BUENOS AIRES — A parish’s 50th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the church’s history, its mission, and its survival against the odds. For the Anglican Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Martínez, a suburb in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, its jubilee anniversary brought a festive party, a joint service, and a sermon by Archbishop Gregory Venables. The event also provided an opportunity to reflect on the changing nature of the church in Argentina.
“It’s nice to see how there’s a transition in the community,” the Rev. Brian Williams, rector of St. Michael’s, told TLC. “It started as Anglo Argentines with services in English, and now it’s shifting towards Spanish and younger families.”
Williams said the parish was in the middle of this shift. Older English speakers are still numerous in the church, but nearly all newcomers are families and Spanish speakers. The church offers both Spanish- and English-language services; the anniversary service was bilingual but mostly in Spanish, including the archbishop’s sermon.
According to Venables, who also serves as Bishop of Argentina, this transition follows a historical pattern in the Argentine church.
“The Anglican Church in South America, and particularly here in Argentina, is really something God himself has done,” Venables told TLC. He said the church has made many decisions in its 200 years in the country, including the change from Spanish to English services or a shift from rural to urban ministry.
“But it was nearly always clear that God was doing something, and that’s given the Anglican Church in this part of the world its identity.”
That trusting identity, he said, allows high Anglicanism and evangelical worship to coexist within the diocese; people hug each other and are warm, but formality of relationship — knowing one’s role in the larger social order — is also important.
“We like to think of it as the genius of Anglicanism, the ability as Anglicans to be able to adapt within the local culture and maintain the identity of the culture, but at the same time maintain the identity of Anglicanism.”