The Culture of All Souls Church

All Souls began worshiping together in 2004. We hope the below explanations capture the ways in which our church body lives, works, worships, and plays.

All Souls Seeks the peace of the city

All Souls seeks the peace of the city. Out of dedication to Jesus and the gift of new life he offers, we pray as he taught us to pray, “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). God called the Hebrew people in Jeremiah 29:7 to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” The Hebrew word for welfare is shalom, which holds within it the ideas of peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. Isaiah described the place with shalom as having joy, health, economic opportunity, flourishing children, spiritual vitality, reconciliation, unity, and safety (Isaiah 65:17–25). Jesus talked of shalom many times, calling it the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. We long to see shalom come to Knoxville, the place where we live, work, and play. To understand our vision for the city in greater detail, please refer to the downloadable e-book Seek the Peace of the City by Doug Banister here. If your time is limited, read the epilogue, The Both/And Gospel.

All Souls believes in the authority of scripture

All Souls believes the Scriptures are the fullest revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and are the Word of God through which God spoke and still speaks to his Church. The Scriptures, therefore, are authoritative for our life as a community of believers. We live joyfully and freely under God’s authority as expressed in Scripture. We seek to apply to every area of life what the Spirit is speaking through the Scriptures. We believe Scripture shows us what it means to be the people of God in the world.

All Souls uses Consensual Orthodoxy as its model for unity

The Nicene Creed is All Souls’ statement of belief. We understand that this creed is an early codification of many Scriptures that define what is foundational for Christian faith. The creed does not take the place of Scripture interpretation. Rather, it offers us a baseline for staying together. All Souls wants to be a church where Christians who disagree about important questions of biblical interpretation can live together in loving unity. We strive towards this vision by affirming the Nicene Creed as the requirement for Christian faith, while respecting, challenging, and learning from our brothers and sisters who interpret the Bible differently on non-creedal issues. We call this doctrine consensual orthodoxy, a consensus on the minimum requirements for salvation. For issues outside the creed, issues not involving salvation, consensual orthodoxy holds in tension the ideas that while Scripture is always the authority for our lives individually and as a community, humility in Christ requires us always to accept with grace those whose interpretations of Scripture may differ. We seek mutual practice of reason, tradition, and experience to the study and application of Scripture.

All Souls is led by a Shepherding Team of men and women

We are led by the Shepherding Team, a group of men and women elected by the congregation with the task of leading the church in both a spiritual role (ministry focus, spiritual direction and support of the body, etc.) and the traditional non-profit board of directors role (managing property, finances, etc.). In addition to these lay leaders, the Shepherding Team includes the lead pastor and some of the church staff.

All Souls is non-denominational

All Souls was planted by a Presbyterian church as non-denominational. Denominations can provide valuable contexts for understanding worship, theology, church history, and the movement of the Spirit of God throughout the world. In the absence of denominational ties, All Souls seeks to create and maintain ties with the church universal, both historically and in the present, in order to comprehend and reflect the beauty, wisdom, and diversity that is Christ’s Body past, present, and future.

All Souls is an urban monastery

Since the mission of All Souls is to seek the peace of the city, we use an ancient model to guide us: the monastery. This model guides our body in creating a community of God’s people committed to the city. We order our life around the rhythms of work, rest, and prayer. We serve our neighbors through hospitality while committing to our spiritual growth and our obedience. While many people understand monasticism as something that withdraws from cities, All Souls finds inspiration in the Modern Devotion movement in the 15th century, whose monastic orders stayed in the city. We stay in the city, too, thus calling our model Urban Monasticism. The following are some of the specific ways Urban Monasticism informs how All Souls seeks the peace of the city.

All Souls is an urban monastery, participating in the rhythms of work, rest, and prayer

Work, rest, and prayer are parts of a balanced life. We reject any dualistic distinction designating part of our life in the world as “sacred” while demeaning other parts as “secular.” All of life is worship. In Creation we see God’s nature both to work and to rest and then to glory in it as “very good.” As creatures made in his image, given a mandate to be stewards of creation even before the Fall, our calling is likewise to work as unto the Lord, and then to rest, to value the created order, and to pray, all in worship of the Creator. Monastic communities have intentionally organized around the rhythms of work, rest, and prayer. At All Souls, we believe that all work can be sacred and a primary way of blessing our city, that allowing Jesus to be Lord of the Sabbath makes our resting an act of trust and of liberation, and that prayer brings us into relationship with our heavenly Father with cosmic consequence.

All Souls is an urban monastery, participating in hospitality

Hospitality informs how we approach evangelism and social justice. Fifteen centuries ago, St. Benedict wrote a Rule to guide the community life of his monks. The Rule of St. Benedict demands that the monastery bless the world by receiving guests as if they were Christ himself. At All Souls, we create physical, emotional, and spiritual spaces where our friends and neighbors can come and live among us, a people living by a hope-filled story. Henri Nouwen describes hospitality as “the creation of a space where the stranger can enter and become a friend and not an enemy.” Hospitality also informs our practice of social justice. We see caring for the needs of members of our community as a way to love Christ himself.

