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Archive for the ‘Christian Education’ Category


Jesus-Prayer

It is June, and with the arrival of summer vacations comes the inevitable slew of “beach reading” recommendations. These range from the sublime to, well, the not-so-sublime. The selection runs the gamut from the political to the potboiler. But, I have another suggestion for your vacation edification that also begins with “p”-prayer, specifically, the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]” is one of the great treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy. This simple verse derived from Scripture has long been used by Christians in the East as a form of contemplative prayer. In recent decades, understanding and use of the Jesus Prayer has spread from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and into the lives and spirituality of many Western Christians.

Jesus PRayer
My good friends at St. Simeon’s Skete in Kentucky, true prayer warriors themselves, suggested two books on the prayer while they were visiting last fall, and then left behind their copy of the first of these, The Jesus Prayer-A Way to Contemplation by Bp. Simon Barrington-Ward, the retired bishop of Coventry. Bp. Simon received instruction in this form of prayer from Archimandrite Sophrony, one of the greatest of recent Orthodox teachers living in the West and his work on and with the prayer shines forth. Truly, this is one of those books you begin to read and discover that you have a true gem.

As an introduction, this engaging book is not bound up in the language of theology but is quite accessible to those who are new to the Jesus Prayer. I also found that it contains much of value for those of us who have practiced it for many years and are fairly familiar with the literature on it. Bishop Simon makes a compelling case that the Jesus Prayer, as a way to practice the presence of Christ, has a special role to play in the revival, reformation, and mission of the church.

Bp. Simon writes in style best described as simple elegance. It is clear that he knows the Bishop Barrington-Ward has written an excellent introduction and overview to the subject. His writing style is simple yet elegant. He knows the territory well and gives a useful overview of the history and literature of the Jesus Prayer, its various developments over the centuries, uses to which people have put it. His coming at the spirituality of the Eastern Church from a Western perspective is quite helpful, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with the spirituality of Orthodoxy and the Eastern Church.

JPTogether
In the second book, Praying the Jesus Together, Bp. Simon teams up with “Brother Ramon”, an Anglican Franciscan hermit. Friends for many years, they were stirred by a sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding them, and drew together for a shared week of prayer at Glasshampton Monastery in England. Praying the Jesus Prayer Together shares what they learned in an experience they describe as a week of glory-a week marked by Brother Ramon’s physical suffering from cancer. While Brother Ramon’s cancer would ultimately disrupt their collaboration, they discovered how profoundly the disease and attendant suffering enriched and enhanced their communion as they prayed the Jesus Prayer together.

Until reading this book, I had always regarded the Jesus Prayer as a somewhat solitary work. I had found it deeply personal, and something distinctive from the Rosary or breviary prayers in community. Yet, the book provides practical guidelines for how to practice the prayer, not only individually, but also corporately. The authors, bishop and monk, teach with great clarity and power. They ground that teaching in the Scriptures and adding insights and stories from the Western church and from around the world. In the end, they relate the Jesus Prayer to some of the most profound themes in the Christian faith, as well as some of the most essential patterns of Christian discipleship, particularly in community.

So, my advice is to let the latest breathless thriller or conspiracy theory wait until the fall. Instead of reading a book, take one or both of these books with you to the beach, the mountains or wherever you may be rusticating. Then, go ahead. Get out your prayer rope or beads, and pray a book this summer. You will be quite glad for doing so.

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Over the years, I have collected a great many books and pamphlets from the earliest phases of the Anglo-Catholic movement here and in Great Britain.  These were small enough to carry in a coat pocket and sufficiently inexpensive to entice even the most penurious.  One could read important, albeit brief, thoughts about the faith while commuting or even walking.  They needed no batteries to power them or wi-fi connection, but good reading glasses were necessary for some of the smaller typefaces.

The great tragedy, particularly with respect to teaching pamphlets and tracts, our apologetic began to gather dust on tract racks.  Eventually, these gems were relegated to a jumble in store room boxes, or worse, pitched out with the rubbish in favor of brightly colored adverts for cheery social justice themes, in-church raves, and providers of “wymyn’s health services”.

