By Doug Cochran, Vestry Member, Anglican Church of the Valley
Bishop John Guernsey was welcomed with special joy on his first visit to the Anglican Church of the Valley (ACOTV) in Staunton, Va., December 9-11. It was a visit marked by abundant friendship and food, by a sprinkling of pageantry and pride, and by new energy and exciting ideas.
From his lodging in a cabin a mile back in the forest, Bishop Guernsey and his wife emerged for a Friday supper and Saturday breakfast with the church vestry and clergy. He heard of the history of this growing, self-started church, and its hopes.
The ACOTV was founded and incorporated in 2007 by 11 Staunton-area Anglicans and met in homes or a recreation center at first… Then it moved to a Seventh Day Adventist Church for about a year. Two years ago the church moved to the Temple House of Israel in downtown Staunton, and found the synagogue’s size, classic facilities and history a perfect fit. It meets there weekly for Sunday School and Eucharist, and for some special events. Average Sunday attendance is now approaching 30, and rising.
Saturday afternoon Bishop Guernsey found the remote forest cabin an enticing spot for rest before venturing out again Saturday evening for the home-cooked abundance of a potluck supper. After the potluck, the Bishop spoke to those present on how to truly hear God. Coming alive in Christ, he said, restores our ability to discern God. He advised us to make time in our materialistic world to be with God, and to let the Lord speak to us through Scripture. He cautioned, “Your ability receive God’s word is determined by our willingness to do what he says.”
“He will reveal His will to you if you truly seek it.”
Sunday morning dawned cold. Temperatures at the cabin were well below 20 degrees. However, the Guernseys were out early, braving the cold, for a trip to Staunton’s legendary Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant for breakfast.
Church began at eleven. The presence of their Bishop and the touch of pageantry associated with his visit were particularly gratifying to the original ACOTV members. The visit—with its Confirmations—seemed an almost palatable sign by the Holy Spirit that the hard work to start and grow the church were worthwhile indeed, and would increasingly bear fruit.
Bishop Guernsey drew his sermon from the Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5, and the need to continually give thanks to God—to “give thanks in all circumstances.”
The message resonated with the congregation, a group truly grateful for what God has brought to the ACOTV, for its growth, its excitement, and the bonds of Christian love that have characterized the church year after year.
After the service, Bishop Guernsey and Meg left for home. In a short weekend, they made friends, offered some guidance, and gained a little insight into a growing Anglican Church.
The folks of the ACOTV are already looking forward to their next visit.