All Saints’ Crowborough is probably typical of evangelical parishes in small towns (about 25,000, among whom was, once, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). The vicar is Andrew Cornes, well-known to many Episcopalian Evangelicals because of a series of talks he gave here in the 1990s. Originally built by Sir Henry Fermor in 1744, the classical stone building has recently been enlarged, and the original church is now what architects would call the narthex. The additional space has preserved the 18th century emphasis on classical lines and plenty of natural light.

All Saints has four Sunday services, ‘quiet Communion’ at 8, Morning Service at 9.15, Morning Worship at 10.45, and 6.30 pm Evening Worship. Once a month there is an Evensong at 4.30 pm. Our holiday mindset ruled out anything earlier than the 10.45; the difference between the ‘service’ and the ‘worship’ turned out to be that the 10.45 was more contemporary, the 9.15 more classically (or ‘properly’ for our regular readers) evangelical.

In fact, the music at the 10.45 was not all what the word ‘contemporary’ conjures up (in my mind, at any rate). The ‘contemporary’ stuff  (three chords and lots of sighing) was played as prelude and postlude, while the hymns we actually sang were real hymns, although many of them recently written. The others were a new text to a traditional tune and a new tune to a traditional text. And the congregation sang audibly.

Neither the BCP nor its alternative, Common Worship, was used, and there were no liturgical elements in the service at all. The service was led by a lay person, who began by welcoming us, explaining that the theme of the day was the fact that Christians are God’s adopted children, and after a brief prayer introduced the person who would read the lesson, Romans 8.15–17. The lesson was introduced in her own words by the reader, who had obviously thought about it pretty carefully. The worship leader then reminded us of how easy it was even when in conversation with those we love and respect to get distracted, and that it wouldn’t hurt to read it again. So someone else came up and read the same passage. There was noticeably less rustling and shuffling, including that of your correspondent, during the second reading of it, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that we were there to hear from God’s word! After a hymn Andrew went to the pulpit and expounded the text, making the point that the adopted children of a loving father can be as sure of the father’s love as his natural children, and that part of the Holy Spirit’s work is to enable us to be sure rather than hopeful of our salvation. Andrew’s careful, methodical exposition was a delight; he was constantly repeating ‘look again at v 15′ or look again at v 17’—there was no doubt we were feeding on God’s word rather than the preacher’s opinion.

After the sermon the children came in from Sunday School and acted out the lesson they had studied, with a most effective representation of Egyptian soldiers disappearing beneath what must have been one of the roughest seas the Red Sea has experienced!

Announcements made it clear that personal evangelism is a priority, with every member being reminded to look for opportunities to share the gospel during the coming week. A parochial mission of the sort described here is planned for the fall, and the person invited to lead it is preaching next Sunday at all services, so that people can invite their friends to the mission with the words “I’ve heard him speak and…’.

After the service the congregation was exceptionally friendly, but we had no sense that we were being ‘greeted’ by persons assigned to the task.

It was a wonderful morning.

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