Perhaps the best of these cane from the great Anglo-Catholic Congresses and the spiritual and intellectual giants of the day-Darwell Stone, Francis Hall, and others.  In a few words, they gave a mind to the movement and provided precis if their larger and important works.  In the spirit of returning to our Anglo-Catholic “roots”, I have begun to scan and edit some of the surviving materials for a modern presentation. In the meantime, with the exception of some dated references, the documents still teach and exhort, so I will put them up here to get them out and circulating once again.

The first of these pamphlets is Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament by Darwell Stone, D.D., Principal of Pusey House, Oxford.  It was No. 28 in a series entitled “The Congress Books” edited by another great, Leonard Prestige for the Society of Ss. Peter and Paul, London. Published in 1923, it originally ran to 15 pages.  The price from a used bookseller was USD10.00 some 5 years ago, and worth every penny.  It is offered here for your use and dissemination.  Copies of the original in .pdf with the artwork are available from stirenaeus@hotmail.com, and we hope that paper versions will be republished in the spring.

Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament

The custom of reserving the Blessed Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was due in the first instance to the practical needs of the Church. And through all the later history of the practice the necessity of receiving grace and the gain by progress in spiritual life have been in view.

The solemn words of our Lord, ‘ Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves ‘ (St. John vi. 53) have been understood in the Church as at least including a reference to the Blessed Sacrament. In consequence one chief duty of the Church’s ministers has been to secure opportunities of Communion for all those who may rightly receive it, whether in health or in sickness, whether during life or at the point of death. The provision of the First Ecumenical Council that a wide and generous indulgence should secure for the departing Christian in all right cases the reception of the last and most necessary Viaticum is but one instance of what the Church has always felt.

In the first ages of the Church there were different groups of persons who, if they were to receive Communion, had to receive it in some other place than that in which the Sacrament was consecrated. There were the sick and dying; there were those who were kept away by necessary occupations; there were those who were in prison, who during the times of persecution included many whose only offence was that they were Christians. In the altered circumstances of Church life there have been at all times corresponding groups. The needs thus existing have been met in different ways.

One method of administering Communion to those absent from the place of consecration has been by carrying the Blessed Sacrament directly from the celebration. In the middle of the second century there is record that after the Communion at the celebration the Sacra­ment was carried to those who were not present. A like provision was made as one of two alternatives in the English Prayer Book of A.D. 1549 and in the Latin Book of the English Church in A.D. 1560. In the last few years this method of giving Communion to the sick has often been practised in the English Church, the Sacrament being taken sometimes immediately after the service, sometimes after a brief interval, during which it has been reserved in church.

A second method of meeting the need has been by continuous reservation. In the early Church individual Christians were allowed to keep the Sacrament in their own houses for their Communion daily or from time to time. Later this custom fell into disuse, probably partly through the cessation of persecution, partly because Communion became ordinarily less frequent, partly because, as the Church grew, it would be difficult to prevent abuses if such a custom continued. A somewhat dif­ferent method was that by which the Sacra­ment has been reserved in the house of the priest. Possibly this existed in some instances in the early Church. It has been frequent among Roman Catholics in Ireland because of the distance at which the priest often lives from his church and the consequent danger of sacrilege and risk of delay in giving Com­munion to the dying if the Sacrament were in the church. The Irish Roman Catholic bishops possess faculties from the Pope by which they are allowed to give leave to priests to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in their houses.

But the ordinary place of continuous reservation has been the church. There are instances of this from Africa in the fourth century and from Constantinople in the fifth. This has been the unbroken practice of the Eastern Church since the first centuries, of the whole West until the sixteenth century, of the Church of Rome since the sixteenth century. In the English Church this practice fell into disuse in the sixteenth century; it was re­vived by the Nonjurors in the eighteenth century; it is the traditional method of the Scottish Church, and during the continuance of the penal laws from A.D. 1746 to A.D. 1792 probably most Communions both of the whole and of the sick in Scotland were made from the Sacrament so reserved ; and during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century it has been restored in many English churches.

