Category Archives: Books

All Saints Church Reads: Reflection by Paul Watkins

Last week we had our first (of many I pray) meetings of the All Saints Church Reads book club.

torranceThere were two meetings: one in the morning at 7 am at the Upper Room and one in the evening at 7 pm at my house. Over 15 people met and discussed the first two chapters of James Torrance’s book Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace.

It is a short book that profoundly explores the depth and grace of the gospel of God! It is a book that leads me to worship and marvel at the grace of God!

The book club will meet again on July 24th (at 7am and 7pm) to discuss the last two chapters of the book. All are welcome!

Paul Watkins attended and wrote this poignant reflection:

“The worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world.” (p. 9)

This sentence embodies the main thesis of Torrance’s book: that we live Christianly by entering into participation with what is already happening within the life of the Trinity.

Acceptable worship is already ascending to God – from our great High Priest in the heavens who ever lifts up holy hands to His Father in praise and thanksgiving; when we worship rightly, we do so only by entering into and taking part in the Son’s worship already taking place.

Likewise, acceptable mission is already happening – climactically in the Father’s sending forth the Son into the world to call all men to Himself, but also in the Son’s sending forth of the Spirit He received from the Father into the world to carry on the same mission; when we do mission rightly, we only do so by entering into and taking part in the Son’s and Spirit’s mission already taking place.

Which is to say, living Christianly does not mean offering worship and mission of our own to God, but in participating in what the Father has already provided for Himself through His Son and Spirit. This is the meaning of “grace.” It is not so much that God gives grace for us, extra nos, and we respond in faith and service for God, extra Deum, as two actions by two different actors playing their parts in turns; rather, our faith and service are nothing other than the faith and service of the Son through the Spirit operative in us, which is one and the same thing as grace itself, as one action by two different actors playing their respective parts in simultaneous, intimate co-action.

So our work (of worship and mission) and God’s grace are not two different things, traded between us; they are one and the same thing, seen from two perspectives. This is why we can never imagine our service to God apart from His grace (Pelagianism), nor imagine His grace apart from our service (radical Protestantism).

So remember, when we worship it is the Son through the Spirit that is worshiping through us. And when we go forth in mission to the world, it is also the Son through the Spirit that is going forth in mission through us.

All that we do, if we do it Christianly, is nothing other than what God Himself is doing while using us as His vessels. It is “not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” Which is to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” So let us be cooperators with the Spirit, and co-workers with the Son, joining them in their worship and mission as we are drawn ever more intimately into the life of the Triune God.

– Reflection by Paul Watkins

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All Saints Reads!

This summer All Saints Church is beginning a book club for all interested in exploring topics in theology, Christian spirituality, church history, and relationships. We will meet monthly and read and discuss a wide variety of books. The first two meetings will be held June 26th and July 24th in the morning and evening 7 am and 7 pm. The 7 am meeting will be held at the ASC Upper Room (3622 Lyckan Parkway Suite 5005) and 7 pm at Thomas Kortus’ Home (1 Hampshire Court, Durham). Feel free to attend the time that best fits your schedule.

For the first two months, we will discuss James Torrance’s book on Christian worship: “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace.” On June 26th, the first meeting, we will talk about the first 68 pgs.  Please contact thomas@allsaints-chd.org for more information.

 

torrance Description of “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace” from the  publisher:  “Here is a book that sets our worship, sacraments,      communion and language of  God back on track. In a day when refinement of method and quality  of experience are the guiding  lights for many Christians, James Torrance points us to the  indispensable who of worship, the  triune God of grace. Worship is the gift of participating  through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s  communion with the Father, writes Torrance. This book explodes the notion that the doctrine of  the Trinity may be indispensable for the creed  but remote from life and worship. Firmly rooted  in Scripture and theology, alive with pastoral  counsel and anecdote, Torrance’s work shows us  just why real trinitarian theology is the very  fiber of Christian confession.”

