Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sweet Bee and Sanctification

by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Published in the December 2016 issue of the 
Carolina Compass Faith supplement to the 
Charleston Mercury

On July 22, 2204, a black lab-mix (probably with beagle) of around 18-months to two years old (the SPCA said two years but her veterinarian, looking at her teeth [like horses, the most reliable way to age dogs] said 18 months) named Sabrina entered my home and my life. She was a great dog and saw me though good times and bad, triumphs and loss (to include the death of my mother) and I was blessed to have her in my life. Sadly, on October 20, after a brief period of having a reduced appetite, she died suddenly – while I was prepared to have her put down when I loaded her into my car to go to the vet that morning her peaceful death enroute precluded me from having to make that painful decision. While she had lived a good and remarkably healthy life until her very last days, she was a member of the family (and as a childless bachelor it could be argued that she was my immediate family) and the sorrow was profound.
Friends and some family (particularly my Dad) suggested immediately getting another dog. I had to wait a brief while to mourn Sabrina's loss but I had glanced at the Doc Williams SPCA website to see what dogs were available and had noticed another black lab-mix named Bee (that my paternal grandmother was named Beatrice and known to many as “Bea” [granted, a different spelling, but the dog doesn't know] didn't hurt). I stopped by their office not to look at dogs but to thank them for the happiness that Sabrina had brought into my life (it occurred to me that they see the front end of adoptions but not the final outcome) and hadn't planned to look at dogs but they had them in runs right beside the parking lot – brilliant marketing in my opinion. I asked which one was Bee and they pointed me to a dog that, while having a good deal of black lab in her also unmistakably had some pit bull in her as well – I have described her as looking like someone cut the head off of a pit bull and stuck it on a lab's body. I also noticed a hairless scar running down her back where someone had burned her, most likely by pouring lye onto her. The thought of the abuse that that dog had endured pulled at my heartstrings.
I didn't adopt her that day but on a Saturday, November 5, after cleaning out the dog crate and buying a new leash, lead, and bowls (those things being kind of individual items) I went to the SPCA and reasoned that if Bee had been adopted that would mean that God didn't want me to have her. Well, she was there, albeit a bit skittish. The staff thought that she had been abused by a man and had noted that while she was tentative around both men and women she was moreso with men but that she had warmed to staff of both sexes. After talking to them and being observed by them to try to read how she'd interact with me the fee was paid, the paperwork was completed, and I brought her home.
It's been a learning experience for us both and it has occurred to me that the process has been similar in many ways to the sanctification – the putting off of our old selves and the putting on of our new selves in Christ (Colossians 3:9, 10) – which is a lifelong process for us as Christians. It is hard for me to get into the mind of someone who would abuse a dog but I'm pretty sure that whomever the person was that hurt Bee didn't just wake up one day and decide to pour lye or whatever burned her back onto her. That scar is obvious, but I'm sure that she has other, invisible and non-physical wounds. So it is with my own sinfulness – “there is no health in us [and me]” as the Prayer of Confession from Morning and Evening Prayer in the historic Book of Common Prayer reads. While the external may be a model of respectability, “...the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV).
As we have gotten to know one another the building of trust has been crucial. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV) At first she was tentative in trusting me. At the suggestion of the SPCA staff I give her dog treats frequently while working, watching television, or reading and she has begun to trust me but that's still a work in progress (they estimated that it may take a month and in some ways things have happened quicker than I hoped – Bee sleeps on my bed and unlike Sabrina, who preferred to curl up at my feet, she prefers to curl up near my shoulder). One day, hopefully, she'll gaze upon me with a look of uninhibited trust. In much the same way, I need to learn to trust in God – the big difference being that He will never fail me.
Sometimes she is stubborn – I've joked that I've figured out what the “bull” in “pit bull” means: bull headed. Likewise I am far too frequently stubborn and resistant to where God is leading me. Again, the difference being that His leadership and His love, unlike mine, are perfect.
I'm enjoying building a relationship with Bee. She has a genuinely sweet countenance (I've yet to hear her growl or even bark and most of the time is responsive to my leading) and I often call her “Sweet Bee.” I hope that as we grow closer I grow ever closer to God as I am conformed to His image and renewed by His grace.

