found this quite charmingly funny. The whole world, and everyone in it: Well, that pretty much covers everything! No need to go laboriously around the prayer circle each week, asking God’s blessing upon particular families, friends, and personal endeavors. Why not merge all our individual prayers into one comprehensive prayer for all humanity? Why not broaden our narrow horizons, and cast our concerns more widely?
            Meghan’s odd prayer request always comes to mind whenever I happen to notice a particular bumper sticker slogan whose popularity, best I can tell, is gaining momentum in evangelical circles, especially among the younger generations. I have in mind the slogan, “God Bless the Whole World,” or its close cousins, like “God Bless the Whole World—No Exceptions.” Perhaps you have driven past a car bearing this bumper sticker, and nodded in affirmation. Perhaps you have it plastered on your own car. Or perhaps you are just sympathetic to its message of broadminded benevolence. Please forgive me in advance, if you fit any of these descriptions, for I am going to offer a somewhat contrarian take on this phenomenon of asking God to bless, well, “the whole world, and everyone in it.”
            Quite plainly, “God Bless the Whole World” is meant as a rebuke to that mainstay of old-fashioned American patriotism, “God Bless America.” Why, it is wondered, should we ask God to shower blessings only upon our own country? Does this attitude not betray a callous indifference those parts of the globe enduring poverty, warfare, tyranny, and other forms of hardship? As Christians—as members of a church that transcends national, ethnic, class, and all other loyalties—surely we shouldn’t selfishly privilege our own welfare over the welfare of others. Surely we shouldn’t arrogantly presume that God wishes peace, prosperity, and justice for America alone.
            “God Bless America,” then, stands indicted for expressing a narrow loyalty to one’s own nation, rather than a universal loyalty to God’s global family. And a narrow loyalty to one’s own nation, it is said, can easily mutate into national idolatry, and encourage the excusing away of injustices committed at home and abroad.
            Certainly, national idolatry is no trifling matter. We Christians tend to be quite adamant about having no other gods than God. And if we are honest about the historical record, we will admit that a narrow nationalism, as distinct from a measured and introspective patriotism, can breed unseemly prejudices and acts of wickedness. Does this mean, then, that it’s time to retire “God Bless America”?
            I don’t believe so. To understand why, recall the prayer circle I mentioned earlier. Undoubtedly, though the passage of time has dimmed my memory, we entertained specific requests for ailing grandparents, stress-ridden friends, and many others who were weary and heavy-laden. Nobody in the group would have been offended by a specific prayer for an ailing grandparent, as opposed to a blanket prayer for all the ailing elderly people, everywhere. Nobody would have misconstrued concern for a particular person as an expression of callous indifference toward the rest of humanity. Had anyone seriously objected to this focus on familiar faces and places, and recommended praying solely for “the whole world, and everyone in it,” our reactions would have ranged from simple befuddlement to mild outrage.
            Nobody doubts that God welcomes prayers for objects of our affection—for our friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues—even though these affections are less than universal in scope. Why, then, should it be thought wrongheaded or arrogant to petition God on behalf of our nation?
            I would not go to the extreme of supposing that God does not desire the occasional prayer for the entire world. It is, after all, his magnificent creation, and he loves every square inch. For most of us, though, prayers for “the whole world, and everyone in it” cannot possibly be sincere and heartfelt. For “the world” is too much a bloodless abstraction to command our loyalty and affection. We do not think of ourselves, primarily, as belonging to some vague, all-encompassing blob of “humanity.” Our identities flow from distinct social contexts, from particular attachments and obligations. We are foremost mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, northerners and southerners, Christians and Muslims, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers—and yes, citizens of the United States of America. If “God Bless America” must fall into disfavor, then at least let it be replaced with sentiments befitting our profoundest loves and loyalties, like “God Bless Glen Ellyn,” or “God Bless Briar Street.” By contrast, “God Bless the Whole World” conjures up an airy feeling of universalized benevolence more appropriate to insipid, beauty-pageant sermonizing than to the prayers of actual human beings.
            The British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke spoke admiringly of life’s “little platoons,” those intimate settings—family, church, school, neighborhood, and local community—within which we learn to worship God, love others, and live virtuously. America, being a large, sprawling modern nation-state, is not exactly a little platoon. But it is the place where we live, and the place to whose flourishing we are rightly committed. And so long as we avoid idolatry, it is a proper, albeit secondary, object of our affection. As with other proper objects of our affection, we can ask God to bestow his blessings in good conscience.

This Week at Briar St.

20 Jun

By Jonathan

With the warmer weather and with kids out of school we are gearing up for increased ministry in the Briar Street neighborhood. Since moving in September of last year, we have slowly been building relationships and getting to know our neighbors simply as neighbors through weekly community dinners, barbecues, doing laundry in the laundry room, game nights and by being intentional in doing life in the neighborhood and being present. Through all this we have built some significant relationships with people of many different backgrounds. As a team we gather twice a week for prayer for the community and for our neighbors, seeing this as key ministry work. All this, building towards starting regular regular worship services possibly in the late summer.

This week we will be putting on a soccer camp in a nearby park for kids in the neighborhood, for both the apartments where we live (Irongate Apartments) as well as for the many homes and little apartment complexes that make up our larger neighborhood and which includes a large number of Indian/Pakistani immigrants.  

We appreciate your prayers for this soccer camp, for open doors of relationships and for the right timing to launch regular worship services. Thank you for your partnership in this adventure!