A third way of meeting the need has been by consecrating the Blessed Sacrament in a private place. Of this method there are some occasional instances in the early Church, all apparently for some special reason. Apart from particular circumstances it was dis­couraged, and in the fourth and following centuries was forbidden. It was one of the two alternatives allowed in the English Church in A.D. 1549 and A.D. 1560 it was the only plan mentioned in the Prayer Book of A.D. 1552 and the later English Prayer Books; and it became the ordinary method in the Church of England, with the result that what had been exceptional in the early Church became usual, and what had been usual became exceptional.

The foregoing brief summary of historical facts opens the way for considering the practical needs of the English Church at the present time. These are of different kinds.

The giving of the Communion to the sick and dying is an anxious concern to the parish priest. Communion can be given more fre­quently to many chronic invalids if the re­served Sacrament is available. For many of them, and perhaps for most of those seriously ill, there will be less physical strain and more spiritual profit if they receive the Sacrament without a celebration at the time. At any rate, in large parishes a serious attempt to give Communion to the dying in all right cases will involve reservation. If the circumstances of the great war emphasized the need of reserva­tion in military hospitals and at the front, they only brought to wider notice, and laid a greater stress on, what had long been well known to many parish priests.

Again, emergencies through sudden dan­gerous illness and through accident are frequent. In many or most of such emergencies a cele­bration is out of the question. If in them Communion is to be given, it must be from the reserved Sacrament, and, it may be added, from the reserved Sacrament not in some distant neighbourhood but close at hand.

Thirdly, there are classes of persons for whom Communion is difficult or impossible at the ordinary times of celebration in church. Two obvious instances are those of hospital nurses and people engaged in agricultural work. Probably few except priests with knowledge of country life have any idea how many of those whose work has to do with cattle and the land fail to communicate from year to year much more because they have not oppor­tunity than because they are alienated from the Church. The possibility of giving Com­munion from the reserved Sacrament in the church to those who cannot come at the times of celebrations removes a most serious diffi­culty in practical work.

In the circumstances of to-day the practical need for reservation may well be greater than at any earlier time. If some kinds of violence are less than they once were, the massing of population in great towns and a new preva­lence of accidents are among the causes which increase a need always great. Consequently, the principle which underlay the practice of the past has increased force now. This prin­ciple was that the priest should always be able to give Communion to those who ought to receive it. The regulation of the Excerpts of Egbert in the eighth or ninth century “that the presbyter have the Eucharist always ready for the sick, lest they die without Communion” is a representative instance which shows the mind of the Church in its care for souls. If the Church at the present time is to be no less careful for the spiritual needs of its members, provision must be made that the Sacrament be always at hand, lest either the whole or the sick be deprived of their due. The custody of the sacraments in his parish is given to the parish priest at his institution; and it is his duty to see that he does not fail in any right care for the souls committed to his charge.

The Blessed Sacrament then is to be reserved in the parish church. In the treatment of it, again, there is a principle of present value contained in the regulations of the past. The Sacrament thus reserved is no other than the Sacrament which is on the altar after the con­secration in the Mass. It is the body of the Lord; it is the presence of him who is our God as well as our Saviour. This sacred and divine presence may not be treated as a common thing. The honourable place, the locked taber­nacle, the beautiful pyx, the fair veil, which old English regulations required, simply gave effect to the truth that what is reserved is the body of Christ.

The custody of the Eucharist, being an integral part of the cure of souls, is shared by the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest. It is the duty of the parish priest to reserve the Sacrament in the parish church for the purpose of Communion as described above; and it is the right of the bishop to make regulations concerning the method of reser­vation, in order to ensure due security and reverence, and also to decide whether the Sacrament may be reserved in churches and chapels other than the parish church, or not.

