First Time Visitor 

If you will soon be a first time visitor to The Church of the Incarnation, this page is for you!

It is all too common to hear a story of how a friend was "spooked" or uncomfortable at a church.  Perhaps the pastor asked the person to stand and say his name, to give a "testimony" or some other thing like that.  For other Christians, entering into a traditional, liturgical church may bring to memory past wounds.  Others may have been hurt emotionally by church leaders and people.  Perhaps they were overworked and unappreciated on a committee or board.  Or they were ignored.  The list of reasons are many.

In light of these realities and others, we wish to put forth our primary intention for you as a first time visitor, namely, that you would sit in the Presence of Jesus and find Him in our worship.  We believe our church ought to be a safe place to seek God's heart.  The Bible says of Jesus, "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench."  This means that Jesus did not seek to harm an already injured soul.  He did nothing, by his words or actions to extinguish the smoldering ember of faith in a person who had been spiritually harmed.

The fact is, bad things happen in churches and even though we are Christians it does not then mean that we shall be free from the sinful actions of others.
So when you come to our church, we do not require you to kneel, genuflect, bow, stand or sit.  We will not sit and listen to see if you are reciting the Creed or singing the hymns.  In fact no one will be monitoring your conduct in any way. 

We believe that if you attend our little church, you are there by Divine appointment. 

Feel free to sit and listen throughout the service.  Peruse our little Blue Service book which is in each pew and read the bulletin.  Look around at our altar, the iconography and our people.  Listen to the Word of God sung, read and preached.  We have as many as 7 distinct Scripture readings read or sung during the course of our services -- readings which are meant for you.

God has a message for you.  Hear what God is saying to you.  Ask Him to speak to you when you come.  Through the ancient liturgy of the Church, God will speak deeply to the heart who is attentive and listening in faith.  More plainly, God will speak deeply to your heart.


Do this for as many weeks or months as you feel necessary.  Eventually you will learn the ebb and flow of our services.  The unfamiliar will become familiar.  You may even come to find out that what you are learning feels more like home and decide to go deeper in your walk with Jesus Christ.

And one more thing:  if you are a brave soul, join us after the service for coffee and treats.  We have some accomplished bakers and meal makers in our parish who would love to offer you and your family their hospitality.

God bless you and we look forward to seeing you this Sunday!

Above: A Depiction of the first Lutheran Divine Service in Brandenburg, 1539

Evangelical + Reformed + Orthodox + Catholic

Upon entering Church of the Incarnation, one might be struck that it looks very much like a Roman Catholic Church – at least as seen through the 1960’s. Church of the Incarnation is very happy that she shares many things with the Roman Church and this witnesses to the fact that both churches are legitimate heirs and branches of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Yet there are many things that one finds at Church of the Incarnation that are just as “Protestant” and the fact that this is not so apparent only speaks to how far Protestantism (and especially American Protestantism) has gotten away from its roots and the principles of its Forefathers.

            The first hint that Church of the Incarnation is following the principles of the Reformation, and indeed the principles of the Eastern Christian Church, is that the Service of Worship is in English. Until very recently, Roman Churches said the Mass in Latin. This is not, in itself, completely bad (and some Anglican churches say the whole Mass or part of it in Latin) but as a Lutheran document from 1528 in Saxony, Germany puts it, “Some sing German and some Latin masses, which we permit, but where the majority do not understand Latin we regard it as profitable and good that the mass be held in German, so that the people may the better understand what is read and sung . . .” The Anglican Church too, from 1549 onwards, has said its Mass in English, where the people do not understand the Latin tongue. This also points out that in the original Reformation churches, like Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches, the Mass and other Church Services were sung or chanted. (“Instructions for the Visitors of 1528”)

But you celebrate Saints’ Days…

Yes, but to return to that same Lutheran document of 1528 again: “festivals, like Sundays and various other festival days should be observed according to the custom of each parish, for the people must have a certain appointed time when they may assemble themselves for the hearing of God’s Word. . . . It would be well that all should unanimously celebrate Sundays, the Annunciation, Purification, and Visitation of the pure Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Michael, the Apostles, St. Magdalene . . .” And such the Anglican Church has ever had in her Prayer Book. Having church only on Sundays and not on Saints’ Days and festivals too is a result of later innovations. (“Instructions for the Visitors of 1528”)

