The Anglican Church is a liturgical church which means that we share in a tradition of Christian worship which goes back to the early days of Christianity. Liturgy (from a Greek word meaning “the work of the people”) is not an end in itself but is important because it focuses our attention on God. In liturgical worship “we unite ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer, and to celebrate the sacraments” (from “The Outline of Faith”, in The Book of common Prayer, p.857).
We understand the worship of God to be not a time of entertainment or socializing but a time during which we come together to pray as God’s people. This is the meaning of common prayer, in worship we pray together as a Christian community. Here common means “together” not ordinary. For us, the whole worship service is an act of prayer. We offer to God our adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. We pray for the forgiveness of our sins. And we offer to God ourselves and the fruit of our labor as well as our intercessions for ourselves, the Church, and the world. In the context of common prayer we also hear the Word of God in Holy Scripture read and proclaimed.
Characteristics of Anglican Worship
While styles of worship vary from parish to parish, Anglican worship has some readily identifiable characteristics.
Our worship is grounded in Scripture. The Church follows a three year lectionary, a three year cycle of appointed readings from Scripture
- One from the Old Testament
- one from a New Testament epistle
- one from one of the four Gospels
- and a psalm
assigned for each Sunday of the year. The purpose of the lectionary is to make sure that over a three year period about 75% of the whole Bible is read publicly in worship. What we hear read and proclaimed is not simply the priest’s favorite texts but a large portion of Scripture.
The reading and proclaiming of God’s Word in Scripture holds a central place in our worship. The Preface to The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 declared that “the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) should continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.” We not only read and preach Scripture but we also get a great deal of our liturgy from Scripture.
Our worship is sacramental. The sacraments are “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, give by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace” (“The Outline of Faith” in The Book of Common Prayer, p. 857). We celebrate the two principal sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Holy Baptism. We also celebrate and recognize five other sacramental rites
- Holy Matrimony
- Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession)
- Unction (anointing of the sick)
We believe that in these seven sacraments the grace of God is given to us through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We understand the sacraments not simply to be rituals but actions of God in his Church.