FINDING A HOME IN THE WESTERN RITE – Almoutran
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FINDING A HOME IN THE WESTERN RITE

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Again Magazine March 1993 Page 20-21

FINDING A HOME IN THE WESTERN RITE

From Denver to Antioch,

a 117-Year Journey

by Fr. John Charles Connely

Those of us who are of mature years remember that a “new world order” came to the Liturgical Churches of the West in 1969. In that year the historic Gregorian Liturgy was discarded by the Roman Church in favor of a Novus Ordo Missae or “new order of the Mass.”

The Episcopal and Lutheran Churches rushed to imitate the Roman example and issued their own ”new order” services. These services are light on vocabulary, ideas, images, musical notes, and proper names. Architecture, vesture, and decoration have also fallen away. The Novus Ordo Church is typically a sterile space relieved only by colored felt banners. Church exteriors are often equally uninspiring. While riding on the Amtrak “Zephyr” through Nebraska last month I heard a passenger say, “That sure is an ugly building,” to which another traveler responded, “It must be a Church.” A third asked, “Why do you say that?” and the second responded, “What else could it be?”

We know the Novus Ordo religion when we see it, when we hear it, when we see it done.

SHELTERS IN THE STORM

Many western Christians went along with the Novus Ordo process in their own Churches. Some dropped out, some changed to Protestant fundamentalism, or Zen, or existentialism; a few found Eastern Orthodoxy with its exotic richness of incense, icon, chant, and mystery. Others simply kept on worshiping the Holy Trinity in the language, liturgy, chant, and “orthodoxy” of their tradition.

There were parishes in which the Latin Mass sputtered on for a few months or even years. There were rare Anglican parishes in which the Collects, Lessons, and Offices of the Book of Common Prayer were heard at odd moments of the week (say, 8:00 on Sunday) even after the promulgation of the ‘79 prayer book. One of these was Saint James Parish in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Father Donald Lloyd, D.D., continued using the Book of Common Prayer, and I served as his curate. Upon Father Lloyd’s retirement from Saint James in April of 1984, I continued as Vicar and served the traditional Anglican Liturgy for another six months.

In November, 1984, the Episcopalian bishop, William C. Frey, sent me away to the little mission of Saint Andrew in Cripple Creek, Colorado. The two years of my “Siberian exile” in Cripple Creek (elevation 10,000 feet) were happy and spiritually rewarding. From there, in October 1986, I chose to serve the venerable Parish of Saint Mark in Denver, Colorado.

Saint Mark Parish was founded in 1875 by the Anglican missionary bishop John Spaulding, upon the work of Sister Hannah, S.S.J.E., who had gathered a “Holy Spirit mission” from the scattered families of Denver’s gold and silver miners in the 1860’s and ‘70’s. Sister Hannah was born in Boston on July 26, 1837. She continued her works of mercy in Denver and at Saint Mark’ s, and reposed in the Lord in 1917, the year Archbishop Tikhon was made Patriarch of Moscow.

THE AXE FALLS

Saint Mark’s had continued in the traditional Anglican liturgy for one hundred and nine years when the Episcopalian bishop of Denver, William Carl Frey, “dissolved” the parish on April 27, 1984. Frey’s reason for this extraordinary act was Saint Mark’s “failure to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church,” by which Frey meant the new world order of Novus Ordo Missae religion. In civil court the Frey Diocese won control of our church building, furnishings, endowments, books, and vestments. The building has since been converted to a commercial wedding chapel and rock concert hall.

The clergy, staff, and people of Saint Mark’s were expelled from their church building in August, 1987. Our Senior Warden, Mr. Lee Messex, built an altar rail, and I, by God’s grace, built an altar. Ruth Williams and the church women manufactured kneeling cushions, the choir made new robes, and various parishioners put up money for candle sticks, vestments, books, and even a fine set of English hand bells. Of all the Churches in Denver, Colorado, only one would ignore the powerful Episcopalian establishment and offer to rent space for Sunday Liturgy to Saint Mark’s. The North Presbyterian Church on Federal Boulevard became our home for the year 1987-1988. May our Lord forever bless Pastor Glen Thorp and the people of North Presbyterian Church for clothing our nakedness in that winter.

On the first Sunday of October, 1988, with choir, hand bells, harpsichord, and oboe, Saint Mark’s offered its first liturgy in its new church building on South Vine Street at Arkansas Avenue, Denver, Colorado. The sign proudly announced, ”All Services 1928 Book of Common Prayer,” by which we meant the old religion of the Christian West, and the traditional liturgy meant by that claim. Two years later, in August of 1990, Saint Augustine’s Parish in Denver was led by her Rector, Father John Mangles, into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese through the Western Rite Vicariate.

