Fr. Glenn Spencer at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy marked his 25th anniversary as pastor of the church at Easter this year, celebrating as well the installation of two new icons above the altar, one of the Mother of God and the other of St. John the Baptist.
The icons were made by painter and icon-specialist Jonathan Edwards of California, according to traditional specifications. Both are slightly more that five feet tall and in a height-to-width ratio of 3:1. They are drawn from Russian examples from the sixteenth century. Basswood, the wood of the linden tree, a rare type, is the basis for the panels. The wood is lightweight, insect- and rot-resistant and capable of lasting hundreds of years. Each panel had 25 layers of gesso applied, a base made of rabbit-skin glue with marble dust in it. The figures are painted with egg-tempura (egg yokes mixed with natural mineral pigments) and the background is made of 23.5 carat Italian gold leaf.
There is symbolism in the icon’s manufacture as well as in the image on it, Fr. Spencer explained. The materials represent the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms of creation—meaning they take in all creation. “I make the icons as truthful and beautiful as I can,” Edwards told Fr. Spencer when he took on the commission.
Both icons are designed, from prototypes, to be looking down on the altar from different sides, stressing its centrality. The altar itself embodies both the Ark of the Covenant and Calvary, said Fr. Spencer, who got his theological training at Duke University’s Divinity School.
All Saints belongs to the eastern diocese of Anglican Province of America, which formed in 1998 in reaction to developments in the Episcopal Church and other liturgical movements in Protestantism. It is not related to the Anglican church in England. All Saints has existed since 1981 and has roughly 150 members, with whom Fr. Spencer says he keeps in close touch. Virginia has three APA churches; the others are in Blacksburg and Gloucester. There are roughly 90 parishes in the eastern diocese.
“We are Catholic,” said Fr. Spencer, “But not Roman Catholic. We believe in the seven sacraments. We believe in the Real Presence [in the eucharist]. We believe in confession.” But, similar to Orthodox churches, they also allow married priests.
Anglican churches have been invited to join the Roman Catholic Church, under what is called the ‘Benedict option,’ and some have, or have become Orthodox churches, Fr. Spencer said, but All Saints has not.
The church has services at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, and on Wednesdays has a regular supper with a study period afterward that ends in time for parents to get their young children home for bed. The church offers ministries for men and women and a Bible study group. Recently the men’s group finished a study of St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul and next is taking on St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. The church also has a vacation Bible school in the summer.