Walking our faith: In Dillon, a different kind of storefront church
When I received the email from John thanking me for a recent column, he mentioned that he was the pastor of a church in Dillon. When I responded that I would be interested in visiting, he demurred that it was only a small storefront church.
I imagined a hipster church. Something out of Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday. A storefront church planted by a band of twenty-somethings eager to create a place of worship that reflected their vision of church. Perhaps motivated by a longing to re-discover the intimacy of the early church described in the Acts of the Apostles, where men and women gathered together in someone’s home to celebrate Communion and share the teachings of Jesus in a small group.
Instead, what I discovered in the little storefront church tucked between a pizza joint and a coffee shop, was a small congregation of mostly older men and women seeking God in the traditional Anglican Mass using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Though the interior was furnished modestly, the priest and server wore full vestments and the altar was covered with the finest linens as would be found at High Mass.
Saint Dunstan’s is made up of eight to ten ardent believers who began their church in a member’s home and then moved to the storefront. The Sunday Mass is led by the Reverend John Longcamp, a retired pediatrician, who followed a calling to become ordained and establish a church that follows a traditional Anglican liturgy that has for the most part been abandoned by contemporary Episcopal churches. Ken Mace, a retired architect, assists as a server, and Bonnie Schmidt plays traditional hymns on the organ.
To give you an idea of the passion of their adherence to traditional formalities, Communion is said ad orientum, which means with the priest facing east, his back to the people, to represent the congregation to God.
Interestingly, ad orientum, a practice which was replaced by ad populum (facing the people) in the Catholic church after Vatican II, has recently become a topic of discussion in the Catholic church.
While I personally prefer ad populum, because it allows me to feel as if I am fully participating in the mystery of the consecration of the bread and wine, I’d like to share with you Father John’s thoughts on the subject:
“Anglicans have continued celebrating the Eucharist ad orientum in order to show the distinction between when the priest speaks on behalf of the people, as in offering prayers, especially in offering the Eucharistic prayers, or when he speaks in behalf of our Lord, which he does when he says the actual words of Christ, invites the congregation to make the Confession, or give a blessing in Christ’s name. To us it is not a matter of right or wrong but of visually demonstrating the dual role of the priest.”
Although Saint Dunstan’s enthusiastically adheres to the formal Anglican service, they greet newcomers with a welcoming embrace. They hope to work with other Summit County churches on community projects in the coming year.
For example, Father Longcamp has suggested a wonderful addition to Christmas festivities this year: in hope of expanding their annual pre-Christmas Summit Cove Carol Sing, now held in the Pour House, the neighboring coffee shop, Father Longcamp envisions having a county-wide carol event. The hope is to have, in a larger and more inspiring setting, something along the lines of the Lessons and Carols offered every year in the chapel of Kings College Cambridge, where nine Scripture readings, from Genesis through the Birth of Christ, are read by clergy, laity and civic officials and alternated with anthems and universally familiar carols. A free-will offering would be taken in support of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). As The Dillon Community Church is a major supporter of the WRC along with Our Lady of Peace, he is hoping for their participation as well.
I hope this event comes to fruition, it would be wonderful to create a new Christmas tradition that included several churches. I hope that the pastors of Summit County will get together to make this happen.
As I continue to visit new churches throughout Summit County, I discover the breadth and depth of a vibrant faith community. It is heartening to see that we are home to large community churches, as well as, storefront churches upholding traditional liturgies, each seeking God with all their heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting John Longcamp and the congregation of Saint Dunstan’s. It’s easy to overlook a small storefront church. But their size belies the enormous amount of work that falls on the shoulders of a few people who so strongly feel called that each week they continue to meet and create church.
I look forward to bringing you another church profile next month. Please send me an email if you would like your church, faith community or religious organization to be featured in this column.
Saint Dunstan’s is located at: 40 Cove Blvd., Suite B-1, Dillon, Colorado 80435, Sunday School at 9 a.m., Sunday Worship at 10 a.m.
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