How can low-church Christians find a home in the ordinariates?

At Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa, the air is blue with incense on Sundays and feast days.  Though we don’t have a choir and our building is small and humble, our liturgical sensibility would strike most as high church, with smells and bells and genuflections.
Interestingly, though, both our priests come from more low church backgrounds prior to becoming Catholic.   One grew up in a Pentecostal home before finding his way into Anglicanism; the other was on the evangelical end of the Anglican Church of Canada.  A substantial portion of our congregation comes from evangelical or charismatic Protestant backgrounds.
So what is it that drew those of us from evangelical and charismatic backgrounds to a place where the liturgy is traditional and high church?
I myself occasionally attended Episcopalian Sunday School as a child, and my father sang in the choir of the Church of the Advent in the Boston area, a nose-bleed Anglo-Catholic church at the time, with a big music endowment.  I think it’s gone the way of many other Anglo-Catholic parishes and retained the ritual but chucked the catholic doctrine and maybe even become an “affirming parish.”   But my adult formation as I journeyed back to the faith, was as an evangelical in a very minimalist liturgical setting as a Baptist.
I bring this up, because a while back on one of the Facebook forums devoted to discussions of Anglican patrimony in the ordinariates, someone asked:
Question for converts from “low-church” traditions that are now in the ordinariate:  What drew you to the ordinariate?  What is the secret sauce that makes a former Protestant with a low-church background become an ordinariate Catholic?
What is the secret sauce?  That’s a huge question as we in the ordinariates seek to evangelize and encourage others to make the journey across the Tiber we made.
I particularly loved this response from Andrea Erdman:

Andrea Erdman Well, there’s a question! I was brought up in a nominally Christian, mostly secular liberal family. I found faith at age 16 when I was leading a broken life and I found beauty, welcome and peace attending a Disciples of Christ church in Missouri. To be honest, the people demonstrated the love of God in everything they did, and I fell in love with Him.

Fast forward to college, I met someone else who loved God, too, who felt called to the Episcopal priesthood, and we got married. I was inspired by their sense of open hearted love and commitment to serving others in the image of God. As time went on, the more I learned about the church fathers, the early church, and the beauty of the Church (art, buildings, language), I became attracted to a faith that focused on how I could prepare my soul to meet God. I found same sex marriage to be inconsistent with His creation (no matter how hard I tried to reconcile it). I realized that performance of social justice must be guided by Truth. God must instruct us how to reach out to others in love, or else the people we love are led to a path of misery and hopelessness.

By this time, I was more than halfway there. God’s grace had been guiding me all along. I read Pope Benedict’s Call to Communion and realized that the papacy, Petrine primacy was biblical, and I had to reassess every other belief holding me back from Catholicism.

So, in answer to your question: why Ordinariate? Every person I know in the Ordinariate is passionate about God, has strong, intelligent spiritual formation and loving fellowship. We support each other in leading the Catholic life which is so foreign to newbies like me (which is absolutely necessary for me to give up birth control (!!!)) They are loving and reverent without sacrificing Truth.

Having been a social worker, I know the importance of social service. As a new parish/diocese, those programs aren’t available yet. That’s okay. I can help make that happen. Programs don’t make a church. Saints do.

So, here is my short answer to your question. Become Saints. God will do the rest.

Holiness attracts.  When I came to  Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary around 2000, the congregation was small, seemed dominated by octogenarians, the building was tiny and most humble.  But the worship was so beautiful, so much an experience of heaven coming down to earth, because the bishop—Bishop Robert Mercer, and the rector, Fr. Carl Reid, believed to profoundly in Christ’s Real Presence.  There was also fellowship at Annunciation—after Mass and on Saturdays breakfast after Mass, where you could sit near the priest or bishop and ask all the questions you want.  Now that we’re Catholic, we still have this kind of fellowship, though Bishop Mercer is  now Msgr. Mercer and retired in England, and Fr. Carl has gone on to be Ordinary in Australia.  And the fellowship is real, like a family, where even occasionally difficult people, those hard to love, are welcomed to be at home.

When I came to Annunciation, I had already had a love of the traditional language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and a preference for the style of hymns.  I was also looking for an Apostolic faith, and finding that intuitively, my faith was growing more sacramental.   So, as I have often said, I see my little ordinariate parish as a “Finder’s Church,” rather than a “Seeker’s Church,” because I am finally home and comfortable in my surroundings, and have not had to give up anything good that I picked up along the way in my seeking.

Tomorrow, I will post a lengthy response to this question of the “secret sauce” by Peter Jesserer Smith of the St. Alban’s Fellowship in Rochester, New York.


1 thought on “How can low-church Christians find a home in the ordinariates?

  1. Pingback: More on attracting “low church” folks | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

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