But you say the “Hail Mary”…

Yes, but these are simply words of Scripture. It was repeated often in the ancient liturgies of the Church and, as a matter of fact, was a part of the Reformer Zwingli’s own liturgy written in 1525, which he composed for the Christians of Zurich; Luther wrote an explanation of it and Henry VIII authorized its use. The final part, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, Prayer for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death” is a new addition and more controversial. Nevertheless, those words were first published and printed in a prayer book by the great Italian preacher, Savanarola, just a couple decades prior to the Reformation. He was himself considered a Reformer and was burned at the stake by a Pope. These last words are said by the congregation, voluntarily, and no one is required to say them who is uncomfortable with them.

There is a “Crucifix” above your “Altar”…

This is true. And if you return to many of the Protestant churches of Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland, you will find that they never removed the beautiful “reredos” which adorned the backs of their altars complete with pictures of angels, saints, as well as a crucifix. In fact, the plain brass cross which is common in many American Protestant churches was considered controversial and “Catholic” in its day. Yet both the plain cross and the crucifix are perfectly permissible and “Protestant”. And, just to make the matter plainer, you will even find that there are monasteries in Germany and Scandinavia which are “Protestant” and have continued and flourished for centuries, both before and after the Reformation.

You also wear “vestments”…

This is also true. Both the “chasuble” and “cope”, however, were the distinctive and required garments of the ministers of the Church of England after the Reformation, as before it. It was not until subsequent attacks upon those vestments by the Puritans that just an academic gown began to be worn. It was also so in Germany and Scandinavia. For many centuries, the Church of Sweden, as well as the Church of Denmark and Norway, have worn the “chasuble” when celebrating Holy Communion and, as these are expensive, well-made and last for centuries, there are possibly parishes in Sweden which are still wearing the chasubles that they were wearing before the Reformation!

Why do you call yourselves “Evangelical”?

“Evangelical” means “of the Gospel”. It was the term chosen by the Lutheran churches, but, when combined with “Catholic” specifically and historically refers to the Anglican Church. William Augustus Muhlenberg, of the Muhlenberg family so famous in Pennsylvania, coined the term and applied it to the Anglican tradition. William Augustus’ great-grandfather was Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, “The Father of American Lutheranism.” William Augustus’ grand-father was Frederick Muhlenberg, a great figure in the founding of our Nation and also a Lutheran minister in Pennsylvania. William Augustus’ great-uncle, Peter can also be considered a “founding father” of our Nation. Peter Muhlenberg was also a Lutheran minister, but chose to serve in Virginia. Peter actually had to return to England to be ordained by Bishops in Apostolic Succession because Virginia was officially a Church of England colony. It is also the case that Peter wished to serve a Swedish Lutheran congregation and that the Church of Sweden also retains Apostolic Succession. It was at this congregation that Peter tore off his preaching gown, revealing a continental army uniform, declaring “there is a time for peace and a time for war.”

            William Augustus Muhlenberg also chose to embrace the Anglican Way and Apostolic Succession, becoming assistant to Bishop William White at Christ Church, Philadelphia in 1817. He was a great friend of the Swedish congregations in the newly-formed United States and it is no wonder that so many Swedish congregations joined with the Anglican Church in the U.S.A. known at that time as the Protestant Episcopal Church.

            For William Augustus, “Evangelical Catholic” incorporated the best of the Reformation and the best of the Universal Church of Christ. It meant a church with Apostolic Succession that preached the Gospel tirelessly and purely. That very much describes what Church of the Incarnation thrives to be.

Why do you call yourselves “Reformed”?

“Reformed” does not mean new. In fact, it is a word that is very consistent with “Evangelical” and “Catholic”. It is similar to the way in which the People of Israel reconstructed or re-formed the Temple of God at Jerusalem after it had fallen by the hands of Heathen armies. It implies a converted heart, a heart rejuvenated by the Gospel, a heart that has turned from its sin and embraced new life in Jesus Christ and is being built up in the same. That too describes the mission and ambitions of Church of the Incarnation.

            “Reformed Catholic” also has historically been associated with the Anglican Church in the U.S.A. When the Anglican Church in the U.S.A. (known at that time as the Protestant Episcopal Church) threatened to be split by the War Between the States, plans were set in place to form an Anglican Church for the Confederate States of America. One of the proposed names for this was “The Reformed Catholic Church.”

