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Church of Our Saviour hangs on

L.A. church says it has 30 in regular attendance.
Long Beach Press Telegram
By Greg Mellen, Staff writer

Monday, August 15, 2005 - On a Tuesday afternoon, the traffic is thick and noisy along Olympic Boulevard near Carthay Circle just east of Beverly Hills. Inside the cool, dark recess of the Church of Our Saviour, however, all is silent. Nestled into a tiny triangle of space between Olympic Boulevard and Stearns and Carrillo drives, the tiny 1923 church is like an island sanctuary.

At 6:30 p.m., the six parishioners inside fall silent to the sound of the traditional Sanctus bells as the Rev. Donald Ashman begins the evening service. Dressed in ornate vestments, the priest conducts a one-man service in traditional style.

After locking up the building after the service, Ashman meets his wife, Ellen. It has been a long day for the rector, who also has been a full-time Latin and history teacher for 30 years at Hoover High School in Glendale.

Ashman said Our Saviour barely survived the court battles of the 1970s and saw its membership drop to 35 at one point. The congregation has built back up to 150 members, with 30 or so coming regularly to church, and manages to squeak by each year on a small budget. Yet, despite the challenges, Ashman has big dreams and hopes to build a rectory and an endowment fund before he retires.

"I figure I have 15 years," Ashman said. "I'll do all I can to keep the church for the priest after me."

The Los Angeles parish is now aligned with a traditional sect called the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Another of the collection of Anglican groups to rise in protest after the Affirmation of St. Louis, the Province consists of five dioceses with 55 parishes in 24 states plus Washington, D.C.

For the Ashmans, the ordination of women was only a part of the fallout from the late 1970s. Particularly troubling was the church's drift toward a more humanistic and less holy form of worship, signified in part by attempts to modernize the Book of Common Prayer and make services more accessible.

The Book of Common Prayer is a central part of Anglican worship. Extensive revisions weren't formally approved until 1979, after the court battles had been launched, but had been used experimentally beginning in 1976. The revisions and services, in part, mirrored similar modernization in the Roman Catholic Church that was undertaken after the Vatican II, which took place from 1962-65.

This was also a time when the so-called Low Churches became more popular in the national Episcopal Church. In essence, low services were less formal and the sermon took precedence over the liturgy. Many of the prayers are spoken rather than chanted or sung and incense and bells aren't necessarily used. Low Churches may also alternate informal morning prayers with the Eucharist, an entire communion service, as their Sunday service.

The movement toward accessibility has had its downside, the Ashmans say.

The more formal services are "more ethereal and awesome," Ellen Ashman said. "The beauty of the older-style liturgy makes it all timeless," she said. "That type of service is not being demanded by today's mores."

"We are what the Episcopal Church threw away," Donald Ashman said. "We maintain apostolic succession, with the beauty of a traditional liturgy."

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August 15, 2005 in Churches Not In Communion | Permalink


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