Couper Hall‎ > ‎

Why do Anglicans...?

Why do anglicans do the things they do?

The Rose Window at St. John's
The Rose Window at St. John's

1. Looking at the word through three "lenses." The Episcopal Church in the United States is part of the 22 million member Anglican Communion of churches in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa who follow a particular way of Christianity which is to look at life and the world through the three lenses of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  Anglicans tend to be biblical, liturgical, pastoral, and open to change. 

      "The Anglican vocation is to create the climate of spiritual liberty in which individuals may bear witness to the truth as they see it, submitting themselves to the criticism of their peers without fear of ecclesiastical censure or censorship" (editor's emphasis) (From Paul Avis, "What is ‘Anglicanism’?" 1990).

2. The Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is the official service book of the Episcopal Church. It contains various rites of worship and the Psalter. It was developed after the Reformation in 1552. It is a single, convenient, authoritative, and comprehensive guide for both clergy and people. It contains almost one-third Holy Scripture and was introduced by Thomas Cranmer (1472-1553), then Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglicans stress common prayer not common thinking.

3. Candles. Candles symbolize the Light of Christ to the world. Small "votive" candles are lit near the entrance of the church as a sign of prayer or special intention.

4. Crosses. The cross Christus Rex ("Christ the King") is behind the altar. It depicts Christ as our Sovereign. Another style of cross we use is the Crucifix (Christ Crucified) which reminds us of Christ's one, full, and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Other cross styles are the plain Latin Cross (> ), the Celtic Cross which is a Latin cross with a circle in the center, the balanced Greek Cross (: ), St Andrew's Cross (6 ) which depicts the style of cross on which he was crucified, and the unique Jerusalem Cross which is one cross consisting of five crosses (@ ).

5. Flowers. We decorate our altar with flowers every day of the year, except on Good Friday, to show our love for the beauty of the world which is God's own creation.

6. Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist (also called the Mass, Holy Communion, Lord's Supper, The Divine Liturgy) is the principle rite of worship in the Episcopal Church. Our Lord himself instituted it and we believe his is fully present to us in the consecrated bread and the wine. In it, we receive God's grace: forgiveness of our sins, strength in our union with Christ, and a foretaste of eternal life.

7. Icons. The iconic tradition comes from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Icons are paintings which are considered "windows to heaven" and aids for worship. Two icons of St John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary are displayed next to the cross in the sanctuary.

8. Incense. Incense is another worship tradition. It is mentioned over 100 times in the Bible -- in both Old and New Testaments. In the Book of Revelation we are told "the smoke of incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God" and in Psalm 141, "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you." We use incense in our worship on the major festivals of the church.

9. Ministry. We believe we are all ministers of the Church: lay persons, deacons, priests, and bishops. Each ministry role bears witness to Christ according to the gifts given them as they carry on Christ's reconciliation in the world and take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. 

10. Organization. The Episcopal Church is part of Christ's "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church." It is governed by elected bishops who oversee dioceses and a presiding bishop who is elected at the national level. Each parish has an elected Vestry (church governing board) of men and women. The head of the Vestry is called the Senior Warden.

11. Orthodoxy. When we say we are an "orthodox" Christian church, it means that we practice and believe those things that have been practiced and believed by the Christian Church in all places and times since its early beginnings.

12. Reverence. Anglicans bow (some even genuflect --touch their knee to the ground) to show respect for God and his Presence. We bow when we approach or pass by the altar.

13. Sanctuary lamp. The red lamp in the sanctuary always burns except on Good Friday. It signifies Christ's presence in the Holy Eucharist which is "reserved," or stored, in the tabernacle directly under the large sanctuary cross. 

14. Sacraments. Sacraments convey God's favor and grace to us. By grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our mind, stirs our hearts and strengthens our wills. Grace cannot be earned and we most certainly do not deserve it. There have traditionally been seven sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony (Marriage), Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession), Unction (Anointing the Sick), and Ordination. 

15. Sign of the Cross. An old Christian tradition to sanctify (or make holy) oneself is to draw the sign of the cross on one's body. Traditionally, Anglicans cross themselves at the beginning of the Holy Eucharist, at the end of the Gloria, at the name of the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit," at the end of the Nicene Creed, during the Eucharistic prayers, and at the blessing which concludes the Eucharist.

16. Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross is a method of devotion and prayer used during the liturgical season of Lent to trace our Lord's final steps to the Cross. It is primarily used in the Roman and Anglican churches, although some Protestant churches are now recovering this ancient rite of the Church. There are fourteen "stations" along the east and west walls of the church.

17. Tradition. It is helpful to remember the universal Anglican response concerning most of our liturgical practices or traditions. It comes from a question a parishioner once his priest about going to confession, "Must I do it?" he asked his priest. The reply? "Some should, all may, none must!"

18. The Tabernacle. This is a wooden container behind the altar under the sanctuary cross that contains consecrated bread and wine. This "reserved" sacrament is used for bringing Holy Communion to the sick and shut-ins who cannot attend weekly worship.

19. The Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel told Mary that she was "Blessed among all women." We acknowledge her as an important saint. We do not "worship" her, but give her special reverence (as the angel Gabriel suggested) as the mother of our Lord.

20. Vestments. The priest and those who lead worship generally wear special clothing called vestments while serving at the altar. For example, priests wear a white alb, a stole around their neck, and a chasuble (circular coat) when they celebrate the Holy Eucharist. These are the ancient vestments of the early church and often are colored according to the particular liturgical season of the church year: Advent (Blue), Christmas, Holy Days, Marriage, Baptism and Burial (the purity of white), Lent (penitential purple), Pentecost and Saint's Days (red for the fire of the Holy Spirit), and the long season after Pentecost (the green of God's creation).

21. The Local Church. It is the local church which is called to reflect Christ to the world. Here in Portage, we do that as a church which is both Protestant- Evangelical in belief and Catholic in practice. We see our mission is to bring lost persons to Jesus Christ and help them become his disciples. Our church houses the Portage Food Pantry and hosts a free community meal each month in our parish hall. We describe ourselves as a welcoming, Christ-centered, joyful and historic community. Come and see for yourself…