At my ordination, the bishop gave me the option of kneeling or laying prostrate while he prayed over me. Laying face-down in a worship service in front of hundreds of people? That might seem odd, but for me it was a no-brainer. As a Pentecostal, this was my assumed position for laying it all before Jesus. And as an Anglican pastor, I was ready to lay down my life.
Anglican and Pentecostal
My spiritual formation and upbringing were in charismatic Christianity. In 1994, my home church in Buffalo, New York, experienced a revival that saw weeks of daily services, healings and conversions, and (notably) people falling on the floor and laughing. It was in the same stream of 1994 revivals that swept not only the famed Toronto Blessing, but also Holy Trinity Brompton in the UK and the Brownsville revival in Pensacola the next year.
As a child, I tip-toed over rolling, jubilant bodies as children’s church let out, looking for my family’s belongings. Later, my own spiritual formation was rooted in a transformative year around age 19 when I pursued the realities of charismatic experience for myself.
After college, though, I left the region and found myself in an evangelical, church-planting Anglican church in Washington, DC.
As I wear my clerical collar these days, planting a new church back in Buffalo, people are often surprised to hear that my roots are in something entirely different. “How did that happen?” They expect a story about a falling-out or a rejection.
But I cannot give it to them. It’s much more complicated.
Same and Different
In a Pentecostal church service, people may shout or dance. There may be opportunities to give spontaneous additions to the service as the Holy Spirit directs. People jump and dance.
These elements are much less likely in an Anglican church.
Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of overlap. Both traditions emphasize physical gestures in worship: kneeling and genuflecting in the one, going down in the Spirit in the other. Prostration in both. Both see the worship experience as a central element in the service. Both have a spiritual appreciation for physical space.
For example, Pentecostals pray over the chairs before church services, or command demons out of rooms; Anglicans consecrate churches and make the sign of the cross over just about anything. I recently did a house blessing at my new home, and to be honest the whole thing would have made total sense in either Anglican or Pentecostal circles, as we anointed the door with oil, rebuked the devil, and prayed through the rooms.
But there are also differences. Not merely opposing beliefs, but areas where the other doth not stray.
First, the liturgy.
Pentecostals do have “liturgies” in the sense of expectations and order, but it was in Anglican churches that I learned spiritual rhythms to sustain my soul. For me, the identifying mark of charismatic spirituality is striving, and this left me exhausted until I began to understand the regular methods of soul formation inherent in the Prayer Book. I needed this.
Second, the sacraments.
The sacraments gave me an opportunity to receive God’s presence in a way that did not depend on my striving or spiritual ambition. The grace of the Eucharist has an objectivity that gives rest to my weary, sinful soul. Christ did this for me, not I for him.
Third, the submission.
I began to see that I alone (or I and my little group) am not the whole Church. I have responsibilities to generations of Christians past, with whom I join together in the company of the saints. The priests and bishops are part of a global network. They are not infallible and change does happen. But Anglicanism at its best fosters a biblical submission leading to the ultimate Christian posture: “Yes, Lord.”
Fourth, the holistic view of mission.
Anglicans understand that bodies and spirits are one, that Christians are formed in Christian communities, that souls are etched out over a lifetime – and that Christ’s redemptive work touches all of these things.
On the other hand, I don’t reject my Pentecostal roots. (Full disclosure: I still speak in tongues occasionally. (Fuller disclosure: I still feel uncertainties about it.))
In fact, there are many Anglicans I’d love to inject with a healthy dose of charismatic passion for the Lord. I’ve led many prayer gatherings in Anglican churches, and I believe that a healthy training and confidence in intercessory prayer would be powerful for our congregations. Our imaginations and love for the right words does not need to stop when we close the Prayer Book.
Can we merge them together?
I know there are charismatic Anglican churches out there, using both elements in the service. Personally, I think it would be a distraction from the typical Anglican flow. Anglicanism does not need to be everything for me. I have chosen to make my home in the spiritual rhythms, so that from there I can strive for God’s presence and kingdom more healthfully, more sustainably. I submit to the collects and responses so that extemporaneous prayers can be better formed in my spirit.
If you, like me, have been renewed in charismatic churches, I invite you to experience the Anglican tradition. What flavors of the gospel have you missed out on? Where have you been in danger of slipping off the rails, and need guidance?
Don’t ask how you could make this the perfect church by combining elements of all your favorite churches. Simply receive the grace of Jesus Christ and be transformed. Kneel. Make the sign of the cross. Receive the pastor’s blessing.
You may find yourself unusually at home.
Father Bryan Wandel is an Anglican priest, planting a new church in Buffalo, New York. Fr. Bryan returned his family back to Buffalo after a decade in Washington, DC, and they are spreading the gospel through liturgy and mission. He is also an accountant, and he organizes a public drinks & discussion series called The Nickel City Forum: Microbrews, Macroquestions.