I’m a part of a new church plant. Church of the Advent will be an Anglican congregation meeting and working within the city of Atlanta. Though the official “plant” date for the church will be later this year, I and the two other fellas’ who will humbly serve as pastors for the church kicked off our first prayer service last night, along with a small number that had gathered to worship with us. This was the first of what will be the Advent’s Thursday night vespers service, a service for the purpose of praying for Atlanta, for the future of the church’s mission, and for each other as people sharing that mission.
Thinking about this new church, I’m grasping for the appropriate terminology for exactly what a “new church” actually is. You could call it a new project – the initiation of fresh and specific tasks to be accomplished by the cooperative and submissive work of people guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit. It is that, but a project says more about it’s goal and less about the people working for it. It is the people, after all, that really make the church. And the people, united by a name (Christian), recognize a common Father, making them brothers and sisters. So the church is a new family, with all of the intimate responsibilities (and benefits) of supporting, encouraging, rebuking, and defending one another.
Is there really such a thing, however, as a new family? We know from family trees the connectedness of new little family units to the larger extended and historical family. A family will always carry the identity of the tree to which it belongs. So there is a sense in which a new church is new, and a sense in which it isn’t. There is a new “project” associated with a new church, but that project is the direction of growth of what’s essentially a budding branch of a larger family tree – of course – the larger Church in the world. The newness of mission and the connectedness of family are both essential elements to the identity of any church plant.
The Advent plans to be a launch point of God’s kingdom of love, justice, and truth into its surrounding area within Atlanta (a massive, confusing, and highly opposed task, I might add). We also desire to be a healthy family unit, conscious of our place on our family tree and drawing from its sustaining roots. We are just beginning this process as a tiny bud that we pray will become a strong branch. If you would like to join in praying for the Advent and its place/mission in Atlanta, please add us to your own prayers, but come and join us too as we start our Thursday vespers service. We are so blessed to be meeting at St. Paul’s Presbyterian/The Abbey at the corner of Ponce de Leon and Piedmont Ave in midtown on Thursdays at 7:30 pm (the 16th and 30th of April, then every Thursday beginning in May).