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The Shame Exchange by Steve & Sally Breedlove and Ralph & Jennifer Ennis

The problem of shame is real. Things people say, things people do, the systems of our families and cultures – that’s just the beginning of the problem. Add to it things we have done, just who we feel that we are in the secret places in our souls – shame heaps up and eats away at our souls. The result? Shame becomes our personal world view. It damages our sense of identity, our view of life and our ability to relate in love to others. The Shame Exchange (185pp.) faces the problem of shame head-on. This book will help you understand the origins of shame, and it will help expose the unhelpful ways we deal with shame’s power. But more than just diagnosing the problem The Shame Exchange gives a Biblical perspective on how you can face shame and through it discover a door into the deep mercy and love of God that leads to freedom.

“I began reading “The Shame Exchange” over a month ago, thinking I would enjoy an evening in an intellectual discussion that would further my understanding of shame biblically as well as how it contributes to any or all of the issues people seek prayer and counsel for. This objective approach soon turned very subjective for me as I realized that this was not a quick topical read that I could accomplish in an evening or two without an emotional involvement…a very personal emotional involvement. I was not far into the book before I knew I was into something I would have to become engaged in, like it or not. This slowed me down in my reading as I needed to find times when I could be more present to that which was being touched in my own heart. Having finished the book, I have not finished with the topic of shame in my life.

“I want to congratulate you for making a significant contribution to the Church and the helping community with your book. Your book has given me a deeper understanding of shame biblically as well as its part in the issues we seek help with through prayer and counseling. I believe that personally I have opened up some areas that with perseverance will further my own transformation and bring more joy to my relationship with Christ. My hope and prayer is that many others will encounter their shame through your work and come into greater freedom and love.”

Keith
Counselor and spiritual director

Join Steve and Sally Breedlove and Ralph and Jennifer Ennis as they draw the distinctions between heaped-on shame and identity-level shame. Listen to the stories of people laboring to be free. Look at seven different ways we avoid facing the shame that taints our souls. Discover how shame can actually become the door to deeper intimacy with God, spiritual transformation and ultimate healing for our hearts.

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The Mission of Art : Christianity Today Interviews All Saints Church’s own David O. Taylor

David looking smart and pensive as well as bearded and hip

The Mission of Art

W. David O. Taylor grounds his aesthetic passion in the local church.

Christianity Today: Mark Moring | posted 5/18/2010

Growing up as a missionary kid in Guatemala, David Taylor was learning the meaning of beauty before he even realized it. Taylor names the tropical landscape as one of five key elements in shaping his own identity as an artist. The others: listening to his mother play classical music on her grand piano; watching his father tend orchids in the backyard greenhouse; reading “books outside my tradition” recommended by his Regent College professors, including Eugene Peterson; and “being given permission to try and fail—again and again—by the leadership of Hope Chapel [in Austin, Texas], as I sought to discover what an arts ministry was supposed to be about.”

Taylor, Hope Chapel’s arts pastor for eight years, is now studying theology and liturgy in the doctoral program at Duke Divinity School, with an eye toward establishing an arts center in Austin. He has just released his first book, for the Beauty of the Church:Casting a Vision for the Arts(Baker), with contributions from such culture observers as Peterson, Andy Crouch, Lauren Winner, Barbara Nicolosi, and Taylor himself. He hopes his book will “offer the church a theologically informed, biblically deepened, liturgically sensitive, artistically robust, and missionally shrewd vision for the arts.”

Question & Answer

What is beauty?

Classically, the approach has been to see beauty in terms of three qualities: unity, complexity, and radiance. The textured parts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet hold together in a way that keeps us asking for it again and again. But that can also be true of a Texas barbecue, the four beasts of Revelation, and the athleticism of Kobe Bryant. We shouldn’t stop with classical ideas about beauty; we also need to think about beauty Christologically. The moment we sever beauty from the death and resurrection of Christ, we risk sliding toward idealism or pretty-ism. In Christ we can discover the broken side of beauty, and it is in that light that we will find beautiful the self-sacrifice of a Mother Teresa or the terror of a Schindler’s List.

