TRAVERSE CITY, MI: Priest moves to town to start new AMiA church

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Wed Jan 14 22:16:39 EST 2009

TRAVERSE CITY, MI: Anglican Pageantry: Priest moves to town to start new AMiA church

By GRETCHEN MURRAY,Local Columnist
Traverse City Record-Eagle 

At a time when more and more churches are choosing to drop their denominational affiliations, one of the world's largest religious denominations is coming to Traverse City.

The Rev. Kurt Henle moved to Traverse City in October to establish All Saints Anglican Church. The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian grouping after the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Henle plans to begin holding services this month and has scheduled a public informational meeting at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 18 followed by a service of Evening Prayer at Church of the Living God, 1415 Birmley Road. The first services will meet in the church library.

Henle had a previous career as a biomedical research scientist and faculty member of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He's also been a church organist and choir director, but it's what he refers to as his "retread" career that is even more compelling.

Henle took an early retirement and entered the seminary to become an Anglican priest. He says it seemed a natural progression from his love of sacred music and the beauty of the Anglican liturgy.

After establishing two churches in the St. Louis area, Henle says he and his wife Jo-Ann moved to Traverse City to answer a prayer.

"We heard through a sister church in Petoskey that about seven people had been meeting in Traverse City since November 2007 to pray that God would provide something that would work here," he said.

Henle heard the call and knew he could help. He and Jo-Ann had just finished getting Holy Trinity Anglican Church off the ground in Webster Groves, Mo. In five years, the congregation, which had grown from three families to more than 100, was solvent and had purchased their own building. Knowing that they were in the good hands of the assistant priest, the Henles moved on.

"Church planting in the traditional style is very expensive, because you have to come up with salaries for several years. We use the shoestring budget approach," Henle said. "I have a retirement income from my secular career, and our needs are very small. Besides, God provides."

Henle hopes to fill a niche by offering worship built on the formality and pageantry of Anglican tradition -- something he says will be distinct, sanctified and different from daily experiences.

"Some of the studies seem to show that the folk masses and praise songs are something that the 1960s and '70s generations wanted. The younger generations are looking for something that's more transcendent -- that experience of holiness, something different from the music on the pop stations."

Worshippers will find a big difference between the Anglican service and today's casual worship environments. The Anglican Church that grew out of the Church of England during the 16th century Reformation uses "The Book of Common Prayer" that originally dates back to 1549. The music is influenced by the Elizabethan era when great composers wrote grand religious anthems for large Anglican choirs and powerful organs.

Henle says the new church plan has no connection with the Dec. 3, 2008, meeting of Anglican Communion leaders in Wheaton, Ill., in which four conservative American Anglican bishops broke away from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism. "This is not meant to be a protest or an adversarial type of relationship," he assured. "We're not the nemesis of the Episcopal Church."

Rather, the church plant is part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas project overseen by the Archbishops of South East Asia and Rwanda. "Our goal is to plant new missions and to reach the 130 million unchurched Americans," Henle said. The affiliation with the new Anglican Church in North America, will allow the mission ministry to progress with local oversight.

But how does he plan for the pomp and pageantry in the library of the Church of the Living God? Henle says that's where being a "jack of all trades" comes in handy. "With my background as an organist and with today's digital technologies, we can provide all the music in a small, mission setting. All we need is a laptop computer and an amplifier system."

Henle said he can play along with recorded hymns before the service, then provide the music and preach the sermon on Sundays.

"The goal is to offer a real, historic Anglican and biblical alternative to the available options here in the area, and there are many," he said. "We want to welcome individuals, be very relational and equipped to deal with the tough issues of faith, and at the same time, enjoy all the gifts of God in the liturgy and the music." 


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