There is a further consequence of the truth that the reserved Sacra­ment is the body of Christ. Wher­ever the Lord manifests his presence he makes a demand. The soul of the Christian can at all times and in all places worship the incarnate Lord in his heavenly glory on the throne of God, just as at all times and in all places there can be worship of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But the sacramental presence is a special manifestation of the Lord, and calls for a special response. Such a response is to be made by the worshippers at the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice; it is to be made also by any who draw near to the reserved Sacrament.

In all the gifts of God there is a claim made on the soul of man. But the work of God does not end when he asks for worship, for love, for surrender. In his care for mankind, he links together the soul’s response to him and the soul’s own good. The adoration in the Mass strengthens the soul against temptation and for duty, and helps to equip it for the service of God. The worship of the Lord in the reserved Sacrament aids thanksgiving for Communions already received, enriches pre­paration for Communions which are yet to come, strengthens the sense of the abiding presence of God throughout his universe and the lasting union of the incarnate Lord with the Christian soul, is a means to deeper peni­tence and firmer resolve, and a stay for con­stant prayer. It is one of the resting places in the Eucharistic life of the devout com­municant; and it has appealed with a singular force to some who from sin are finding their way back to God.

Prayer before the Sacrament might help the soul even if the Sacrament were only a symbol. Even so, it might recall the memory of Christ, as the crucifix recalls his death for us and a picture recalls the fact of his incarnation. But, when it is acknowledged that the Sacrament is not only a symbol but also the living pres­ence of the Lord himself, then there is a special claim on the soul’s allegiance and a special gift for the soul’s life. Prayer to the Lord in the reserved Sacrament has its own meaning for the servant of God.

The devout use of the reserved Sacrament is very prominent in the present practice of the Church of Rome, inheriting a long tradition of Western Christendom. To enter a Roman Catholic church for prayer is naturally associated with, though not wholly confined to, the incarnate Lord in his Sacrament.

In addition to the private prayers of indi­viduals, services of common worship are frequent among Roman Catholics. There are processions in which the Blessed Sacrament is carried as an act of faith and reparation, to elicit the adoration of the faithful and to seek the blessing of the Lord; there is exposition in which the Blessed Sacrament is shown to the people in the monstrance that they may worship and pray; there is benediction in which the people are blessed by the priest holding the monstrance containing the Sacra­ment. In part these forms of devotion follow practices current in the West during the Middle Ages; in part they are due to the Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The extent to which they are used differs considerably in different parts of the Roman Catholic Church; by some Roman Catholics they are but slightly valued, while from others they draw out great en­thusiasm and love.

n all ways the use of the reserved Sacra­ment in the East is very different from that in the Church of Rome. The Roman Catholic on entering a church naturally thinks first of the reserved Sacrament and the presence of the incarnate Lord. To the Eastern, although the Sacrament is reserved equally in his churches, the chief attraction is the eikon, the sacred

The last ninety years have seen a great transformation in the Church of England. The many changes which have taken place have had their centre in the Eucharist. The restoration by the Tractarians of a Eucharistic doctrine which was well-nigh lost led by a natural sequence to many changes in practice. Celebrations which had been infrequent became frequent. In many places where three times a year or once a month had formed a standard, one celebration or more daily have become the established custom. In many places the Mass, from being almost out of sight for the general congregation, has come to be acknowledged as the principal service. Where Communions were made by tens they are now made in great numbers. And step by step there has come to be a widespread recognition of the need for the reserved Sacrament and for its devotional use.

In accordance with English descent and associations the development in the use of the reserved Sacrament has naturally proceeded on Western lines. Not unnaturally, too, some in the Church of England whose Eucharistic doctrine is without suspicion, have felt the tradition of Eastern Christianity to afford a reason against the adoption in the Church of England of practices distinctively Western. It may well be that for some time to come not all who are agreed as to Eucharistic doctrine will be altogether agreed as to its results in practice. At any rate, there is room here for a wide and a wise toleration. The fatal mistake would be to mar spiritual life by wrong ways of controversy or to crush it by a wrong rigidity.