All Souls is an urban monastery, participating in the tradition of Benedict’s commitments

St. Benedict’s Rule calls a monk to three commitments: a promise of stability (i.e. to remain in the same community), conversatio morum (an idiomatic Latin phrase suggesting “conversion of manners”) and obedience (to the community’s superior, seen as holding the place of Christ within it).  How do our similar commitments help inform how we live as All Souls? First, commit to this place and people, this church community, put roots down and stay present: “build houses and live in them” (Jer. 29:5). Second, commit to life-long spiritual growth. Third, commit to obey the Lord Jesus in a community who discerns his will through Scripture and prayer, including those on the Shepherding Team. We ask these commitments of men and women becoming members at All Souls, the people who commit to the church as monks do to the monastery.

All Souls fosters small groups as a part of the bigger goal of intentional community

All Souls encourages its members to invest time and care intentionally into one another. We look to the Trinity to inform how we relate to each other. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a model community, existing as inter-dependent, while different, parts of One. We see small groups as the primary method for offering deeper transformational relationships within our church structure. Small groups offer one of the ways we hear the direction of God, but we do not say it is the only way. Ultimately, we want all our members to find that place within the body of believers where they are deeply engaged in fellowship and community.

All Souls connects the streams of Word, Spirit, and Sacrament in a liturgical service

We seek that place where the streams of Word, Sacrament, and Spirit converge to form a mighty river of worship, celebrating the creative majesty of the Father, the redemptive compassion of the Son, and the empowering presence of the Spirit. We worship with a liturgical structure, meaning that we offer a flow through which we can prepare our hearts. This flow contains new and old music, confession and pardon, prayers both written and spontaneous, the reading and preaching of the Word, and culminates by participating together in the Eucharist. We follow the Lectionary calendar so that we might live each year’s rhythms with a countercultural view of time and to connect with the universal church.

All Souls takes Eucharist each week

The Eucharist table is God’s table, around which our church family gathers every Sunday night. Every piece of our worship life culminates in this communion, the Lord’s supper, the model of giving thanks that Jesus established for his followers during his final Passover meal. In this sacrament our worship finds its meaning and fullest expression and experience as we connect the physical body and blood of Christ with the physical bread and wine. We gather at the table with God and we gather with each other. We do not come as isolated and self-determined people. Instead, we come to the table together. We find unity in our common need for Jesus. We will have disagreements and differing perspectives, but at the Eucharist we have our only hope for forgiveness and repaired relationships because we are all united in our love for the one who gives himself in the bread and the wine.

All Souls calls for baptism to be practiced in Christian community

All Souls recognizes the many baptismal traditions of the church that fulfill the command of the Great Commission to baptize believers. Infant baptism and baptism of a person old enough to profess faith are both administered in any of the modes and forms by which the sacrament has been administered throughout the church’s history. This respect toward the varied historical methods of baptism should not diminish the command that a Christian be baptized.

All Souls believes in the gifts of the Spirit

Jesus’ first act as risen Lord was to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church. The church is a festival of the resurrection, teeming with Easter life. One of the signs of Easter life in the new community was the presence of the gifts of the Spirit. Christians disagree on how they understand the gifts of the Spirit for today. We welcome a diversity of humble and compassionate perspectives. Many in our church believe in and practice all gifts for today, and many also believe the expressive gifts were for the authentication of the Apostles’ message and have since ceased. We focus on Word and Sacrament in our public worship because of this tension.

All Souls values artists and the arts

“Beauty is a profound illumination of presence, a stirring of the invisible in visible form and in order to receive this, we need to cultivate a new style of approaching the world” (John O’Donohue).  The arts play an integral role in leading culture. If those who love Jesus make culture, then it will bless the city in which we live, so All Souls supports artists and the arts in their making of culture. “It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture. But the only way to change culture is to create culture” (Andy Crouch).  In addition to valuing the professional arts, we see beauty in all acts of creating because God is the great Maker. When his image-bearing people make something, they tap into the Creator’s image which they bear. Frank Gaebelein writes, “And in no human activity is this aspect of God’s image more evident than in our making of art.”  

All Souls seeks to invest in existing programs in the city

All Souls seeks less to create programs than to invest our time, energy, and other resources where God is already at work in the city. The people of All Souls use their individual capabilities and resources, joining the myriad of existing organizations, events, and ministries in the city. We also allocate ten percent of our budget to non-profits that seek the peace of Knoxville. We call this 10 to the City.

All Souls’ vision for church growth

All Souls shares in a downtown community of people that know each other and meet in a single Sunday service each week. As people that commit to this place, we want to be a body that knows each other. We may grow larger than our space has capacity. We understand that this creates a tension: we want to know each other, yet we might run out of seating space. We prioritize knowing one another.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

1988 ecumenical translation