Dr. Bill Atwood

Moving onward

My mother’s favorite hymn was Onward Christian Soldiers and we sang it at her funeral here in our little mountain Christ Church - Anglican. It had very special meaning for her and now it always reminds me of her.

This coming Sunday will be our final Sunday service in that little church on Highway 41. We are moving out of the building that we erected 32 years ago. Back then, faithful members put up the money to pay for it in cash. They also joined in many work details to paint, scrape, nail, roof, pull wire, install lights, and other assorted jobs to keep the costs down as the structure went up.

In March of 1984 we dedicated the building as Bishop Victor Rivera stood with his crosier and knocked on the door to open the church in the name of the Lord. We prayed, we sang, we cried for joy as the building was consecrated to the Lord. Over the years, new members came to maintain the building and to make improvements. Looking out from the sanctuary of this hillside church, you feel like you’re in God’s tree house.

Many have come and gone since that first Sunday. Because of our location just north of Sky Ranch Road, Yosemite-bound tourists would drop in on their way to the park. We welcomed them into our worship services. Newcomers to this area seeking Anglican worship have joined us for weekly services along with others who were just “church shopping” looking for that right fit. The same pattern occurs in every church in our area.

We’ve celebrated baptisms, weddings, and the lives of those who have gone home to be with the Lord. We’ve shared meals, enjoyed excursions together, Christmas caroled, crafted gift items for our Martha’s Market Christmas Boutique, and we’ve worshiped together. We are just one church in a mountain community full of churches which have remained faithful to biblical teaching.

That biblical faithfulness was tested for us in 2007 when our Episcopal denomination adopted new teachings that contradicted core biblical beliefs. We were among those congregations and dioceses that left the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church left the Bible. Yet we remained in communion with a much larger worldwide fellowship of Anglicans.

Following our decision to leave, the Episcopal Church sued our bishop and other like-minded bishops in other states for church property. We spent thousands of dollars in litigation defense costs. While the bishops in other states received favorable decisions, our California court ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church in an opinion that ignored long-standing court precedents. Regrettably, the California Supreme Court refused to hear our appeal. So we will join 28 other congregations and surrender our little mountain church this month. Sadly, the victors will sell off these churches to pay off their litigation expenses.

Any student of the Bible will tell you that when “the church” is referenced in the Bible it is never a reference to a building but to the people called out to follow Christ. The real church is the Body of Christ. So on Sunday, Jan. 15, that portion of the Body of Christ which worships at Christ Church- Anglican will gather at 10 a.m. for Holy Communion, and then progress to their new home at the Oakhurst Masonic Lodge on Highway 49 next door to the CHP office. The Masons have graciously opened their hearts and building to us in the heart of Oakhurst where we will have greater opportunity to reach out to the surrounding community. Moreover, the Mason’s lodge also offers even more seating capacity for our 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday services.

To be sure, there will be some tearful goodbyes to our home of more than three decades as we give thanks for the blessings that we have enjoyed there. But there will also be tears of joy for new beginnings and the opportunities opening up for the children’s ministry in our new location. Where God closes a door, He also opens a window.

Years ago, a friend of mine taught me the simple phrase: “God has a plan and it’s working.” I don’t know exactly what the future holds for Christ Church - Anglican, but I do know Who holds that future. So on Jan. 15, I will remember the many wonderful people who have worshiped in our little church over the last 34 years. And as I leave, I know that in my heart I will hear them singing along with my mother, Onward Christian Soldiers.