The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest who serves as a chaplain for a local hospice. He may be contacted at drew.collins [at]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Know What You Believe, and Why

Published in the September 2016 Carolina Compass section of the Charleston Mercury

 by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
     As I write this it is late in the evening on August 17. On this date thirteen years ago I knelt and had the late Bishop James West and Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison and a number of presbyters lay hands upon my unworthy head and ordain me a priest. On or about the anniversary of that date I have taken the advice of John Charles Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool, and read through the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the statement of belief of the Church of England and those churches historically descending from it (in other words, all Anglican churches). While I have occasion to refer to the Articles throughout the year, I make a point of marking this date with reading through all of them in one sitting (most of them are brief, but profound, and with 39 of them it takes less than an hour).
     I have found it to be a profitable exercise. While the Articles are subordinate to Scripture, they are a summary of its teachings and determine the boundaries within which I, as an Anglican priest, am to live and teach. They, and other confessional statements, provide a system with which to understand Scripture (hence the term “systematic theology,” which I will confess to being one of my favorite subjects in seminary). Actually the Articles played a not inconsiderable role in my becoming an Anglican – while it was the beauty of the Liturgy that drew me in that was aided considerably when I, as a young Presbyterian seminarian, took in the Reformed Catholicism of the Articles and found it understandable (not surprising as the Thirty-nine Articles formed the basis for Archbishop Ussher's Irish Articles of Religion which in turned formed the basis for the Westminster Standards of the Presbyterian Church).
     Some may think that confessions such as the Articles are dry as dust reading. That that opinion is common may be borne out by visiting most Christian bookstores (or the religion section of most secular ones) and comparing the amount of shelf space given to devotional works to that given to dogmatic ones – the difference will be profound in almost all cases. My own experience has been similar to that described by C.S. Lewis in his classic Introduction to St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation (an essay that I would recommend reading even if one is not going to read Athanasis's work at that moment and which I'm glad I was given as a seminary-bound undergraduate long ago):

     For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion
     than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may
     await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when
     they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart
     sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology                 with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.

And I would, for the record, recommend reading On the Incarnation.

     Regardless of whether they share the Calvinist outlook of the Heidelberg Catechism, 

how could any Christian's heart not be warmed when they read the answer to the first 

question therein?

     Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

     Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong            unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for      all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that          without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all              things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also            assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live        unto him.

By the way, if you're an auditory learner and even if you're not, visit to hear my friend the Rev'd George Syms, who has one of the best preaching voices ever, read that work – you'll be blessed.
      I've spent a lot of time extolling the Anglican Articles of Religion but I'm aware that most of my readers, even around Charleston, aren't Anglicans or Episcopalians. I'd still encourage those who've not done so to read their church's confessional statements. Presbyterians, check out the Westminster Standards, Lutherans, dust off your Concord Books, Methodists, read over your own Articles (lightly edited by Wesley to soften the Calvinism found in the Church of England's Articles), Baptists, review your copies of the Faith and Message and the London Confession of Faith, Roman Catholics, read your Catechism. The Church as a whole has done a poor job of Catechesis and Christians of all stripes need to ground themselves in the teaching of their churches to combat at least two forces: secularism and modernism.
      We live, as we are often reminded, in a post-Christian age. The veneer of respect that was accorded the Church in previous generations is rapidly dissipating and a Christian who doesn't know what they believe or why they believe it is and easy target for those who would seek to minimize the impact of Christianity upon society. Doctrinal statements help to provide just that kind of knowledge.
     There are, sadly, also those forces within the Church who would subvert the historical teaching of the same. While traveling under the brand of historic churches, there are those who teach anything but and are often in staunch opposition to the church's teaching. When clergy and others who teach are familiar with their confessional statements then they can check themselves to be sure that they are teaching people the faith; when laity are conversant in them they can be sure that they are getting that historic faith.
     Delve deep into the knowledge of God – it is effort that will be richly rewarded as you learn more of Him who knows us intimately and loves us profoundly.

