Eyewitness Report from Wheaton, by M.B. Hwang
As you all know, the entire video is available on the Internet, so it would make little sense for me to describe the details of what actually happened when you can see it for yourselves. Rather, I'd like to write from a more personal (and biased) perspective. My guess is that most attendees found this an uplifting and liberating experience. People were saying afterwards, "That was an amazing service."
[The order of service may be found in pdf form here.]
For me, it was bittersweet. Anticipation - and watching it unfold - is a complex emotion. I am simultaneously amazed by the unity and dismayed by the difficulties in maintaining healthy diversity that still lie ahead, glad that a long-awaited future is taking shape and sad for the pain of the reality of divisions, relieved but also aware that our detractors are watching, appreciative of an obviously thoughtfully organized event bit also unmoved by the style of worship and approach to liturgy.
In short, I feel that this is a time for hope and endurance but not exultation or relaxation, so I suppose my greatest difficulty with the service was that it felt so insistently celebratory to me. I could tell right away that a lot of planning had gone into this service, because when we pulled into the parking lot, there were kind volunteers directing traffic. Bishops Ackerman and Iker made a nicely matching pair in the procession in. I had an advantageous aisle seat in a front row, near lots of clergy. (My teaching pastor was even able to give me a half-nudge of acknowledgment on the way past.) I was able to say hello to an old friend from InterVarsity; two faculty, one classmate, and one acquaintance from Nashotah; Ft. Worth's very own Dean Reed (in a tasteful cutwork surplice); and naturally, some familiar faces from All Souls'.
Even having grown up with evangelical style worship, I had some surprises. Bp. Duncan, for example, likes to say "God is good! "to which the correct response is "All the time!" (You're not allowed to laugh at my ignorance unless you know the response to "Our help is in the name of the Lord.") The most awkward part for me was the part where they blew a shofar and told us to shout. I am constitutionally incapable of shouting to the Lord in anything but anger despite having had a 5th grade teacher who insisted that it was scriptural, but I head some pretty vigorous sounds from many others. Perhaps I sound critical.
I'll admit it: I'm not convinced that the best use of praise music is at Eucharistic worship. However, those of us who prefer a more traditionally (western) catholic worship style need to remember that Wheaton is "Rez"-land. AMiA is big here. Charismatic is big here. There may have been stuff I wouldn't support, but no heresy, and since I believe that the formation of a second North American province would more or less benefit all Anglicans, I guess that means that tolerance and forbearance has to start tonight, even if it means getting a few songs stuck in your head or discovering that there is apparently such a thing as "non-alcoholic" wine. It's all too easy when one doesn't like somebody else's worship to forget that we used to put up with worse things.
To be fair, I probably stretched someone else's limits tonight as well. I went ahead and did as much of my usual bowing and scraping routine as I could, and I wouldn't be surprised if I turned out to be the only person who bowed through the Sanctus, knelt for the Anaphora and for Communion, and didn't give standing ovations. Nobody acted uncomfortable about it. Perhaps someone will go home thinking that it was prideful of me, and as a sinful creature I won't deny that somewhere in my heart, there's a part of me that likes to call attention to myself. But I want to show the utmost honor to our Lord the best I know how, I want others to feel free to do likewise, and I hope God will accept this and help me to live with the kind of humility that would seem to say that I did it not for my glory, but for His.
I didn't sign the Jerusalem Statement. I deeply wanted to, and had I been one of the bishops I probably would have done it for the sake of us all, but I strongly believe that the 1662 Prayer Book and the 39 Articles should be considered formative, but not "authoritative," for Anglicans. However, I want to be clear that the new Province has my full support. We're all going to have to be patient about things that mean a lot to us. I think more latitude would have been very wise in phrasing these particular statements, but hey, at least we're not compromising the Nicene Creed here. I mean if Bishop Ackerman can sign this without lying, there's gotta be hope.
Regarding Randall's question "Did you meet any bigwigs?" I have to reply: No, I did not meet too many bigwigs. I felt sorry for the poor bigwigs, who were immediately surrounded by crowds, and by the time the crowds had left, so had the bigwigs. So much for schmoozing and networking!
This event started at 7:30, and I had to take a 10:54 train back to Chicago. As I stepped into a cab on the way home, I had this telling little exchange with a friendly cab driver:
Driver: What's the secret behind that beautiful smile? You a naturally easygoing person? (This is the week before finals week, and I am a scrupulous worrywart.)
Me: Ha! Ha! Um, I mean ... actually ... I have clinical depression, haha.
Driver: Oh, well, so ...
Me: Actually, I spent the afternoon talking about God with a friend, and then there was this service...
Driver: So the service pleased you?
Me: Uh... actually, I didn't even like the service very much. But important stuff is happening in the Church...
I am Randall's best-friend-forever, a dual US and Taiwan (ROC) citizen, a Nashotah non-graduate, a second-year M. Div student at the University of Chicago, a member of the Church of the Ascension in Chicago (TEC), and an intern at All Souls' Anglican in Wheaton (Bolivia).