In every restoration of what has been wholly or partially lost there are dangers. There is the danger lest enthusiasm for what is regained may tend to obscure what has always been possessed. There is danger lest the balance and proportion in thought and worship and life be not rightly preserved. There is danger lest the very intensity of some movements of the soul may hamper or dwarf or make unreal other not less needed sides of life. No religious progress can be free from dangers such as these. It may not be expected that the stirring of life in the English Church can be without them. But the dangers are to be met, not by abandoning what is true and right but by seeing that it is in its proper place and that it has its proper complements.

A great responsibility rests on all who value the reserved Sacrament. If stress has been laid in this paper on reservation as the duty of the priest and on the devout use of the reserved Sacrament as the response of the Christian to the claim of our Lord, it is because the writer believes that these are among the aspects which ought to be emphasized. To the priest the custody of the Sacraments is a very solemn thing. To the lay people the approach to the reserved Sacrament is only less solemn than the approach to Communion and the offering of the sacrifice. As this solemnity is recognized, the reserved Sacrament may take its place in the whole sphere of Christian life. For it will be seen that the Christian life is a harmony in which the outward is supported and sustained by the inward, and the inward by the outward, and in which both outward and inward share the task of promoting the imitation of Christ.

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With the evening hours coming earlier and the darkness of the world that seems encroach at an ever-increasing degree, I thought a word or two about light, or lights in the church might be appropriate. Light is something that most people take granted. Absent the effects of a storm, we hardly give it a second thought. The need for light is fundamental, and there can be no life without light. Indeed images of light and darkness recur throughout the Bible.

In the beginning “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.” The very first action of God in creation was to say, “‘Let there be light’; and there was light and God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:2-3)

In the New Testament, light is a key image particularly in the Gospel according to St. John where he describes Our Lord as “the light.” Not the light created by God, but the Creator Himself! Our Lord, too, uses the image of light to teach His disciples, when He says that we should shine as lights exposed on hilltops, and not hide our faith under buckets.  So it is appropriate that light, or lights, forma a significant part of our liturgy in the Church in accordance with Holy Scripture.

Candles in Church

Let’s begin with the Pascal Candle which can be found in most churches, and it is easy to identify. It is likely to be taller and of greater circumference than  any other candle in the church, but it the only candle to be decorated either with a decal or by being painted. From Easter to Pentecost, or Whitsunday, it will be in a prominent position in the Sanctuary near the High Altar.

The Pascal Candle is named after the PASCH, the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. The candle is blessed at the Easter Vigil, and represents Christ the light of the world. The Easter Vigil includes the first Eucharist of Easter, and is a dramatic re- presentation of the mysteries of creation and redemption. It begins in total darkness, but ends in a flood of candle-lit glory!

Two of the Vigil ceremonies are of particular interest. First, immediately after lighting, the Pascal Candle is carried in procession through the darkened church. As the Pascal Candle approaches the Choir, the priests and congregation in turn light candles they are holding from the Pascal Candle, and, in turn, from each other. This is a powerful image of evangelism-the way in which we come to share in the living light of Christ, and also fulfill our commission to spread that light throughout the world.

Secondly, the Pascal Candle is taken in procession to the font, where, using the candle as a symbol of Christ, waters of Baptism are blessed as the candle is dipped three times into the font. This reminds us that in Baptism we enter into the tomb of death with Christ, only to rise again with Him, whose Resurrection we are about to celebrate.

After Pentecost the Pascal Candle is generally is set aside in the Baptistry for use during Baptism.  It will make another appearance in the Sanctuary from Christmas Vigil through the Epiphany.

Altar Candles and Processional Lights.

