Heated Michigan Faith Celebrated by Dr. George L. Carey

Nov 07, 2002 03:00 AM EST

Lake Michigan ?Dr. George L.Carey celebrates the emergence of a vigorous faith community in the little town off the shore of Lake Michigan. Along with Bishop William Persell and Assistant Bishop Victor Scantlebury of the Diocese of Chicago, Carey helped consecrate the church building and furnishings of the diocese's newest mission: Nuestra Se?ra de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) in Waukegan, and welcome its members to the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Despite a raw wind and temperatures in the high 40s, over 300 people attended the outdoor liturgy, many of them from Nuestra Se?ra's partner parish, Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, and Christ Church, Waukegan where the Latino congregation worshipped for its first 10 years. Also on hand were diocesan staff and clergy from the local deanery. Waukegan's Mayor Richard Hyde, who arranged the staging, seating and sound system for the service, attended along with local Christian clergy and a dozen SWAT team members who maintained a tight security cordon around the event.

Carey offered some comfort to the wind-whipped crowd by thanking church members and visitors "for laying on some very good English weather here this afternoon. I am sure that this church is going to warm many hearts in the days ahead."

For members of Nuestra Se?ra, Carey's prediction comes true each Sunday when over 200 people fill the pews for the Spanish-language service. The turnout, a testimony to the pastoral gifts of Nuestra Se?ra's vicar, the Rev. Narciso Diaz, is a reminder of the need and opportunity for the church's outreach to Latinos, the fastest growing community in the Chicago metropolitan area. In Waukegan, the Hispanic community has more than doubled in the past 10 years--now standing at 40 percent of the 90,000 residents--and similar growth is occurring in other suburbs and Chicago neighborhoods.

This mission opportunity figured prominently in Scantlebury's sermon. The Anglican Communion, he noted, has always regarded itself as a missionary church. "We have always followed Christ's command to be a mission of love to the world," he said. "More than being on a mission, more than merely carrying out a mission, we are the mission."

Paying forward a favor

That principle has been taken to heart by members of Church of the Holy Spirit in neighboring upscale Lake Forest. For their centennial year celebration, parishioners realized they had a golden opportunity to pay forward the favor from a century ago when Trinity Episcopal Church in Highland Park started a mission church in Lake Forest that eventually grew to become the diocese's largest parish. Holy Spirit's rector, the Rev. George Councell, suggested a special fund to help purchase a former Lutheran church and daycare center in Waukegan that would become Nuestra Se?ra's permanent home.

With assistance from bishop and trustees--the real estate management agency of the diocese--Church of the Holy Spirit negotiated a lease-purchase of the five acre site on North Butrick Street, and in late May members of Nuestra Se?ra celebrated their first service in the cinder block building. The once stark space was transformed into an Anglican church using pews, altar vessels and linens, and the baptismal font from the former Christ Church, Harvard.

Facing a narrow window of opportunity--Carey would be in Lake Forest in just five months--Holy Spirit launched a spirited fund drive that by the end of the summer had netted over $700,000 for the purchase of the Waukegan property. Just a week before Carey's arrival, Holy Spirit completed the purchase.The team effort was noted by Carey in comments to reporters after the service. "It's a wonderful story, isn't it?" he said. "A wonderful story of cooperation and partnership in the church."

During his three-day visit to the diocese--his final visit as archbishop of Canterbury to an Anglican Communion province--Carey joined members of Church of the Holy Spirit in celebrating its centennial, preaching at both the Sunday morning Eucharist and a Choral Evensong.

In his sermon at Evensong, Carey urged the congregation to stay "rooted in the historic faith of the church." While this would seem self-evident to most Christians, he said, it has surprised him how often he has to stress this point in his travels. No longer is it liturgy or churchmanship that sparks divisions, but how we understand foundational beliefs like the Trinity, he said.

"For instance do we or do we not truly believe that God Revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Whether or not the Christian revelation is for everybody? Whether or not the Scriptures are the final revelation of God? Whether or not the same scriptures declare God's moral demands about how we should live and conduct ourselves?" said Carey.

What he has found in his ecumenical contacts lately has been the "wonderful discovery" of common understanding of foundational beliefs among Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics and Anglicans. But this is not to say that "Godly liberalism" should be ignored, he said. "Indeed, the Episcopal, the Anglican, tradition has always given a welcome to a Godly liberal middle church tradition that accepts the faith of the church," said Carey.

Where he has difficulty is with "radical liberalism that denies the truth the church has born witness to down the centuries." That approach, said Carey, is at odds with the broad church, and undermines the authority of Scripture, the source of our faith's foundational truths. "And we depart from them at our peril," he warned.

Carey also urged the congregation to be wary of succumbing to the prevailing culture. While the church must be rooted in the culture and common life, we must "never be controlled or shaped by it," he said. Instead, he noted, the Gospel "seeks to shape culture according to the norms and values of our faith." There may be times ahead, he added, "when the church will be an alternative culture, and an alternative community."

Carey’s concluded his speech with the philosophy that no matter how weak, “we are special in God’s sight.? Hopefully, the world could remember Carey when the time comes, as the inspiring man who waked the spies of the ordinary quieted society.

By Pauline J.