I might find something beautiful that you find ugly. Are we both right?

Yes. You might find the German language beautiful; I may find it ugly. But we find it beautiful and ugly for complicated reasons. You may despise bratwurst and German consonants, but that doesn’t mean that the language of Martin Luther ceases to be beautiful. We have to distinguish between the form of the material and our personal response to it.

How can the church better integrate the arts into its life?

It’s not that we haven’t thought biblically about the arts; it’s that we haven’t thought biblically deeply enough. It’s all there, as Andy Crouch points out in Culture Making: in Genesis and in the Gospels, in Jesus, the Icon of God and the great metaphor user. My prayer is that the essays [in my book] will stir us to develop a theology—a Christian mind about art—that is capable of sustaining a long-lasting, fruit-bearing tradition of art-making by the church, for the church, and for the good of the world, to the glory of God.

More: ArtsPastor.blogspot.com

Age: 38

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Church: All Saints Church, Durham, N.C.

Family: Phaedra Jean (wife)

Reading now: George Herbert’s poetry, David Maine’s Fallen, Kevin Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine, and Harry Potter (in Spanish)

On your iPod: Russian choral music and lots of hip-hop

Favorite website:ArtMachineStudios.net

Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today.

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Second star to the right and straight on till morning

I have always loved the story of Peter Pan. The Disney movie, sure—it’s one of my favorites. But ever since I spent a semester in London and learned the story behind the story, I’ve loved J.M. Barrie’s play-turned-novel even more.

In Kensington Gardens, there stands a statue of Peter Pan, supposedly erected by the childless Barrie himself overnight in order to surprise the children to whom he had long told stories of pirates and fairies and babies who could fly and never grow up. One of those children on whom Barrie doted, the baby of the family, was named Peter. As the history (legend?) goes, another child whom Barrie entertained referred to him  as her “friendy,” but, as children are wont to do, had trouble pronouncing the letter R; thus “fwendy”—and eventually the name “Wendy,” which Barrie may or may not have invented—was born. And yet another detail of the story behind the story says that the child who never grew up was based on Barrie’s own older brother, who died at age 14 and thus remained a child forever. Or so the legends go. But legend or history, the context for Barrie’s fanciful tale of the Lost Boys and their adventures, of the boy-who-would-always-be and his flying lessons for children who wouldn’t, only adds to the delight I have taken in revisiting this story again and again.

Even before I joined the staff here, I joked with All Saints’s own dear Cindy Broderius that she is the Wendy to our staff’s Lost Boys. Keeping them in order, tending to their needs, helping them stay grounded when all they want to do is fly, being the grownup they need, just like the original Wendy. When, about a year ago, Cindy asked me to fill in for her for a few days while she was out of town, I laughed and said that if her invitation was a Tinkerbell solicitation, there was no way I was donning the requisite tutu. Now that I’ve joined the staff on a permanent basis, of course, I’m Tink (tutu or no), at least to Cindy. (And no, in case you’re wondering, we haven’t ever identified a Captain Hook.)

And of course, over our time together here on the staff, surrounded by the Lost Boys as we are, Cindy has indeed become my dear “f’wendy”. As Peter himself suggested, to love is, in fact, “an awfully big adventure,” and what a delight it has been to be on this adventure with my own Wendy. But Barrie’s Wendy couldn’t stay in Neverland. She had to go home, to grow up and become a mother, leaving the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell behind to do their Neverland thing without someone to sew on their buttons and shadows and whatever else they might lose.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, our All Saints Neverland is losing its dear Wendy, too. If you find one of our own Lost Boys looking like he needs mending or you hear that our Tinkerbell has stirred up more trouble than she ought to have, you’ll know why. After all, as Peter Pan told Wendy, “one girl is more use than twenty boys.” You will be missed more than you can know, our dear Wendy, and we are all so grateful that you will still be part of our All Saints family, even if you do have to leave Neverland. “Never say goodbye,” said Peter Pan, “because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” No, my farewell to you from Neverland is something more akin to “second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” as I delight with you in your next big adventure. And I am so eager to see what this next flight has in store for you. “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust,” and I pray for an abundance of all three for you.