The number of candles used to decorate altars varies, but traditionally they are in combinations of two, four and six. A useful rule of thumb is that the more candles, the more important the altar is likely to be. Side, chapel and Lady Chapel altars normally have two, or sometimes four candles (two being lit for low mass, all four only being lit on high feast days). The High Altar would have anything up to six candles.  A seventh candle appears when a bishop is present.

The obvious symbolism is that the altar represents the throne of God, from which the light of Christ shines upon His gathered people. You may also find it helpful to meditate upon what the number and arrangement of the candles might suggest.

Candles carried in procession are a simple, but effective way of honoring both the cross which they accompany, and also the priest as he represents the person of Christ. Their use adds both dignity and color to the Church’s worship.

Baptism Candles

Many priests in the Anglican Catholic Church present a lighted candle to the newly baptized person or their God parents at a certain point during the rite.  The baptismal candle is lit from the Pascal Candle symbolizing that, through Holy Baptism, the newly baptized person shares in the life of the Risen Lord, represented by the Pascal Candle. The words which accompany the giving of the candle can also point out an important meaning: “Receive the light of Christ, that when the bridegroom cometh thou mayest go forth with all the Saints to meet Him … ”

Sanctus Light, or Presence Lamp

 This is a light that burns when there is any “reserved sacrament” near the altar in the Tabernacle, which is located in the center of the Altar at St. Alban’s.  The presence light is near to the Altar at the left or Gospel side. The presence light is extinguished on Good Friday after the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified as there is no reserved Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

 Prayer or Votive Candles

Many parishes have a stand for holding votive or prayer. If you do, or when you go into a church that does, one will usually be found near a statue/shrine of a Saint or near to the Reserved Sacrament. Lighting a candle in prayer is a powerful symbol, full of meanings.

Here are some “bright” ideas:

  • The lit candle reminds us of our Baptism, and the way that we share in the life of Christ by sharing in the life of the Church. When we depart from the place leaving the burning candle behind, we are reminded that our souls never leave the presence of God, in company with His Saints.
  • Prayer is not self-centered, it is God centered, and an important element is prayer for other people and causes. When lighting your candle, it is a good idea to light a candle for those others you want to pray for.

The candle is absolutely not a substitute for the prayer of your heart, but an accompaniment. It is a small offering which, in honoring a Saint and giving glory to God, speaks both from the heart and to the heart. Lighting votive candles in church, when asking the prayers of the Saints and thereby to the greater glory of God, is growing in popularity in the Anglican Catholic Church.

It is a devotional practice in which many millions of Christians the world over have found inspiration.

-with thanks to All Saints (ACC) Janesville, WI

 

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DIA liom a laighe,
Dia liom ag eirigh,
Dia liom anus gach rath soluis,
Is gun mi rath son as aonais,
Gun non rath as aonais.

Criosda liom a cadal,
Criosda liom a dusgadh,
Criosda liom a caithris,
Gach la agus oidhche,
Gach aon la is oidhche.

Dia liom a comhnadh
Domhnach liom a riaghladh,
Spiorad liom a treoradh,
Gu soir agus siorruidh,
Soir agus siorruidh, Amen.
Triath nan triath, Amen

GOD with me lying down,
God with me rising up,
God with me in each ray of light,
Nor I a ray of joy without Him,
Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
Every day and night,
Each day and night.

God with me protecting,
The Lord with me directing,
The Spirit with me strengthening,
For ever and for evermore,
Ever and evermore, Amen.
Chief of chiefs, Amen.

As we work up to our next session on Celtic Christianity, I thought I’s begin to post a few prayers and hymns from the Carmina Gadelica, a 19th century collection of poems, hymns and prayers from the Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Britain.  Many of these hearken back to the earliest days of Christianity in the British isles and show the keen sense of a God present and active in His world and in the lives of His people.

This perception of the active presence of Christ is wonderfully expressed in the hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which is also a wonderful expression of the Holy Trinity.

The two volumes are online in various places, but the text version in a real book is somehow more satisfying.

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What is Alpha?

