How To: Worship From Home

How to: Worship from home
A guide for those limited by COVID -19
By Avery Northwood

It’s Sunday! Time to put on a decent outfit or even business casual. Time to do makeup, prep the kids, consume a hasty breakfast, and hustle out the door for church!

Enter COVID 19.

Many of us are finding ourselves shut-ins, quarantined and handicapped by the Coronavirus pandemic. Cut off from churches, friends, pastors, and workplaces. Our routines have been surrendered or taken by force and we are left to pick up the pieces in all the areas of our daily lives.

In the context of church, many of us find ourselves watching a digital screen on a Sunday morning, whether we’re blessed enough to have a church capable of live streaming the service, or whether we are using this as a “God-given” opportunity to “virtual-visit” the church down the road. (Let’s be honest, you’ve considered it).

Christians of all denominations are being presented, many for the first time, a variety of options for how to “attend” online church. Will it be from bed or from the couch? Will I make pancakes or waffles while the preacher rambles? Will I wear slippers or socks? (maybe both)

So what does worship from home look like?

Step one: Consider what you do as acts of worship on a regular Sunday, and do them as you would. Do you dress up? Do that. Do you pray before the service starts? do it. Do you connect with your church friends? consider reaching out. Do you sing the most loud and the most proud in the service? Wake the neighbors!

That’s it, there are no other steps.

One blessing of Coronavirus is the golden chance to reflect on what you do in your routine and why you do it. Why do we sing? Why do we dress up? Why do we sit in one place for more than an hour? Here’s a hint, it’s not just for us or for others. It is or should be entirely meant to glorify and honor our Creator and Savior God.

We gather on Sundays for fellowship, prayer, teaching, and the Eucharist as in Acts 2:42. Continue to fellowship as you are able, continue to take part in the Eucharist as your church provides, continue to absorb the teaching and preaching of the church, and pray without ceasing.

JUST because you seem alone or are just with your family, doesn’t mean that the same living God isn’t listening and watching! Now, more than ever, you are being given a singular chance to determine what drives your worship. It can be either a devotion to our great God, or it can be some lesser, misguided devotion to earthly distractions.

I can only encourage you to find some new and creative way to expand your acts of worship. Dress nicer, sing louder, set up a space in your house to help you focus on the service, message friends to get their prayer requests, send in your tithe or offering, seek out the sacraments from your priest and church, and no matter what comes, continue to press in with your prayer. May you be made to look more and more like the image of Christ our Lord.

Praying To Saints?

From a Sunday Lesson on March 8, 2020
Bp. Rob began, “I want us to start looking at the lives of some of the Saints in the Church.”  Immediately those from a Protestant background may have some worries or concerns.  They think consulting the Saints in heaven may be “necromancy,” strictly forbidden in Scripture; or worry that it would be false worship or idolizing a spiritual being other than God.

Neither of these worry need concerning us, for they are not true.  “Praying to Saints” is not worshiping them, or trying to get them to speak into this world.  First of all, the saints of God who have died and are in heaven, are alive and not dead.  When we address them we are simply soliciting their help with spiritual battles, in our walk through this life, the same way we ask others here in the Church Militant to pray for us in times of trouble or need.

There are advantages in asking the victorious Church Triumphant to pray for us: they have time (both in the sense heaven’s “time” is different from this world and in the sense they are not encumbered by scratching a living from a ‘weedy’ garden!); And they are on the other side of the ‘veil’ of heaven, and thus are in human terms ‘closer to the Lord Jesus’ than we, who are on this side of the grave.  Hebrews 12:23, 24 addresses the scene in heaven as the “assembly of the firstborn… and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, with Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…”. They are literally closer to Jesus our Lord and Savior.  In addition, they have been through trials and tests in this world (whether they passed or failed).

After the listing of innumerable saints in Hebrews chapter 11, chapter 12 begins: Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) [1] Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The prayers of particular saints may help us in specific spiritual battles because of their experience (and victories) in similar struggles.  Bp. Rob volunteered that when he is battling evil spirits in a healing service (or exorcism) he often calls upon Elijah who battled Jezebel and her ‘necromancers’; and upon St. Benedict (a leading founder in western monasticism and reformer of the Church) who is known for his battles with Satan and demons.  Bp. Rob shared that the Blessed Virgin Mary is his favorite saint from which to request help.  She is the closest person to Jesus, as any mother would be to her child.  Bp. Rob solicits the prayers of St. Luke the physician when praying for the healing of others.