-Daniele Jackson

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Snake Bit! (Part 2 of 2)

I received another email (the first part of this post is here) about the sermon yesterday, for which I am also grateful, but which also calls for comment.  The writer thanked me for the message, and then gave me additional information about the life of Robertson McQuilkin that corrects things I said in my closing illustration.  The correct facts are even more beautiful than the mistaken ones I gave.

When Muriel McQuilkin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Robertson was president of Columbia International University, a critical leadership position in a rapidly-growing school with a strong witness for Christ.   His writing and speaking ministries were taking off.  However, Dr McQuilkin made the decision to step down as president in order to personally care for his wife.  (At that point in time, she still knew him and was able to communicate with him.) His close friends did not urge him to divorce Muriel (as I thought): they urged him to put her in an institution and remain as president of CIU, continuing his important work for the cause of Christ.

I think we can all see the temptation, even the logic, that McQuilkin faced.  However, in his own prayers and convictions, he believed he only had one choice.  His statement was, “Anyone can be the president of Columbia International, but I am the only person who can be Muriel McQuilkin’s husband.”

Later he wrote a book about his experiences, A Promise Kept.  I haven’t read it, but the writer of the email says it is a book that every engaged couple ought to read.  She goes on to quote John 15: “No greater love is this, than that a man lay down his life for a friend.”

I thank BOTH emailers for helping me be a better communicator!  It is great to be a part of the Body of Christ at All Saints!

-Rev. Steve Breedlove

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Reading for Transformation

By now, you have likely seen in the KNN or heard during announcements that there is a group of folks reading through some important books with the shared goal of transformation.  We desire (and it’s the Spirit’s desire in us) to have our hearts transformed to love our local community (our neighbors) with Christ’s heart, and to have our church transformed to see the world with God’s eyes and hope for the world with God’s heart.

Because this is intended to be an OPEN GROUP, this blog is a great place to share some of the picture that’s forming.  Below are some excerpts from this month’s recap.  (Contact Rev. Steve Breedlove if you’d like to be on that email list!):

Great conversation tonight! I have attached the notes so that you can get a picture — but in summary, it was terrific to see how God has been moving for months at Oak Creek Village through the prayers and work of people at All Saints, Good Shepherd, and the Gathering. What has become a dominant aspect of our outreach is part of a much larger move of God to serve this community with the love of Christ.

As you read through, the are several concrete action items I want to highlight:

  1. There are many ways to get involved already. Contact Thomas Kortus if you want to help.
  2. We want to generate more information and more prayer. Thomas & Steve will be working on that.
  3. We want to see a prayer focus, perhaps a prayer walk, on a monthly basis. This could be part of a small group effort, or it could be its own thing. Paul Marvin is on this, along with Joe Adelman.
  4. There is interest in creating a small group, that has the regular ministries of a 242 group, but whose primary focus is outreach to OCV. This is Joe & Terri Adelman’s heart and prayer

If any of these things connect with you, please take the initiative. And beyond these things…there are many other issues that could get kicked up.

We’ll meet May 2 and begin discussing Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making. Read as much as you can. Charles has done a great job of facilitating the discussion, and we may be able to induce him to continue. But if there’s someone else with an interest in leading the conversation on Crouch’s book, let me know.

Thanks for all the interest and prayers. I am genuinely excited about God’s stirring us and uniting us in mission and outreach for Christ’s sake.

Love in Christ,
Steve

As Steve says above, our next meeting is at the church on Monday, May 2.  We will be meeting from 7:30-9:15pm, and we will be discussing Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.  We’d love to have you!

(Note: Contact info for the folks above can be found here and here.)

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what happened on the cross…

I was stopped in my tracks by these words penned by the 8th century monk John of Damascus.  He is said to be the last of the Church Fathers.

