At my ordination, the bishop gave me the option of kneeling or laying prostrate while he prayed over me. Laying face-down in a worship service in front of hundreds of people? That might seem odd, but for me it was a no-brainer. As a Pentecostal, this was my assumed position for laying it all before Jesus. And as an Anglican pastor, I was ready to lay down my life.
Anglican Pentecostal? Anglicostal?
My spiritual formation and upbringing were in charismatic Christianity. In 1994, my home church in Buffalo, New York, experienced a revival that saw weeks of daily services, healings and conversions, and (notably) people falling on the floor and laughing. It was in the same stream of 1994 revivals that swept not only the famed Toronto Blessing, but also Holy Trinity Brompton in the U.K. and the Brownsville revival in Pensacola the next year.
As a child, I tip-toed over rolling, jubilant bodies as children’s church let out, looking for my family’s belongings. Later, my own spiritual formation was rooted in a transformative year around age 19 when I pursued the realities of charismatic experience for myself.
After college, though, I left the region and found myself in an evangelical, church-planting Anglican church in Washington, D.C.
As I wear my clerical collar these days, planting a new church back in Buffalo, people are often surprised to hear that my roots are in something entirely different. “How did that happen?” They expect a story about a falling-out or a rejection.
But I cannot give it to them. It’s much more complicated.
Same and Different
In a Pentecostal church service, people may shout or dance. There may be opportunities to give spontaneous additions to the service as the Holy Spirit directs. People jump and dance.
These elements are much less likely in an Anglican church.
Don’t get me wrong—there is a lot of overlap. Both traditions emphasize physical gestures in worship: kneeling and genuflecting in the one, going down in the Spirit in the other. Prostration in both. Both see the worship experience as a central element in the service. Both have a spiritual appreciation for physical space.
For example, Pentecostals pray over the chairs before church services, or command demons out of rooms; Anglicans consecrate churches and make the sign of the cross over just about anything. I recently did a house blessing at my new home, and to be honest the whole thing would have made total sense in either Anglican or Pentecostal circles, as we anointed the door with oil, rebuked the devil and prayed through the rooms.
But there are also differences. Not merely opposing beliefs, but areas where the other doth not stray.
First, the liturgy.
Pentecostals do have “liturgies” in the sense of expectations and order, but it was in Anglican churches that I learned spiritual rhythms to sustain my soul. For me, the identifying mark of charismatic spirituality is striving, and this left me exhausted until I began to understand the regular methods of soul formation inherent in the Prayer Book. I needed this.