There was a precious piety lost when the ‘divorce’ between “Protesters” and the Roman Catholic Church took place in the 16th century. We are only recently beginning to recover these losses.

All this is not to say that saints are perfect people!  (Just read the history of Abraham the father of all those who have faith!).  But faith is our hope and assurance of things that are not visible, not “testable” in a ‘scientific’ sense.  The important point is that we do not confine our understanding of reality to that which we can see.  We’re brought up in and constantly bombarded by a hyper-rational world-view or philosophy of materialism.  Yet God is a Spirit and everything in the universe, visible and testable, are made by God having spoken them into existence.  Thus, all that we see, testifies to the Creator, no matter how often or loudly people chant ‘there is no god.’

Living in a world with a hyper-rational view of how everything works may make it harder to believe that just the “word” spoken over a valley of bones would bring life to them.  But it did.  Accounts in the Bible are NOT fables, but reality from the Author of our faith, the Creator of the universe.  If you cannot believe these miracles, then how can you confess that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead and is living now today?  (To which we attest each week in the Creed.  Be careful, God takes your words seriously.)

What is God saying in all this?  What is the lesson today?  We are all to seek a personal intimate relationship with God, the Creator.  Our physical bodies are important and will be redeemed and resurrected.  Don’t let God’s gift of rational thought limit your faith in what God can do; that which we cannot see.

A word from the writer:
I have tried to faithfully convey as accurately as I can Bishop Rob’s  communication. If something bothers you, or you disagree with what I have written, it may not be Bp. Rob’s teaching that is bothering you! Please understand I am sharing what I myself (Fr. Jeffrey Welch) have received from the Adult Sunday teaching and the experience I had that Sunday
-Father Jeffrey Welch

The Veil Removed Film

This film was made with the intention of using contemporary mediums to glorify God through the revealing of the supernatural realities of the Holy Eucharist. It beautifully depicts the priest in persona Christi (as christ’s representative) and the epiclesis (the calling down of the heavens). We believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We believe that we join with angels and the saints in singing the Sanctus (Holy Holy Holy). We believe that time does not separate us from sharing in the holy mystery of Christ and the last supper. We believe in the healing power of Christ’s body and blood and in the power of the word spoken.
So watch and enjoy and be sure to check out the project at www.theveilremoved.com

2019 Women’s Retreat Repost

“The fields are white unto harvest…”
John 4:35

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:37-38

The 2019 Diocesan Womens’ Retreat was themed around the mission of evangelism. Not natural evangelism, but rather supernatural evangelism. The mission given to us by Jesus to go and make disciples, is an impossible task. It is daunting, immense, limitless, and unapproachable without divine intervention. Even the most outgoing individual may find themselves making no headway. There has been more than one top-notch pastor asking themselves “Why don’t the people come flocking?” The ministry of evangelism requires a surgeon’s steady touch and an eagle’s longsighted vision.

The only hope we have of helping the sinner to navigate the obstacles to salvation, is to ask for the eagle eyes and the surgeon hands of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic evangelism is Spirit-led. He decides who we speak to and when we speak. Rather than bombarding the lost with ceaseless invitations and condemnations, we allow the Spirit to speak through us.
Three stream evangelism is fulfilled as we celebrate and inundate the evangelistic with the sacraments. Bringing the lost to the church and allowing the sacraments to flow in and through them. Confession, Eucharist, Baptism, the apostolic office, etc. all have a role to play in the renewing work of the Spirit and the saving work of Jesus Christ alive today and reigning forevermore.

The retreat was lead by the Bishop’s wife, Sarah and several other women from the Cathedral Church. Teaching, ministry, prayer, and praise were the unified practice of the ladies as they came away from their everyday lives to that most noble pursuit, namely seeking God.

God thoroughly blessed this retreat from start to finish. Where there was tension, He released peace, where there was trepidation, boldness, and when He spoke, many heard.  Below are several quotes from women who were blessed on retreat this year.

“Feeling I’m not alone in my struggles and that I can relate with those who’ve been walking with the Lord
way longer than me…gave me even more peace with where I’m at right now and that pressing in will
only strengthen my relationship with (God)!”