How often the cross becomes a worn-out and shallow symbol of my faith; something so central and so present that I no longer see it and comprehend what it means to me and to the world. Allow these words to redefine the way we think of the cross – they did that to me:

By nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has death been brought low:

The sin of our first parent destroyed,
hell plundered,
resurrection bestowed,
the power given us to despise the things of this world,
even death itself,
the road back to the former blessedness made smooth,
the gates of paradise opened,
our nature seated at the right hand of God,
and we made children and heirs of God.

By the cross all these things have been set aright… It is a seal that the destroyer may not strike us,

a raising up of those who lie fallen,
a support for those who stand,
a staff for the infirm,
a crook for the shepherded,
a guide for the wandering,
a perfecting of the advanced,
salvation for soul and body,
a deflector of all evils,
a cause of all goods,
a destruction of sin,
a plant of resurrection,

and a tree of eternal life.

( John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith,4)

Praise the Father for the giving on his Son. Praise Jesus for his obedience – submitting to death on a cross. Praise the Spirit for making all that was accomplished on the cross ours – for making us God’s children and heirs by faith in Jesus.

May our utter need for God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit  – be ever-present to us and may the richness of his favor and grace, made known to us on the cross, fill us with overflowing joy and gratitude. AMEN.
May the reality of the cross of Christ be made known to you this Lenten season,
Thomas Kortus

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feeding the lambs

“What are the fourth and fifth graders doing up there in the front of the sanctuary?” As I’ve heard this question many times recently, it occurs to me that unless you’re a parent of a fourth or fifth grader, very few of you know why those children are suddenly doing something so different during the Children’s Church hour. I’m excited to fill you in.

The “what” of what they’re doing is easy to answer: they’re learning to participate more fully in the worship service in general, and more specifically, they’re learning how to engage with the sermon. But the “why” of what they’re doing is perhaps the more interesting answer.

For as long as I can remember, All Saints has offered Children’s Church programming for children up through fifth grade. The goal has been simple: to disciple and feed and nourish our church’s youngest members in a way that is more accessible to them than certain parts of the service, specifically the readings, sermon, and prayers. It has always been a high value in this system for the children to worship with their families, so Children’s Church takes place only during those times in the service, allowing children to begin the worship service with their families and to be present for communion as well.

As for how that time has been used, the content has varied over the years. Naturally, as the church has grown, so has our population of children, so classes have formed and re-formed and curriculum has changed along with those shifts. We currently have a class of preschoolers and kindergarteners working on The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a class of first through third graders working on the David C. Cook Bible-In-Life Anglican Edition curriculum, and a class of fourth and fifth graders working on an experimental curriculum that I have designed.

The goal of all three classes—and indeed of the entire program—is decidedly not babysitting, not keeping the children busy so parents can hear the sermon, not providing flashy multimedia-style entertainment so the children can have fun. Of course, those things are going to be a part of whatever we’re doing: we’re glad to give parents some space to be fed themselves, and any program involving children had better involve some fun if the children are going to engage with the material! But the ultimate goal of our children’s ministry at All Saints is for our children to build and grow in their own faith, ultimately leading to confirmation and full participation as adults in the congregation. The work that the children are doing in each of our three classes forms a piece of that process; together, I hope all these pieces prepare them to enter the youth ministry and confirmation class as seamlessly and naturally as possible.

In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, preschoolers and kindergarteners are experiencing a Montessori-style liturgically-based curriculum focusing on spiritual formation in which they interact in a very hands-on, child-accessible way with the Scriptures and liturgical traditions of the church. As they listen to the parable of the mustard seed, for example, each child is given a mustard seed to hold and examine—Look how small it is! Imagine a great big tree coming from such a small seed! As they fold and unfold child-sized linens for the altar table, they learn why some are green while others are purple or white. Conversation after conversation with parents reveals that what the children are learning in this class transfers directly and immediately to what they experience when they return to church. They’re coming to understand—in a way that is translated to fit their developmental “size”—what they experience every Sunday. It is a powerful foundation for their newly-beginning lives in the church.

