The Rev. Aaron Burt and his team at Northwest Anglican are hard at work, endeavoring to do their part to help build Christ’s church. However, their trademark style breaks the traditional church planting mold in many ways.
Northwest Anglican is an unaffiliated Anglican nonprofit that focuses on building churches from the ground up with the laity, rather than starting off with a pastor or a mother church. As the church grows, members of the congregation initiate a search for their pastor and then work through other decisions ranging from worship style to affiliation. In addition, Northwest Anglican doesn’t just plant one church at a time; it plants a whole string of churches. The project and the vision behind it have garnered the support of the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Mission in the Americas and Anglican 1000.
Regardless of the exact tactics, it is becoming clear that Anglicanism and new church plants in particular are gaining steam with young people, new believers and those who may have fallen away from church. In part, it stems from the tie between ancient Anglican worship and an authentic connection to Christ that is evident in daily life. That is exactly what Northwest Anglican plants aim to embody.
To learn more, read our Q&A with the Rev. Aaron Burt:
1. How would you sum up Northwest Anglican in just a few words?
Here’s my one-sentence summary: Northwest Anglican is a nonprofit that initiates and coaches lay-led Anglican church plants in the Seattle-to-Portland area.
2. How does Northwest Anglican go about accomplishing its mission and what practical steps does Northwest Anglican take to help foster new churches?
There are four stages to what we do that could be categorized as: get, gather, guide, and ground.
First, every plant starts with people. But where do you get them? Knowing how to do effective marketing and promotion is a key element to finding the people who will become the lay planters for a new church. We do that in a given target city until we have about 12-20 interested people.
Once we have gotten them, we gather them together five times over the course of 10-15 weeks. During these gatherings we worship, giving people a sample of the Anglican liturgy, and we spend time in discussion, dreaming and wondering about what God might be up to. In short, we are asking ourselves the question, Is God planting a church in our midst? If the consensus is that he is, then we move on to the next stage.
We got the people, we gathered the people; now Northwest Anglican begins to guide the people through a specific process. We start weekly meetings of worship and planning, in which the clergy coach (a staff member of Northwest Anglican) leads the people in grappling with a set of questions pertaining to identity, logistics, and leadership. At the end of this four-month process, the group has discerned some of the nuances of its identity, gotten a brief education in the logistics of planting a church, and composed a description of the type of leader they are looking for as a rector.
Get, gather, guide. Now it’s time to ground this new church plant. We do that first by providing a list of prospective clergy to interview (though they are encouraged to find candidates outside that list as well). As a nonprofit, Northwest Anglican provides the fledgling plant with as much or as little business resources and oversight as they desire. We can offer licensing, website hosting, bookkeeping, nonprofit status with the IRS, design and print, and a host of other details that are hard for new plants to pull together.
We offer all this freely, without expectation that a plant will ever pay it back, affiliate in a certain way, or put our name on any of their materials. We offer it freely to any aspiring Anglican group in the Seattle-to-Portland area because freely we have received. We want people in this region to come to trust the honestly of grace, offered in the name of Christ in the midst of his Church.
3. Can you tell us more about your background and how you developed a vision for church planting through Northwest Anglican?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so this region is in my blood. I love it. But I left here in the 90s to go off to college, where I discovered Anglicanism. Have you ever had two friends that you desperately wanted to introduce to each other because you just knew they would hit it off? That’s how I felt about the Pacific Northwest and Anglicanism. That’s not to say there were no Anglican efforts in this region, but it was painfully sparse. So the desire to get these two further acquainted has been in my belly for about a decade now.
But how did that bellyache result in Northwest Anglican? There are days when I look at the vision and work of Northwest Anglican and think, Where did all this come from? Mostly it’s the cumulative result of working alongside and under some amazing clergy, watching laity plant churches with great results, and finding personal guidance and encouragement in the voices of trusted friends. And it still depends on all these influences. It’s still open for critique and needs ongoing development. Even so, I believe in pursuing our plans doggedly while holding them loosely.
4. Are you working directly with a church plant currently and can you tell us more about it?
We are working with several current and prospective plants at various points in their development. Next month we intend to start the process of gathering contacts in several new target cities to initiate another set of prospective plants. In the meantime, we continue to bolster the work of one of our plants in Bellevue, Advent Anglican, and one in Longview, St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission. We provide encouragement and logistical support to two other plants, Light of Christ Anglican (Ballard, Seattle) and Arnada Abbey (Vancouver, WA). We have also built relationships with established Anglican parishes and leadership locally. In many cases, Northwest Anglican has simply built upon the prior work of other brothers and sisters in the faith. We are grateful for their efforts.
5. How can we pray for and support the work of Northwest Anglican?
Any and every way possible! Many days I have felt keenly aware of the fact that we would not have gotten this far were it not for the support—prayers, finances, connections, and encouragement—of many people. To be candid, we still need that support just as much as ever.
Pray that Northwest Anglican would continue to boldly participate in God’s mission here, and pray for our staff: myself, Rev Scott Walker, and Rev Kristen Yates. Give financially if you can; we run incredibly lean, so every small bit goes a long way. Connect us with people who might support us in one of these ways, people who might want to join one of our plants, or people who you think would be encouraged by our work. And support us with encouraging words by dropping us a line at www.NwAnglican.org/contact. Don’t sell that last one short; we love to be spurred on by our family in Christ!
To learn more about Northwest Anglican, offer support, or get involved, visit www.NWAnglican.org or watch the video below.