Alpha gives everyone the opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly setting. The Alpha course usually meets once a week for 10 weeks, including a one-day or weekend getaway. Sessions begin with a meal, followed by a short talk and time to discuss what’s been taught.

During the discussion, everyone is welcome to contribute their opinions and no question is considered hostile or too simple. Questions might include—Is there a God? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

Most are evening courses, typically lasting 2 hours.

Who Is Alpha For?

Alpha is for anyone and people attend from all backgrounds, religions, and viewpoints. They come to investigate questions about the existence of God, the purpose of life, the afterlife, the claims of Jesus and more. Some people want to get beyond religion and find a relationship with God that really changes life. Others come for the close, long-lasting friendships that are built during the Alpha course.
Many who come have never been to church, others may have attended church occasionally but feel they have never really understood the basics of the Christian faith. Everyone is welcome.

How Much Will It Cost?

There is no charge for attending the Alpha course. Some courses might ask for a small contribution to help cover meal and weekend getaway costs.

What Happens At Alpha?

Each gathering will begin with a meal or refreshments – a chance to get to know others. Then there is a short talk which looks at a different aspect of the Christian faith each week. This is followed by a time of discussion in small groups, where everyone is welcome to contribute their opinion and ask questions. People usually stay in the same small groups for the duration of the course so they can get to know each other, continue discussions and deepen friendships. The emphasis is upon exploration and discovery in a relaxed and informal environment.
The talks each week will cover the following topics, which serve as a springboard for the small group discussions:

ArrowBlue Introduction Dinner: Is there more to life than this?
ArrowBlue Week 1: Who is Jesus?
ArrowBlue Week 2: Why did Jesus die?
ArrowBlue Week 3: How can we have faith?
ArrowBlue Week 4: Why and how do I pray?
ArrowBlue Week 5: Why and how should I read the Bible?
ArrowBlue Week 6:
How does God guide us?
ArrowBlue Week 7: How can I resist evil?
ArrowBlue Week 8: Why & how should we tell others?
ArrowBlue Week 9: Does God heal today?
ArrowBlue Week 10: What about the Church?
ArrowBlue Weekend Who is the Holy Spirit?
What does the Holy Spirit do?
How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?
How can I make the most of the rest of my life?

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On Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 4:00 p.m., St. Alban’s will host a presentation by Mark Dellinger, VA and WV area coordinator for Voice of the Martyrs.  Mark will be speaking about, and asking prayers for, our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.  Please invite as many as you can to this important and powerful program.

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organizationdedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States.

Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church. The Voice of the Martyrs continues in this mission around the world today through the following main purposes:

VOM’s ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3:

   Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Help

VOM helps Christians who are or have been, persecuted for their involvement in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They provide medical assistance, food, clothing, and other forms of aid.

Love

VOM supports Christians who are willing to invite their fellow men, even their persecutors, to Jesus Christ through faithful deeds of love in a hostile environment. They supply Bibles, literature, radios, and other evangelistic tools.

Encourage

They encourage persecuted Christians by giving their testimony a voice, informing Christians in the USA to know how to help. VOM believes that the lives and the testimony of persecuted Christians is a vital part of the fellowship of all believers and will challenge and strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere.

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The California State Assembly recently passed and Gov. Brown signed, SB 48, mandating homosexual-friendly instruction in all California public schools, K-12. The mandates the inclusion of the historical contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the state’s textbooks.  Starting as early as the 2013-2014 school year, the FAIR Education Act, sponsored by state Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat, requires the California Board of Education and local school districts to include the curriculum in their lesson plans.

The Associated Press on Friday reported that the Sacramento-based group Capitol Resources Institute has started the process for a statewide vote to overturn the law.

In the meantime, Catholic University of America recently announced that they would abolish co-ed dorms and move to all single sex dorms.  Apparently, the co-ed dorms were ont fostering an atmosphere that was in harmony with the moral standards adhhrered to by the Church.  In the wake of that decision, a DC attorney announced that he will sue them for sex segregation which he claims violates the DC Human Rights Law.

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