            Generally, when we say “Reformed” we mean “Calvinist”. And, indeed, Calvinism has had a deep and meaningful impact on the Anglican Way. Martin Bucer, Calvin’s own mentor, spent his last years in England and was very influential. Some have said that the Anglican Church is an important “middle way” between Lutheranism and Calvinism. Others have said that she is a “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and still others between “East” and “West.” All of these are in their own ways true. We should ultimately pray that where the Church is “corrupt” God would “purify” her and where “she is in want” God would “provide” for her. We also pray that where she is “amiss” God would “reform” her. (Prayer For the Church from The Book of Common Prayer)

Why do you call yourselves “Orthodox”?

“Orthodox” generally refers to those churches of the East which accept the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Christian Church. These Seven the Church of the Incarnation readily accepts as evidenced by The Affirmation of St. Louis to which Church of the Incarnation subscribes. Yet there is a deeper meaning.

            “Orthodox” is the combination of two Greek words. The first part “Ortho” means “straight” or “true” – as in the word, “Orthodontist,” a doctor who makes your teeth straight. The second part, “doxa” refers to “opinion” or “belief”. In this, we see that “Orthodox” refers to somebody with correct opinion. But “doxa” has a second meaning, “glory” – as in the word, “Doxology,” “Glory Words.” Those churches which are Orthodox are those that “believe correctly” and accept the Creeds of the Undivided Church. When those Orthodox churches recite the Creeds, they proclaim “True Glory” and the recitation or chanting of the Creeds is, in fact, a “Doxology,” a hymn of glory recited to our Lord.

Why do you call yourselves “Catholic”?

“Catholic” in the context of describing the Church is synonymous with the Church. Strictly speaking, there is no Church besides the Catholic Church. All the words we have described before are adjectives which are used to describe the noun, “Catholic”. So we have “Evangelical Catholic,” “Reformed Catholic” and “Orthodox Catholic.” Many do not know it but every Orthodox Church of the East is not just an “Orthodox” church but an “Orthodox Catholic” church. The Russian Orthodox Church is more properly referred to as the “Russian Orthodox Catholic Church”.

            “Catholic” is also the combination of two Greek words and means “according to the whole.” It was used by Aristotle to describe plants or animals of the same genus. In fact, the Latin word, “genus” is a pretty good descriptive of what “Catholic” means. It means that the fruit is the same because the tree is the same; the thing generated or born of it is the same genus as the thing breeding it, no matter where it is geographically. So it is with the Church Catholic. Wherever she is geographically she produces or generates the same thing.

            The head or overseer of such a church is a bishop in Apostolic Succession. In this way he serves as the military “General” of that place. “General” comes from the word “genus”. A General in a military sense is one who directs the course of action against the enemy. This surely the Bishop does against our spiritual adversary. Furthermore, the Bishop as “General” produces and generates Christians (or fruit) according to the pattern or genus of Jesus Christ through Holy Baptism and Confirmation, and through the other Sacraments of the Church. (In the early Church, the Bishop was normally the one to Baptize.) In some places, a head bishop is called a “Catholicos” – here again we see that the Latin and Greek words are consistent.

            The important reason for combining “Evangelical,” “Reformed” or “Orthodox” with “Catholic” is to emphasize two parts: Form & Function. Catholic is the “Form”: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, producing and generating by Doctrine and Sacraments the fruit of Faith, disciples of Jesus Christ. But sometimes the Form is there but the Function is dysfunctional. The Church is not producing what She is supposed to produce and therefore we add Evangelical, Reformed or Orthodox to describe where in fact she has, not only the Form, but the Function of the Church. The Function of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel (Evangelical), call sinners to repentance and new life in Christ (Reformed), and to teach the correct things (Orthodox). 

Martin Chemnitz, a Lutheran leader and known as the "Second Martin", clearly shown holding rosary beads next to his book. As the request for the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercession was a later addition, no doubt, he would have said the rosary only with the words of Scripture. To the right is a Lutheran Mass as celebrated early on, complete with houseling cloth and tray to make sure that no particle of the Blessed Sacrament falls on the ground. One will see no less dedication shown at

Church of the Incarnation.

Lutheran Mass at Koenigsburg
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