Answers to questions about Anglicanism, liturgical services, and why we worship Jesus as we do.
UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
Anglican worship is fully participatory. Priest and People engage in the worship of God with all their senses. There is no place for passivity. The Anglican tradition of common prayer quite literally keeps the congregation 'on the same page'. As a general rule during worship we stand to sing, kneel to pray, and sit to listen.
WHAT IS THE ANGLICAN TRADITION?
“The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.
WHAT IS LITURGICAL WORSHIP?
Liturgical worship can be confusing and intimidating to someone unfamiliar with it. Robes and chanting and kneeling, oh my! Liturgy simply means "form." Where other denominations may take pride in having their own form, we have chosen to follow the form set out for us by our ancestors. The first forms of Christian worship came out of the forms of Hebrew worship. Hymns, creeds and prayers that were written in the first century after Christ's death and resurrection are preserved in this "form" of worship we use today.
WHAT IS WORSHIP/SERVICE LIKE?
Anglicans enjoy all the beauty we can get in our services. That's why we use real beeswax candles and fresh flowers, have live music, and, typically, burn incense during our services. But we love nothing so much as the beautiful prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. Anglicans find solace in the beautifully written words we pray as we listen to scripture, confess our creeds, repent of our sins, and partake of the body and blood of Christ. The prayers change slightly from season to season, but they are always easy to follow. Soon, you may find you've memorized most of the service!
WHAT IS THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER?
In the late Middle Ages a priest might need five or six books to properly conduct the services of the church. Services in England were in Latin- a language that most people (including many priests) did not understand. Furthermore, different regions of the realm had different
uses (liturgies). The Book of Common Prayer put all the rites and liturgies of the Reformed Church of England into one book with simplified forms, in the language of the people for the use of the whole nation. The first Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1549 and was in use in the churches of England by the Feast of Pentecost that year. The prayer book was both traditional and new and set the standard for the Church of England and her daughter churches throughout the world. Revisions were made in 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer remains the official Book of Common Prayer in England. This prayer book was carried across the world by missionaries and explorers and has become the standard for Anglican worship throughout the world. The first American Book of Common Prayer was given to the newly formed United States in 1789. It was revised in 1892 and 1928. The American Prayer Book tradition is remarkably faithful to the first Book of Common Prayer especially the revision of 1928, which is the version we use at the Church of the Advent. The readings for each Sunday and for major feasts go back to the earliest centuries of the Church, the liturgies have their roots in the ancient Fathers of the Church, and all of it is in the beautiful and timeless English of the Edwardian and Elizabethan eras. No other book, with the exception of the King James Bible, has had such an influence on the English language. More important, however, is the fact that the cadences of the prayer book have shaped and continue to shape the hearts of Anglicans throughout the world and throughout the centuries, guiding us as we strive to worship God "in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 96.9).
WHAT DOES A SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION CONSIST OF?
The Anglican tradition recognizes the Lord's Supper, or Communion - where we partake in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus - as the "main event" of every service. All of our prayers, songs, and thoughts lead up to the moment when we participate in the spiritual reality of Christ's death and resurrection at the altar. No one element of our service is more important or set-apart than this one. Anglicans take seriously Christ's charge to partake in Holy Communion together "as often as we are gathered." In practical terms, we gather to pray the prayers the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, sing hymns, and hear a short homily from Father Shaun.
WHY DO YOU STAND, SIT, AND KNEEL, DURING A SERVICE?
Anglican worship includes participatory standing, call and response, chant and kneeling as you feel comfortable and are able. The form of these beautiful prayers provide both a focus for personal devotion and a space with which to incorporate personal worship observances. You may see standing, sitting, bowing, kneeling, and the occasional bare feet. You will almost certainly hear hymns and chant, see candles and a crucifix and specific colors on our priest and at the altar. At Church of the Advent, you'll never be forced to do anything you don't want to do. The way we worship is an invitation to deeper communion with God.
WHY DOES THE PRIEST WEAR DIFFERENT COLORS, BASED ON THE WEEK?
The Anglican church inherits its riches from the ancient practices of the early church, stemming from the Jewish worship practices of first-century Christians. Liturgical worship follows the church calendar, which helps us mark and observe the important teachings and events in the life of Our Lord and of his disciples. The seasons of fasting and feasting order our year and our community. The colors worn by the altar and the priests symbolize each new season as we live through it together.
FIND YOUR FAITH
Are you interested in the practices and traditions of the ancient church?
There is no better way to find out about them than to dive in.
At Church of the Advent, you'll find folks from many backgrounds.
We are all learning together what it means to be Anglican.