     The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., currently serves as the Vicar of The Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal parish of the Anglican Church in North America in Mount Pleasant. He may be contacted at: drew.collins (at) and more information about the parish may be found at:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Remembering Father James Parker

If one listens to the recordings of the 1977 Congress of St. Louis, that gathering of concerned more than 2000 Canadian Anglicans and American Episcopalians concerned about the direction of their Church that saw the birth of the Continuing Anglican movement, one will hear Father James Parker, then-Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Albany, Georgia, offer a prayer and then the following observation: 

We live, as  we all are aware, in a tragic moment in the life and the history of the Episcopal Church. I've always felt that we ought to look for some good even in the greatest difficulties, and I have to say that coming from Georgia as I do...  the kind of encouragement and consolation I find is the realization that a lot of you are beginning to learn what the word "secession" means.
For those who knew him, the remark was classic Parker, both in its appreciation for the South and for its quick wit.

Born Luther Wood Parker, Jr., in Charleston in 1930, he was graduated from Porter Military Academy, the University of South Carolina (A.B.), Virginia Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Rosary College (M.A.L.S.), he married a lovely lady named Mary Alma Cole who bore him two daughters and served tirelessly alongside him. After his ordination to the priesthood in the Diocese of South Carolina on 25  July 2957, the Feast of St. James, he adopted the name of his patron -- James -- and served parishes in South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, and Georgia and also served as a librarian in Tennessee. Of Anglo-Catholic convictions and High Church inclination, he was made Master of the Province of the Americas of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) in 1977. 

All of the preceeding would've constituted a distinguished career for an Episcopal priest of his day but, as he noted in his St. Louis remarks, the era around the 1970s were turbulent times in the history of the Episcopal Church (something that has not changed). Clergy and laity who found that they could no longer in good conscience remain in the old church went a number of places. Some went to the Continuing Church that came out of the St. Louis Congress and then sadly fragmented, a few into the Reformed Episcopal Church, which had departed in 1873, others left Anglicanism or the church altogether. Through the years there had been Anglicans who "swam the Tiber" and became Roman Catholic, most notably among them John Henry Newman in 1845 but Newman, who reentered Holy Orders, wasn't married and clerical celibacy had meant that those married Anglican clergy wishing to go to Rome would do so as laymen. Until, as it were, Father James Parker.

Shortly after the St. Louis Congress Father Parker, who remained in the Episcopal Church, inquired of the Holy See whether or not he and other married priest might be able to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests. After a lapse of two papacies in 1978 following the death of Pope Paul VI and the 33 day reign of Pope John Paul I, approval came from Pope John Paul II. Father Parker resigned from St. Mark's Church and the Episcopal ministry in 1981 and was, with his beloved Mary Alma at his side, ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 29 June 1982, the first married western rite priest in nearly 1000 years. Father Parker was in his early 50s at the time and he continued in active ministry, serving as Pastor of several congregations, most notably Holy Spirit Church on John's Island, South Carolina, where he led a substantial building campaign. He and Mary Alma also served as mentors to clergy and their wives who were serving under Pastoral Provision.

I first met Father Parker in the mid-2000s, although I really can't remember where. We shared a love of our heritage and it may well have been at a meeting of one of the heritage societies to which we jointly belonged. Despite the fact that I am happily and committedly an Anglican, in the words of Bishop Cosin "Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church," Father Parker and I struck up a friendship through which I was blessed and I hope that he was as well.

Because much of my ministry has taken place in the context of hospice chaplaincy, he was a useful contact. One patient's daughter, sure that her mother would want her funeral mass said "the old fashioned way" asked me if I could call Father Parker to see if he could say it; I laughed and told her that I would because, "If you want a Roman Catholic mass said the old fashioned way, get a guy who used to be an Episcopal priest" -- the lady, who remains a friend, saw the irony (unfortunately trouble with his knees prevented him from fulfilling the request). On another occasion, I called upon him when a Roman Catholic patient who was near death and needed sacramental ministry that I, as an Anglican, couldn't provide; he was very helpful. 