“The amount of love, acceptance, and support we all seem to have for one another even without
knowing everyone is absolutely wonderful.”

“Knowing a priest would be available for confession help set the tone up front for getting serious with the
Lord.”

The retreat will be held again in Fall 2020 November 19-21 at Sandy Cove Resort. If you would like to get information as the retreat approaches, please signup for email at www.riversmerge.org

Hagiography I

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true
This occasional series is an introduction to brothers & sisters
who have gone on before us.
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew
A few will be familiar.  Many more will be strangers.
Each has unique graces & perspectives.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
& one was a shepherdess on the green
They cheer us on as we run the Great Race.
I hope you come to love them.
They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

Mary of Egypt was a fifth-century desert ascetic.  She was a harlot beginning from age twelve, leaving her parents and journeying to Alexandria, where she lived completely in accordance with her passions for 17 years.  She sought out sexual relations with any and all available men—even those unwilling–refusing money and making her living by begging and spinning flax. She joined a group of pilgrims bound for Jerusalem, intentionally seducing the men as they traveled.  Once there everyone entered the sanctuary to celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, except for Mary, who was barred by an unseen force. Shaken, she came to repentance and after finally entering the church, fled into the desert.  

She lived alone, eating what she could find and enduring the open elements, for 17 years fighting her desires and passions before finally breaking through into the peace of God.  Thirty years later the priest Zosima came across her by accident while praying in the desert, seeing a naked thing but not knowing whether she was human or animal or demonic apparition.  With much reluctance and fear she recounted her life story, while manifesting graces such as words of knowledge about him and his life, walking across the Jordan river, and levitating in his presence during prayer.  God alone had known that within this drunken harlot had been hidden the greatest of desert Mothers.

What can we take away from all this?  First of all, Mary fought her flesh with savage fervor, undergoing an incredible purging as she battled her desires for food and wine and lewdness, going from darkness through darkness and misery through more misery until finally breaking forth into the peace of God, constantly praying to the Blessed Virgin for help.  While there was certainly demonic attack, she recognized that her battle was first and foremost against her passions.  

A second lesson for us was her strong reluctance to speak of her past sinfulness.  This was not an aversion to testifying to the mercy of God. She recognized her passions as restrained but not removed, and was terrified lest even speaking of them would bring them to life again.  We sometimes strive for years against besetting sins before one day finding God’s victory. Yet while those old holds are broken, wisdom demands that we always tread those areas with care. They are knives waiting in darkness, sharp and glistening, and we must always walk circumspectly lest we fall again.  An alcoholic is always in recovery. To forget that invites death.  

Finally, note her extreme humility.  She manifested such extraordinary graces as words of knowledge and prophecy, translocation, levitation during prayer, walking across the Jordan river, and surviving for many years with virtually no food or water in the most inhospitable conditions, yet all the while knowing her absolute dependence on the grace of God and relying on Him in a way that few of us will experience.  

Information has been gratefully taken from the following websites:  Orthodox Church of America; St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (there is a wonderful narrative here); CopticChurchNet; Mystogogy Resource Center; Glory to God for All Things; Orthowiki.

 

News From Kenya

A new church flourishes with a new tent! Bishop Chunge sends his thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fasting and Prayer Event at Esumeyia C.E.C. Church includes young and old alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are more videos of fasting and praise events, including a video of two birds that were causing continuous havoc and were killed through prayer. Bishop Chunge thanks the believers in Bel Air for a keyboard that is obviously used to great effect in worship.

Are You On Mission?

Bishop Rob Northwood July 7, 2019

Christians are a people on mission. The Christian mission is to make visible the Kingdom of God while reconciling men to God and one another. The Patriarch has called us this year to focus on Convergence Evangelism. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel (chapter 10) sends out His disciples on mission, two by two, into the cities and into places He Himself was about to go. Not unlike John the Baptist, they, as forerunners, would go ahead and stir up spiritual things where He wanted to work.

