From One Jesus Revolution to Another: An Anglican Journey

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The Faith Once Delivered to Me

I grew up in a church affiliated with Calvary Chapel, a denomination that directly originated from the Jesus Movement. The Jesus Movement was a revival that spread throughout the world during the sixties and seventies, and it had a particularly strong influence among the counter-cultural youth on the West Coast of the United States. Both my church’s senior pastor and associate pastor were former hippies who were radically transformed by the love of Jesus. My senior pastor lived in one of the communal homes affiliated with Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and personally knew Chuck Smith, the pastor played by Kelsey Grammer in the Jesus Revolution movie. He eventually left Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa to plant a church on the Central Coast of California, where he faithfully and humbly pastored for over forty years.

It was within this tradition that I first learned about the Bible and its Gospel story. My youth pastor, an ex-gangbanger delivered from a life of crime, taught me that the living God of the Bible calls all people to live in the freedom offered by Jesus. The gospel was not just a story of things that had happened but was the story of a present God actively working in the lives of ordinary people. I eventually embraced this gospel and decided to follow Jesus at a middle school winter camp in Shaver Lake, California.

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Discipled Into Faith

That same youth pastor personally invested in me and discipled me. Through his intentional and loving guidance, I became a leader in my youth group and started to lead musical worship and even preach occasionally. I wanted to pursue full-time ministry as a pastor, so I went to a private Christian university and majored in Biblical and Theological Studies to train for the pastorate.

I was confident of two things: I was going to be a pastor, and I was NOT going to go to seminary. At the time, I did not see the value of academic theological education. None of my pastors had gone to seminary or received formal training. They were godly, faithful men who loved me and knew their English bibles like the back of their hands. Even though I had always been a good student, I saw theological studies as a dusty academic discipline that I thought would harm my spiritual life rather than help it.

My time in college proved incredible, both personally and academically. I developed a love for learning in a way I didn’t know was permissible within the Christian faith. Discovering that the living faith handed to me in my youth had profound historical roots spanning hundreds and thousands of years from the time of the Apostles was eye-opening. Exploring the lives of church fathers and mothers who wholeheartedly loved Jesus and were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the Gospel left a lasting impact. The perception of theology shifted; it was no longer considered a dusty, irrelevant pursuit but rather an encounter with the living God“who is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The Biblical instruction I received in my youth expanded in ways I never could have imagined.

Doing Life in Faith

After I graduated college, I came to the humbling realization that I needed more training. Even though I had learned a lot, I felt convicted to continue my learning with the freedom I had available post-college. So, I left sunny California to attend seminary in cold New England.

Going to seminary was a difficult transition for me. I felt very lonely, and my experience in seminary was unlike my college experience. As I began prayerfully looking for a church, I started to look at local Anglican churches within the area. I’d been vaguely exposed to the Anglican tradition through a former theology professor from undergrad who was also an Anglican priest. I also had friends who converted to Anglicanism at college and attended this professor’s church. Although I did not at the time agree with some of the theological positions of Anglicanism (such as baby baptism), I appreciated the tradition’s overall grasp of theological orthodoxy and its connection to the historical roots of the faith.

A Quiet Faithfulness

As I attended what eventually became my church home, the quiet faithfulness of this congregation struck me. This congregation’s history held beauty and pain, incredible acts of God’s grace, and stories of tragic sorrow. But as I continued attending Sunday after Sunday, I observed how this congregation actively lived out the Gospel story. These New England men and women who believed in the faithfulness of a living God invited me to participate in their lives. The Sunday liturgy began to take on new meaning. I began to see how the story of the Gospel impacted every aspect of my life.

I was given a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and started practicing the Daily Office, particularly Morning Prayer. The Prayer Book gave me words to pray when I had no words. It surprised me to discover that the words of the Prayer Book are ultimately the words of scripture. As I practiced this ancient form of prayer, I began to see how each day is an opportunity to encounter God in the ordinary moments of life, not just in the “mountain-top” experiences.

My Anglican Faith

Although I come from a tradition very different from Anglicanism, I have come to see my Anglican identity less as a conversion and more as a natural progression. The living and active faith that Calvary Chapel taught me also reached me through the ordinary faithfulness of my Anglican parish and the prayers given to me through the BCP. My identity as an Anglican does not rebel against the faith my upbringing instilled in me; rather, it is the fruit of the Gospel seeds planted within me at a young age.

When I became confirmed as an Anglican, a friend from seminary gifted me with a key chain I still use today. On the key chain is a miniature of an African drum handmade in his home country of Uganda. As my friend handed me this little trinket, he told me: “This is to remind you that you are now part of something bigger than yourself.” My friend recognized that my identity as Anglican holds significance because it intertwines with the Gospel story—a story faithfully given to me by Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors who deeply loved me. The God I worshipped in Calvary Chapel is the same God I worship as an Anglican. The external forms of worship may be different, but the gospel story remains the same.

The Jesus Movement and Anglicanism

Discovering how God used the Jesus Movement to impact the Anglican Church deeply has become one of my recent joys. Books such as Nine O’Clock in the Morning by Dennis Bennet, Miracle at Darien by Bob Slosser, Living Life in the Spirit by Richard Hines, and The Watermelon Gospel by Bill Blomquist are filled with stories of God’s faithfulness and desire to renew his people. In a podcast episode with Vineyard USA, Todd Hunter describes his own experience within the Jesus Movement and his faith journey from Calvary Chapel to Vineyard and, finally, to the Anglican Church, where he is currently a bishop.

I sincerely appreciate these stories, not just because they remind me of my heritage. I love that they remind me of the God who has always worked in human history and continues to work even to this day. God is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I am grateful to have met this God in my youth through Calvary Chapel, and I am also grateful to continue my encounters with this God through Anglicanism. No tradition is perfect, and as I seek to follow Jesus as an Anglican, I pray that my eyes will be open to the ways that other traditions seek the same God I worship.


Photo by John Price on Unsplash.

Published on

January 26, 2024

Author

Russell Vick

Russell Vick is currently the curate at Incarnation Anglican Church in South Arlington, VA, where he is undergoing the discernment process for holy orders.

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