The Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) is best understood as a movement of movements: the parallel spiritual families of independent or autonomous Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Gnostics, and esoteric Sacramental Christians. Our common characteristic as sacramental Christians is that we are not in communion with (or even recognized by) the jurisdictions from which we originally sprang.
"Independent Sacramental Movement", then, does not have a proper definition; it is a sign post pointing in the direction of this loose family of independent sacramental churches, each with their own defining characteristics.
While this description says something about us from the outside looking in, it misses the essential on-the-ground truth: the many ministries within the ISM are notable for living authentic and meaningful Sacramental Christian life and worship and witness in a startling variety of ways, from conventional to radically experimental. Christ is proclaimed and encountered as a living reality throughout the ISM. This may or may not look and feel like what you would find in a visit to a mainline denomination. And we - by necessity or choice - operate on a vastly different scale, being each quite small compared to our mainline colleagues.
This site is intended to provide an inclusive guide to ISM organizations and resources. Your new or updated information, thoughtful feedback, and constructive suggestions to update and expand the content of this site are encouraged, with thanks.
Bishop Rob Jones, author
Exploring the Independent Sacramental Movement
by John Plummer, author of The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement
I'm pleased to be able re-print the following invitation to experience the ISM. The original first appeared on the now-gone ISM directory site Eternal Christ.One can read extensively about the people and communities of the independent sacramental movement on the internet and in books. However, the only way to really get to know us is to show up in person and visit. It is the difference between reading personal ads in the paper, and going on a real date. Most independent communities welcome respectful visitors. It is always good to remember the advice of Fr. Paul Blighton: Have reverence for the reverence of others, even if not for what they revere. If a community's theology or practice is foreign to you, it is still the approach to the sacred taken by its members. Also, independent communities which meet in private spaces (e.g., a member's home) may request a chance to meet you for coffee and conversation before inviting you to join them for liturgy.
When planning a visit, the most important thing is to ask a lot of questions. What does the community believe? Even if it is non-dogmatic, there will be beliefs which are typical among members. Are the clergy formally educated, or are they volunteers who have been mentored by other clergy? Does the community engage in activities beyond mass? What is the group's history? What level of involvement is expected of, and/or typical of members? Any healthy church will be happy to answer your questions. Evasiveness and silence are warning signs. You should remember that most independent priests have full time secular jobs, and families, so they may not have as much available time as mainstream clergy.
When you visit, the liturgy may be familiar, or highly unusual. You may want to sit near a friendly member who can guide you through the service. If the priest does not make the communion policy clear, you should ask if non-members can receive communion, prior to going forward. Please be honest about your own reasons for visiting - simple curiosity, seeking a community, looking for a priest who will perform an unconventional wedding, etc. This information will help the clergy to respond to you in the most helpful way. If the church is not what you were hoping to find, speak openly with the priest, as she or he may know of another community which would be a better or at least more interesting match for you.
Above all, if you proceed with a spirit of adventure, a willingness to be surprised, and a dose of good common sense, you are sure to enjoy your travels in the independent movement!
© John P. Plummer 2006. All Rights Reserved.