Father Acker first addressed the congregation clad in a white cassock with an embroidered green stole knotted into his rope belt. His chasuble hung over a nearby chair. In contrast to these formal trappings, his bare toes peeked out from his sandals, and a guitar hung around his neck as he readied to join beginning guitar student Jack in playing "When the Saints Go Marching In." The effect caught the feel of the space -- a school auditorium, three rows of folding chairs, and a couple of electric candles vs. the brass cross emblazoned with the traditional IHS, the heavy cloth over the chalice, and the lace cover atop the table holding the water and wine. The service, in fact, was a mix of structured liturgy and personal interaction: Acker, now genuflecting repeatedly at the altar with his back to the congregation, now listing a host of first names during the intercessory prayers. (Besides the more formal intercessions for those in adversity and those who have "departed this life in thy faith and fear," Acker named "those in need of thy healing touch...those in need of strength and guidance...those who are homebound...those serving in our armed forces...those who are traveling....")
Apart from these personal asides, the liturgy stuck close to the Book of Common Prayer. (As he administered Communion, Acker repeated, "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.") Because of the language, additions and departures were notable. When Acker reached the prayer for the Bishops, he mentioned "Rowan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates of the Anglican Communion" and "all the clergy of the Anglican Communion Network chapter here in the diocese of San Diego, that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word."
Acker's sermon asked the questions, "How do we come to know Jesus?" and "How do I know that I know Jesus?" and answered, "Knowing Jesus starts with seeing who He is and accepting what He gives." The Gospel recounted Christ's telling Simon Peter to cast his nets one last time, Peter's amazed cry of "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!" and Christ's assurance that, in the future, Peter would be "catching men." Acker provided both chronological and geographical context and then observed, "Jesus was not merely going along picking up disciples here and there. Jesus knew Simon Peter for over a year, and he knew Andrew, James, and John. Jesus was not some Svengali who said, 'Follow me, follow me.' They knew who he was. They weren't being asked to walk off a cliff."
Acker continued, "How do you get to know someone? You spend time with them." And as you do, you share in Peter's recognition that "the reality of our life is here, and what God wants that reality to be is over here." But after that, "we find we become friends of God. What's important to God becomes important to us. We see how we participate in His plan, not only for our own lives, but touching the lives of those around us." And we gather as a church, "that we might support one another in our life in Christ."
After Communion, Acker anointed Walt, a congregant scheduled for surgery, "beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with His presence...and that Thou would bless the surgeons, the nurses, and all those who look to his needs." He prayed over a couple celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary, "that they might so love, cherish, and honor each other, that they come to all the joys of Thy heavenly kingdom." And he accepted 64 cents -- "heavy coin" -- from Jim, who was celebrating his 64th birthday. "Watch over thy servant Jim, O Lord. As his days increase, strengthen him when he stands, comfort him when discouraged or sorrowful, raise him up when he falls, and in his heart, may he find peace which passes understanding...." All prayed together: "Many happy returns of the day of thy birth. May seasons of joy be given. May God in his mercy prepare you on earth for a beautiful birthday in heaven."
What happens when we die?
"We receive God's promise of life with Him through the baptismal covenant," says Acker. "Baptism isn't static, but a dynamic incorporation into the risen life of Jesus by the forgiveness of our sin. Without His promise, we are left to the mercy of God. God chose to love us and create a way to live with Him forever. In His love, He wouldn't force it upon us. But God bids us to choose life, life with Him."
Denomination: Anglican Province of America
Address: Sunday worship at Alpine Elementary School, 1850 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine.
Phone Number: 619-722-1772
Founded locally: December 2005
Senior pastor: Reverend Keith Acker
Congregation size: 30
Staff size: 1
Sunday school enrollment: as needed
Annual budget: $40,000
Weekly giving: $725
Singles program: no
Dress: fairly casual, some button-down shirts, some shorts and T-shirts
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 8:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour