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Saint David's Anglican Church

Saint David's Anglican Church
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Reflections

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 Christian Worship in the Anglican Tradition

What strikes many first-time visitors to an Anglican service of worship is how different it is from a typical Protestant Evangelical service. In describing our ‘style’ of worship at least five things may be said. Our worship is :

Liturgical. ‘Liturgy’ simply means ‘the work of the people.’ It refers to the service and surrender of the people of God to Him in worship. It is a mistake to speak of churches that are ‘liturgical’ as opposed to those that are ‘non-liturgical.’ Some Christians even boast of not being ‘liturgical’ (sometimes with an added innuendo of somehow being superior to those who are). But this is to completely misunderstand what liturgy is about. All churches have a liturgy on Sunday morning. Whatever their usual and prescribed order of worship is (most churches tend to do it in the same way and style from week-to-week), that’s their liturgy.

The relevant question then is not: is a church’s worship liturgical or non-liturgical - for all churches have a liturgy of one sort or another - but is a church’s liturgy Christ-centered, reverent before God, pleasing and honoring to Him, edifying to the people of God, and in accord with the tradition and pattern of worship handed down by the apostles and adhered to in the Church throughout the centuries? In this the worship practices of the first few centuries of the Church are definitive in the formation of the Anglican ethos.

As to worship practices becoming rote, anything done from Sunday to Sunday can become rote, and this applies just as much to Protestant Evangelical churches as it does to Anglican churches. The following can become rote: listening to sermons, singing from a hymnal or from a screen, sitting/standing/kneeling (take your pick) to pray, the public reading of Scripture, having ’altar calls’ at the end of services, listening to the pastor pray, observing the Lord’s Supper once a month (which was not the practice of the early Church, Acts 20:7), stopping in the middle of a service to shake other people’s hands, saying a loud ‘Amen’ every time the preacher says something we agree with, etc.

Formal. As to ‘formality,’ we embrace it. We are here to worship God as He has been revealed to us in all His perfection and holiness. ‘The LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before Him’ (Hab. 2:20). It would be unthinkable to approach an earthly monarch or head of State in a casual, gabby and slipshod manner. How much more should this be true with our approach to God ! We should not then casually - much less, flippantly - enter the presence of the Almighty by stepping into the house of God and making it more like the secular world than the place of worship that it is. We believe there is such a thing as consecrated or sacred space, and make every effort to speak and behave in the church in a manner appropriate to that reality. Indeed, the Church has a calling from God, a sacred purpose in the world. In this we are reminded that Jesus did not take kindly to those who turned the temple of his day into a marketplace (John 2:13-17). To be addressed more under Reverent.

Again, as to the matter of formality: We think those who lived in closer proximity than us to the apostles are trustworthy guides in the matter of worship. They are certainly more reliable than the latest popular trends and fads which have been marketed to unsuspecting Christian congregations, with the result being ‘worship’ that is superficial, given over to entertainment, or more likely, both - that in some cases approaches the atmosphere of a carnival show. ‘New’ is not always better. Indeed, in modern church life it seems that the ‘newer’ things get, the more degeneration occurs. We think sometimes the most progressive and forward-looking thing to do is go back, and have actually put this into practice.

Corporate. Our worship follows the beautiful liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer. Largely the work of Archbishop and martyr Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) during the English Reformation, the Prayer Book makes use of ancient and medieval liturgies of the Church, both Eastern and Western, and is intended for common worship, i.e. in solidarity; for with ‘the communion of saints’ - those living and departed - we are one Body in Christ. Our prayers are thus intentionally in the plural: ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘Our Father’.

Reverent. Traditional Anglican worship in all of its forms is reverent in feel and style. We believe the ‘atmosphere’ of the house of God should be different and different from the secular world, for here the worship of earth and heaven blend. Indeed, in Christ our Redeemer we are raised up into ‘the heavenly places’ (Eph. 2:6; Rev. 4-5). We do not ‘begin’ worship at 10 a.m., but in awe, humility and joy we enter a worship already taking place. Our voices join those of myriads of angels and archangels who dwell in God’s presence in constant adoration of Him and ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8). Jesus Christ is central to our worship, which is why visitors will not find in our worship attention paid to vocal soloists or specialized ‘worship teams.’ We are not against edifying music, or modern Christian music in and of itself for that matter; but the fact remains that the entire church is the worship team. We’re not here to be entertained. And we’re not here simply to socialize. While our Christian fellowship is highly important, it comes after and is secondary to the worship of God. To Him be glory unto the ages of ages.

Biblical. In worship we confess our faith by affirming Holy Scripture which declares God’s glory, His way of salvation, and His ultimate purpose to reconcile all Creation to Himself through the once-for-all (never to be repeated) sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross (Col. 1:20; 2 Cor. 5:19;1 John 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 11:32). The mystery involved in the remembrance of the Lord’s death in our weekly celebration of the Eucharist is that we actually partake of, participate in and derive benefit from, his death and sacrifice. Yes, Jesus’ death occurred in history (in time, as we know time), but it was effective with respect to eternity as well (Rev. 13:8). That includes here and now. The profound implications of St. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 10:16-17 cannot be overstated. Our physically partaking of real bread and real wine helps us in knowing that Christ’s sacrifice for the sin of the world was (and still is) very real, and not just something we think of.

 

Related Links


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The 1928 Book of Common Prayer Daily Offices
Ordo Calendar and The Church Year Occasional Offices
1928 BCP of Fixed Holy/Saints Days Propers for Sundays, Holy Days and Saints Days
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