Beginning in October of 1990, Saint Mark’s Parish was instructed in holy Orthodoxy by Father Alexey Young. On October 6, 1991 by the permission of Metropolitan Philip, and the hands of His Grace, Bishop Antoun, I was ordained to the sacred priesthood. On October 13, 1991, Saint Mark’s Parish was received into the Holy Orthodox Church. Archpriest Father Paul Schneirla chrismated the faithful.

A NEW PARISH IN AN ANCIENT CHURCH

Today, Saint Mark’s Parish welcomes all Orthodox Christians to worship with the liturgy and music of the traditional Western Rite, known to us as the Prayer Book Service and to the Orthodox world as the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon. Saint Tikhon is revered in Orthodoxy as the Enlightener of America. He is one of the first American saints, having served as Archbishop of all the Orthodox on this continent for over a decade. He established his cathedral in New York City, and presided over a vast Archdiocese, encouraging and authorizing many publications in the English language.

Among these, he encouraged the translation of the Eastern liturgy into English by Isabel Florence Hapgood; he wrote an extensive catechism based on the Nicene Creed and the Our Father, and, for the Western Rite, he established the corrected and authorized version of the American Book of Common Prayer for Orthodox worship. As the storm clouds of war and revolution gathered about the Church in Russia, Archbishop Tikhon was recalled to Moscow and during World War I he was elevated to the highest office of the Orthodox Church. He served as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia from 1917, and there he stood with the Church during the darkest hours of Communist oppression.

Before he died at the hands of the Bolsheviks in 1925, Tikhon had vigorously defended the Faith against the communists’ attack. Finally, in one of the last of his letters smuggled out of Russia, Tikhon warned the Church in the Diaspora to follow no directions from Moscow until the Church in Russia would again be free.

We are free today to worship with the finest form of the English Liturgy, as we choose to do, because of Bishop Tikhon and the courageous men and women who have defended the Faith in this country against spiritual wickedness in high places. We are the continuation of the mission of Saint Tikhon, the Enlightener of America, who ninety years ago saw the merit ,and the need, to authorize and adopt the American Prayer Book Liturgy for the Orthodox Mission in North America.

Who could have foreseen, in 1900, what would become of the Western Churches by the end of the twentieth century? Could Bishop Spaulding, the missionary bishop of the Colorado Territory, and our founding Rector in 1875, have foreseen what the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church would do to Saint Mark’s Parish, or for that matter to the whole Church, in the 1980’s and 1990’s? I doubt that he, or Sister Hannah, would have believed the scope of the disaster that has come upon the work they began with such faith and hope.

On the other hand, they might not be too surprised that Saint Mark’s Parish has survived and built again upon the Rock that alone can withstand the wind and the waves. We at Saint Mark’s are not the mere followers of an ideology or an “ism”—not even “Anglicanism” or “traditionalism.” We are not the members of a movement or a protest, nor are we a lobby trying to gain acceptance in the eyes of some power structure. We have been delivered from those pointless endeavors. By God’s grace, we have been restored to Holy Orthodoxy where we are simply Catholic Christians in the most ancient and original sense.

Here we live the Faith confessed in the Creed. Without apology we read the Scriptures and the writings of the saints. We hold to the same Tradition, the same priesthood, the same sacraments, and we live and move and have our being in the same God, as members of the same mystical Body of Christ, as the Orthodox saints and believers of every century. Under the authority and protection of Metropolitan Philip, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, with Patriarch Ignatius and the Holy Synod of Antioch, we are of the universal Communion of the Orthodox Church. Antioch is among the most missionary and vigorous of the jurisdictions, with a majority of American born and convert clergy in our North American Archdiocese.

AN OPEN INVITATION

Thousands of new Orthodox have come into the Church in recent years. Many are former Episcopalians who have formed new missions and parishes. Some of these are Western Rite, such as Saint Mark’s and Saint Augustine’s in Denver, and Holy Apostles’ in Fort Worth, Saint Gregory’s in Dallas, Saint Vincent’s in Omaha, Saint Michael’s in Whittier, Holy Cross in Concord, California, and Saint Michael’s in Eustis, Florida. Some are Eastern Rite, such as Saint Luke’s in Boulder, and Saint Nicholas’ in Milwaukee. I have found that the people and clergy are happy in either of the authorized liturgical forms because of the spiritual reality of the Church.

To all those who have come to Holy Orthodoxy, and all whom our Lord Jesus Christ calls to the unity of His Church, through the loving work of the bishops, clergy, and laity, we join with our own Metropolitan Philip in saying, “Welcome home, and may your hearts find rest in the love of our blessed Lord and in the fellowship of His saints.”

Fr. John Charles Connely is the Rector of Saint Mark’s Orthodox Parish in Denver, Colorado, and the Dean of the Central States Deanery of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.