In the David C. Cook Bible-In-Life Anglican Edition, first through third graders are engaging in a more traditional Bible study style curriculum, again sized just right for them. The Bible stories they share weekly follow the seasons of the liturgical church, which means that while their parents are in church experiencing and learning about Lent, for example, the children are doing the same. When Maundy Thursday rolls around this year, you can count on the lower elementary student sitting nearest to you to be able to explain the significance of foot washing and its spiritual significance in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. As they read and engage with these stories, the children are participating in activities and conversations that encourage them to apply the spiritual principles in their own daily lives—what does it mean, for example, to “wash the feet” of their families and friends at school, where literal foot washing is likely not an option?

Finally, with these experiences as a backdrop, the fourth and fifth graders have begun using a curriculum I designed to help them make the transition from Children’s Church to full participation in the service. As you may know, in sixth grade children remain in the service throughout and are also invited to begin the process of preparing for confirmation. As fourth and fifth graders, then, it is important for children to begin to experience the parts of the service that have as yet been inaccessible to them. Rather than an abrupt change—one Sunday a fifth grader in Children’s Church, the next a sixth grader in the service—my goal with the new materials has been to help our older elementary students ease into this transition. Thus, the activities in the binders I have provided for the children are not meant to serve as a distraction—coloring and word searches and such—but rather as an aid to entering into what they’re hearing. Different note-taking activities and spaces for drawing and writing about what they’re hearing along with plenty of blank paper and writing utensils are provided; Bibles and bulletins are also available for those who choose sit in the front with me and their classmates, while others remain with their parents and use their own Bibles and bulletins to follow along. In tandem with these guided activities, these upper elementary students meet every six weeks as a Children’s Church class to talk about what they’ve been learning and what has been challenging; in addition, they meet along with their parents and various members of the clergy for monthly lunches to further broaden these conversations. As I mentioned earlier, this program is experimental; thus far, I have been pleased at how the children have engaged with the service and have stepped up to the very real challenge of participating in a new way.

Please keep our church’s youngest members and the many, many volunteers who serve and care for them so faithfully in your prayers. And the next time someone else’s preschooler accidentally wraps himself around your leg, mistaking you for his parent, take a minute to bend down and ask him what he learned in Children’s Church that day. You might be surprised at what you learn from his answer.

-Daniele Jackson

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John and Charles Wesley, Priests

John and Charles Wesley are some of those rare saints who are recognized both in the Church and beyond.

John is recorded to have ridden 250,000 miles on horseback over the course of his ministry in order to preach, to teach, to spearhead works of justice and mercy, and to organize others in the same work.  For his own impressive statistic, Charles wrote almost 9,000 hymns over the course of his lifetime, and if you have been in a hymn-singing church very long, you can be certain that you have sung a handful of them.  Think Chris Tomlin with an Oxford education and a refusal to work anywhere but with those on the lowest rungs of society’s ladder.

In the Church, the Wesley brothers and their fellow Methodists were at the forefront of an evangelical revival in England and British colonial North America.  What set that revival apart from many revivals, particularly in England, was that the two men refused to separate the preaching of the good news of Christ from the concrete work of Christ in the world.  They visited prisoners, fought slavery, gave away a fortune (to the point that scholar and popular theologian Leonard Sweet has likened John Wesley’s popularity, influence, and financial success to that of Rick Warren, and it’s not an exaggeration), and called a nation to social reform focused on the neediest of society.

Craziest of all perhaps, that nation listened.  From Christian History & Biography magazine:

Some historians have maintained that the revival so altered the course of English history that it probably saved England from the kind of revolution that took place in France.

How many folks can you think of who are claimed (albeit with varied levels of accuracy) as  father figures by contemporary evangelicals, liberal Protestants, Pentecostals, and radical secular Left political thinkers?  Well, aside from Jesus…two brothers named Wesley who devoted their lives to becoming like Christ and calling others to do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit.

***

Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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