I saw him at Mary Alma's funeral and it was clear that the loss of his longtime wife and helpmeet had taken its toll on him. Learning of his death yesterday was bittersweet; I will mourn his passing but give thanks that I had the privilege of counting him a friend and, most of all, that he rests in the Lord. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

On the GOP, Third Parties, and "Throwing Your Vote Away"

A couple of years before I was born my late-mother had the honor of introducing a visiting politician at the annual (and unfortunately named) Lincoln Day Dinner in Buncombe County, North Carolina. My parents got the visitor to sign the program from that event and it remains one of my father's prized possessions. The name of that visitor? Governor Ronald Reagan. I grew up in a Republican household and later had a couple of AUH20 bumper stickers passed down to me when my dad discovered them going through some old things. I cut my political teeth campaigning for that Governor's reelection as President when I was in eighth grade and I served as a delegate to county and district Republican conventions before I'd graduated from high school. With greater or lesser intensity I remained involved in Republican politics until my early forties save for a brief hiatus among the Constitution Party of South Carolina  in the late 1990s. While not considering myself a Republican since 2013, I continue to vote in Republican primaries and primarily but not exclusively support Republican candidates for office. This year, however, I will not be supporting the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump and plan instead to cast my vote for Darrell Castle, the nominee of the Constitution Party.

I have been told by a number of people that in so doing I am "throwing my vote away'" and that I'm "just helping Hillary Clinton." I'd argue that I'm doing neither but that even if I was that it is my right to do so, especially as a veteran who swore to lay down my life for the Constitution if need be (I note that because I have come under the harshest criticism from those who have never done so [those who have worn the uniform seem more tolerant regardless of what their own opinions may be]). In addition, I'd also ask my faithful Republican friends to consider the following historical example. My late grandfather, W.A.Collins, was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1900. After attending Davidson College and the University of Virginia he followed in his father's footsteps and opened a department store in the 1920s that later grew into a chain. Like almost all Southern whites at the time he voted Democrat and he did so in 1932 for one Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a businessman he recognized the New Deal for the creeping socialism that is was and that caused him concern, so much so that the ballot in 1932 was the last one that he cast for a Democrat on the national level. With the possible exception of 1948, when he may have voted for States Rights Democrat Strom Thurmond (who was a friend of his whom he'd flown in his airplane to campaign events on occasion) he voted Republican at the national level until his death in 1982 (I'm sure he also voted Democrat at the state and local level for a good deal of that time as that was the only way to have a say in those elections for much of his life). He didn't get to see a Republican Presidential win in South Carolina until Barry Goldwater carried the state while loosing the national election in 1964. Four years later he got to see Richard Nixon not only carry the Palmetto State but also win the White House and just shortly before his death. he lived to see Ronald Reagan win South Carolina and the Presidency.

To those who would accuse me of throwing away my vote, I would point to Granddad's example -- he cast loosing ballots in his state for nearly thirty years before seeing a Republican carry South Carolina and it was some 32 years before he got to elect a winning elector in a national race. These days Republicans point to folks like him as pioneers and trailblazers. While I hope that the Republican Party returns to sanity in four years it may just be that I have to wait as long as he did to see my dissent bear fruit -- I'll be in my early 80s by then and am willing to wait if I have to. In the meantime I will be able to face my God and myself in the mirror with a clean conscience. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sermon 14 February 2016: The First Sunday in Lent

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 14 February 2016, the First Sunday in Lent. The texts were 2 Corinthians  6:1-10 and St. Matthew 4:1-11.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sermon 7 February 2016: Quinquagesima and World Missions Sunday

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 7 February 2016, Quinquagesima and World Missions Sunday. The texts were 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and St. Luke 18:31-43.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sermon 31 January 2016: Sexagesima

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 31 January 2016, Sexagesima. The texts were 2 Corinthians 11:19-31 and St. Luke 8:4-15.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sermon 17 January 2016: The Second Sunday After Epiphany and Sanctity of Life Sunday

Sermon preached at The Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, on 17 January 2016, the Second Sunday After Epiphany and Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The text was Genesis 2:7-9.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sermon 6 January 2016: The Feast of the Epiphany

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 6 January 2016, the Feast of the Epiphany. The texts were Ephesians 3:1-12 and St. Matthew 2:1-12.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sermon 3 January 2016: The Second Sunday After Christmas

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 3 January 2015, the Second Sunday After Christmas. The texts were Isaiah 61:1-3 and St. Matthew 2:19-23.