The harvest is great. (Luke 10:2) There is a literal world of people waiting to hear the gospel-  The Good News. The news that God has brought salvation and is forgiving and is not angry. To understand the concept of this great harvest, you might imagine that suddenly you alone were responsible to go out and manually harvest every crop in your entire county. You would begin to realize the amount of labor required to bale each bale and cut every stalk by hand. The tricky thing about a harvest is that you MUST bring it in when it’s ready. It’s not going to stand in the field forever.

Herein lies the problem- the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)  Jesus commands His people to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the harvest. He tells us to call for help. If we’re on mission, then we are all laborers. It’s His harvest. It’s His mission. He says, “Go your way, I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.” (10:3) This is a battle of unusual combatants. You don’t usually see wolves being confronted by lambs, but rather the other way around. This teaching begins to sound like a sendoff into enemy territory. Jesus’ message is that you don’t need to take money and provision, but rather, you must learn to trust God to lead you to the place you must go and trust that He will provide. If you go to a house and there’s peace there, stay there. You are a laborer and a laborer is worthy of his hire. We aren’t paid by men, but by God. It’s His harvest.

Christians are to go and proclaim this fact: the Kingdom of God is here! Whether those who hear receive it or not, the fact is, the Kingdom of God has come. Heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God is come. Healing is a big deal, especially if you’re the one that get’s healed. This said, in the kingdom, healing is not as big a deal as you would think. In His hometown, Jesus says He couldn’t do much, but “only heal a few people.” (Mark 6:5). He sees it as a minimal event. Why? Because what He wants to do is save you forever! Just because your headache or disease is gone, doesn’t mean you have eternal life.

The disciples return with joy saying, “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus obviously has a heart for these cities and the lost and tormented souls within, but even as they rejoice that the demons are subject and healing is abundant, He tells them that that’s not why they should rejoice. He is seeing the Kingdom from another vantage point. Similar to when he said to Nathaniel, “I saw you sitting under the fig tree before you ever came to me.” (John 1), He says here, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” He sees the reversal of the Garden’s curse. He sees the reversal of authority stolen in the fall. He gives them the authority to trample on serpents. The actions they take are immense because Satan himself is shaken as they plunder the strongman’s house. Yet again, he says that this isn’t the biggest thing. He is moved more by the salvation of the disciples and to those whom they proclaim the Good News. He says, “Never-the-less rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The work of the church is outside the church walls. The battle is outside the walls. First you must be sent, and then you must go. Part of evangelism is helping those bound up, to get free of what’s binding them up. Don’t worry about the people who think you’re crazy, worry about what you’re gonna do when they think you have the answer, when they believe you’re right. Something our Bishop Davidson frequently says is that you have to have a place to stand, to run. You need a base of operations, a church that you can be established in, from which to be sent out and to return. We aren’t guilty if we try and fail and we aren’t credited if all goes well. That’s the security that is provided being under the church’s authority.
Here’s what you can do to get on mission: pray for the mission of the church. We aren’t trying to build a bigger church. We are trying to depopulate Hell. A healthy church is a church that is depopulating hell, and a healthy church grows. If we are on mission we will grow and then plant another church and another church. So pray for this parish and her mission.

Give your time. The church will always have mouths to feed, toilets to clean, and floors to sweep. Don’t miss your calling by assuming that others will do the work without you. Get on mission. Give your time.

Learn to testify. Testify of what Jesus is doing and has done in your life. Testify about how He has set you free. We, as Christians, are called to grow, not just be planted, but to grow and keep growing. We must learn to know His voice. The sheep should know the voice of the Shepherd. The more you come to know His voice, the less likely the enemy will be to insert his own counterfeit.

Another thing we do is to share the gospel. To read it has power; To speak it has power and to digest it is most significant.

Are you on mission? One way you can determine this is to consider whether your decision to attend a church meeting is based on whether it personally benefits you. Are you avoiding Bible study Class because you don’t feel like you are going to benefit? A good person comes to the Healing Service to receive and be healed. A good Christian comes to the Healing Service to help others grow and to give of themselves. You should be determining your involvement based on your ability to give and build. Participate in the work of the church. When a person is going through hard times and they receive a meal or a card, that is a tangible sign of the love of God in their lives.

The harvest is ready. The workers are few. This is the mission. Are you on mission? Go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit!

