TRADITION AND REVELATION, HAND IN HAND
All our lovely ancient tradition is integral to who we are and what we believe, and, equally important, to how we live in our contemporary world. We believe God the Holy Spirit is alive and moving in the world. For this reason we remain open to revelation, to all those things Jesus said he had yet to teach us, things we learn through science and other fields of knowledge. As an old church ad said, “Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins, not our minds.”
The ancient beauty and wisdom of our worship is our strong foundation. It is what anchors us as we seek together to discern what our baptismal promises mean each day. What do promises to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” mean in our daily encounters with other people, some very different from us?
It takes courage to be open so the movements of the Spirit can flourish and all humanity, all creation, can thrive. It is in our ancient worship that that courage to see, learn, accept, and act on revelations is born, nurtured, and encouraged.
The tradition gives us the stability to lean into a changing world. It lets us risk change.
ROOTED IN ANCIENT TRADITIONS
The Episcopal Church is rooted in ancient traditions. We are shaped by the wisdom, prayer, and practices of countless generations so we can face the challenges of our contemporary world.
We go to church not only for comfort, but also for courage; not only for pardon, but also for renewal. Then we are sent forth into the world, carrying the message of God’s unquenchable love for each and every one of us, including you, to a hungry hurting world.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. one of the world’s largest Christian communities. Anglicanism is one of the traditions or expressions of Christian faith.
Anglican worship is based on ancient practices and traditions. Our Book of Common Prayer is at the heart of our worship. It is filled with beautiful prayers created over centuries of thought and prayer, just as centuries of devotion have gone into creating customs, ceremonies, and rites which are beautiful and inspiring.
We are a liturgical church. Our worship nearly always includes a procession of vested clergy and others up the center aisle at the beginning of the service, for instance. The incorporation of ancient religious symbols, the singing of hymns, the communal recitation of such prayers as The Lord’s Prayer, the congregation’s united response to petitions read aloud to God, the observation of the church year, the following of a lectionary (the readings from scripture appointed for specific days of the year), and performance of the sacraments all mark the worship practices typical of a liturgical church.
“Liturgy” comes from the Greek word meaning, “Work of the people.” While the deacons, priests and bishop have distinct roles in worship, the congregation does not sit passively. They are part of the service, giving responses, participating in communal prayer, and reading scripture. Liturgical churches are pretty participatory.
BAPTISM AND WORSHIP
All Christians are grounded in the ancient sacrament of baptism, a sacrament we share with Jesus, baptized by John in the River Jordan. In the waters of baptism, we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, which we call the Church, and given God’s own life to share. We are reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Holy Baptism, which can be performed through pouring of water or immersion in it, marks a formal entrance to the congregation and wider Church; the candidates for the sacrament make a series of vows, including an affirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, and are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are marked as Christ’s own forever, having “clothed [themselves] with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Our principle worship service, called a Eucharist, is modeled after the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples “on the night when he was betrayed.” The word eucharist is from the Greek, and means “thanksgiving.” At the Last Supper Jesus shared the bread and cup of wine at a sacred meal with his disciples. He identified the bread with his body and the wine with his blood of the new covenant – God’s promise to God’s people. Jesus commanded his disciples to “do this” in remembrance of him (see 1 Cor 11:23-26; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:14-20). Christ’s sacrifice is made present by the eucharist, and in it we are united to his one self-offering (Book of Common Prayer, p. 859). The Last Supper provides the basis for the fourfold eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. Christ’s body and blood are really present in the sacrament of the eucharist and received by faith. Christ’s presence is also known in the gathered community.
TAKING GOD TO THE WORLD
In addition to worshiping and reconciling the world to God, the Church is to teach. Bible passages are read out loud in our worship, and sermons comment and enlarge on them and other issues, and relate Christianity to real life. But we also have a responsibility to make our own insights about God available and visible to the rest of the world, particularly in the way we live our daily lives.
We believe lay people have ministries just as do ordained people like deacons, priests, and bishops. Here is how our Catechism [an outline of the faith], says it:
- Who are the ministers of the Church?
- The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
- What is the ministry of the laity?
- The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
All four orders – deacon, priests, bishops, and lay people – are a partnership, centered around Jesus Christ.