03 Jul Gospel unity and fun on Ascension Sunday
Humility and ease mark three churches’ collaborative planning
By Bonnie McMaken
The Feast of Ascension celebrates Jesus’ reign as our King of heaven and earth. And for three churches in Chicagoland—Immanuel Anglican, Trinity Anglican, and Cornerstone Portage Park—Ascension Sunday took on a unique significance as they enjoyed a first joint worship service and a picnic lunch at Lake Michigan.
All the leaders and clergy I spoke with hope it was the catalyst for more gospel partnership in and for the city of Chicago.
A Collaborative Process
Many people—not only leaders—from these three churches had wanted to plan a joint service for a long time. “The vision came from within the people,” said Father Aaron Damiani, rector at Immanuel Anglican. Nichole Sangha, Executive Pastor at Immanuel, affirmed the desire to give “people the chance to enjoy the larger church family.”
Almost every leader described the planning process as “easy.” The relational trust—especially among the three rectors—was an essential building block that’s been strengthened over the past few years. Because these existing partnerships were forged in the crucible of urban ministry, COVID, and church planting, the foundation already existed. “The spirit of non-competition was really incredible,” said Father Nate Beasley, rector of Trinity Anglican.
A Spirit of Unity
I asked, How did you all decide who would do what in the service? And again, everyone remarked how simple it was. The rectors nominated each other for various roles: Father Kyle celebrated Communion, Father Nate celebrated the beginning of the service and gave announcements, and Father Aaron preached (check out that sermon here).
That spirit of humility filtered into every aspect of the day. “Our hope was that each of our churches could be represented by serving,” said Father Kyle Oesch, rector at Cornerstone Portage Park. Immanuel hosted the churches in her large meeting space, but each church was represented via greeters at the door, Scripture readers, and children’s ministry shepherds.
Jennifer Wood is Director of NextGen Ministries & Communications at Immanuel and led children’s ministry for the day. She told me, “Kids from Trinity or Cornerstone came in and were immediately at ease because they saw an adult they knew.”
A worship team of eight incorporated musicians from each church, thanks to Abigail Ebensberger, Director of Worship Arts at Immanuel. The three worship leaders from the different churches collaborated to choose songs that were familiar and beloved by their congregations. Abigail said, “There was a sense of unity and joy as we sang and worshiped together as sister churches seeking God for a revival of Word and Sacrament, infused by the Holy Spirit, right here in Chicago.”
For Nichole Sangha, singing together was the highlight: “It feels like a taste of heaven when we all take our place around the throne of Jesus and lift our voices in praise. This is what makes us one—Jesus.”
A Hunger for More
After the service, everyone walked to a lakefront park on the beautiful summer day to enjoy a joint picnic, games, and activities. So many people came that picnic organizers had to retrieve more food several times. A hunger for more resonated as a theme of the day. “We all left wanting more joint services,” said Father Aaron.
Father Nate noted that “Ten years ago none of these churches existed. Now God has raised up three churches on mission in the city of Chicago.” He and other leaders reaffirmed a call to the people of Chicago, recalling Pastor Tim Keller’s recent passing and legacy of urban ministry.
Father Kyle pointed to the future: “Opportunities like this give us a chance to have fun alongside each other, and then imagine and dream what it might be like to be on mission together in new ways in the Lord. What would he have us do next for his kingdom?”
To see more photos, click here.