By Mark Avera
On March 1, I begin as the Vicar of the Church of the Resurrection in North Charleston. March 1 is Ash Wednesday. Somehow, there is a wondrous suggestion of a great hope in the juxtaposition of ashes and Resurrection. “Out of the ashes, we rise …” From death and loss to unconquerable Life. It is the Christian hope, the Christian story. In many ways, it is also the story of Resurrection, North Charleston.
Near the end of 2012, longstanding theological differences came to a head with the separation of the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church. After this, the former diocesan congregation at St Thomas, North Charleston opted to stay with TEC and leave the diocese. The decision left many in that church feeling theologically abandoned and cut off from what had been their family’s place of worship for generations and isolated from diocesan family connections. They had, in effect, lost their church. After conversations with Bishop Mark Lawrence, this sizable contingency formed a mission church known as the Church of the Resurrection. Thanks to the generosity of Water Mission International, Resurrection started meeting at Water Mission’s new headquarters in North Charleston in 2013.
When Resurrection’s vicar left the diocese in October of last year, previous conversations between Al Zadig and Bishop Lawrence about missional relationships between churches, prompted Bishop Lawrence to call Al about St Michael’s engaging in a missional relationship with Resurrection (see the rector’s article). Shortly thereafter, I was brought into the conversation and soon called to serve as the next vicar of a church with great heart, rock-solid Gospel commitment, and tremendous potential to impact their community for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Personally, I am excited about the possibilities and anxious to begin, but I know that the challenges of (what really amounts to) church planting are real and substantial. Please pray for me and my family as we make the transition and engage the work. And don’t forget that it is a work we will do together — St. Michael’s serving as an elder sister to the younger Resurrection.
I must say, however, that I love that I will be starting at a church named Resurrection on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the human story in spades. We began with God forming mankind of the dust of the earth and breathing His Spirit into him such that he became alive to God in a way that the other creatures were not. We then fell from Him by our willful turning and disobedience. And what a Fall it was — had the spiritual breath knocked right out of us! We now return, in death, to the dust and ashes from whence we came. Yet God sent a champion in Christ to effect reconciliation between God and man, and by the giving of the Holy Spirit, to breathe new Life into us once again. “Can these ashes live?” In Christ, the answer is a thunderous “YES!”
That is my hope for all of us. It is my hope for Resurrection, North Charleston — that in Christ, we may truly live.