Tithe – Giving God 10% of His Money

It has been said that worship is the act of giving value to something or someone. The gifts of your time, focus, and energy are a form of worship as they show the value of the receiver. When you fall madly in love, you give your thoughts, time, and energy to that person and in doing so, you place your value on them as you attempt to win their affection in return. We give a part of Sunday morning, a handful of prayers during the week, maybe a tentative mention of God in the workplace. What does God require of us in worship? How do we come back to a heart of worship and what would that look like if the Lord’s people returned their worship to God?

The tithe is a mere ten percent of your income. In fact “tithe” means ten percent. It is a biblical and ongoing principal, lately replaced by the fickle generosity or the faithful, or worse, the “tip” that you happened to have in your pocket and put in the plate on Sunday. God knows where mankind’s heart gets caught up and where mankind’s attentions fall. Tithe is a matter of the heart and God is jealous and wild. He doesn’t care to share first place in your heart.

The concept of tithing wasn’t established to burden God’s people, but rather to show humans and God that we are aware that He is the giver and we are grateful and humble. In Malachi 3, God  curses an entire nation and all in it for their “robbing of God” in withholding the tithes. In Judges, we are told again and again of the low and detestable state that God’s chosen people Israel fall into when they are not taught to tithe and every man does what is right in his eyes. There is untold bloodshed, death, idolatry, war, child sacrifice, sin, and immorality in that time. Why? Because if the order isn’t as prescribed by God, who is perfect in all His ways, then the blessing and glory of God will fail to fall.

God makes two promises about tithing. If you keep your tithe you will be cursed by God, or give it freely and joyfully and you will receive God’s blessing. In Malachi 3 God says, Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” This promise is personal and corporate. He curses all of Israel for not tithing and He offers to bless all of Israel if they will give their hearts.

Our nation is seeing bloodshed, death, idolatry, war, child sacrifice, sin, and immorality. Our churches have failed to teach the people of God to tithe and in turn, just as Israel in Judges, we have our hearts desire. We have it our way. Isn’t it ugly? In his book, The Tithes That Bind, Archbishop Randolph Adler declares “You get what you pay for”. He’s referencing the fact that as a “Christian” nation we have set up a massive government that we rely on for protection, medicine, law, order, shelter, social security, education, and transport. We now pay taxes of every kind imaginable, including on the land that we “own” and in return we get secularized education, destruction of moral values, devalued human life, wealth redistribution, and more.

The concept is that we have replaced God as our hope and our heart’s desire with an institution that we pay to replace God and His church in so many of the roles that should theirs. The church doesn’t even have the ability any more to fulfill her duties to society and the flock. For the sick, she has no hospitals, for the ignorant, she has no more schools, when disaster falls, the largest response should be hers, yet she can barely raise and send funds. Historically, the church is most often God’s hands and feet, and yet, we have split church from state and then God from church, saying that we shouldn’t pay the church with the money only God deserves, when after all, Christ is the head of the church and as her mediator and great high priest, it is to Him that we tithe.

God doesn’t promise blessings only, but a curse to those who do not tithe. What is crucial for you to see in this passage is that there is no neutral ground with God. Tithing brings a blessing; failure to tithe brings a curse. But we don’t really believe that, do we? … We tend to read God’s words this way:” If the reward for paying tithes is abundant blessing, then the conscience for withholding tithes is to pass up a blessing. God gives us only two choices and “not getting anything” isn’t one of them. (Adler 48)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s impossible to keep these commands if your heart and love are for yourself and if a mere ten percent can cripple you in the kingdom, then you haven’t made Christ king.

If you don’t tithe now, take immediate steps to build tithing into your financial practices. Take progressive steps or jump ahead, but do something intentional.

 

  1. Become a Planned Giver. Budget something out for God every month.
  2. Become a Priority Giver. Give the money before budgeting out the month.
  3. Become a Percentage Giver. This means come what may, you give a percent amount.
  4. Become a Progressive Giver. Up the percent until you reach the tithe: ten percent. Then keep going. Ten percent is just the minimum required by God.

If you’re incapable of moving immediately from an offering to a tithe (ten percent), start with the next step on the list and work toward the next after that.

A tithe is the first 10% of your Gross income. That means before taxes, bills, fees, child support, and social security, comes God. It can be so easy to add God to a list of demands on your income and bank account, and so you must remember, that it all comes from Him and this is your joyful response of gratitude to His generosity and grace.