If you are new to the Anglican Tradition, you may have some questions when you first visit us. You will find Anglican worship to be highly participatory and multi-faceted! While this post won’t answer all your questions (and will probably raise some new ones!), here is a brief description of what you can expect when you come to worship with us.
First off, you will find that there are two main sections of our service: The Liturgy of the Word and The Liturgy of the Table. (By the way, Liturgy means “work of the people,” which points to our participatory way of worship.)
Simply speaking, the Liturgy of the Word is the time when we prepare our hearts, hear from Scripture, hear an exposition of that Scripture in a sermon, and then respond to God’s Word.
The Liturgy of the Table is when we receive Communion, receive a blessing, and are sent back out into the world to serve Christ.
The Liturgy of the Word
Preparing Our Hearts
Since we generally come to service distracted by many things, it is important that we begin our time together by preparing our hearts and minds so we are more able to receive what God would have for us in the worship that day. We do this in a number of ways – We pray The Collect of Purity together
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Then we hear The Summary of the Law.
“Jesus said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37–40)
Then, we also have a Collect for the Day, which is a prayer that in some way pulls together the main thoughts of the day’s readings.
Hearing God’s Word
After preparing our hearts, we move into our readings and sermon. Each week, we have an Old Testament Reading, a Psalm, a New Testament Reading, and a Gospel Reading.
We generally follow a lectionary, a prescribed set of readings that form a cohesive whole over the course of a year and pick up themes of the Church Calendar. Sometimes though, when desirable, we veer from these readings and engage in a sermon series. This is more likely to occur during the season we call Ordinary Time. (I can talk about the Church calendar and seasons in another post.)
Responding to God’s Word
After reflecting on the Scriptures, we then have a chance to respond to it in a number of ways. We confess our faith in the words of that ancient Creed accepted by Christians across the millennia – the Nicene Creed. We also pray together the Prayers of the People (which is a combination of scripted and spontaneous prayers) and we move into a Confession of Sin where we confess our sins, our failures, and our faults to God.
After the Confession, the priest/presbyter pronounces God’s forgiveness over the people; we call this the Absolution. (Note, during the Absolution, the priest is not forgiving the people him/herself but is pronouncing the forgiveness that Christ won once and for all through the work of the Cross.)
As we segue between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table, we then find ourselves offering up the Peace to one another (after we have made our peace with God through Confession, we can now offer up that peace to one another). We also offer up our gifts to God in a time we call the Offertory. This includes the bread and wine that we will receive during Communion and also our tithes and offerings (currently, we generally offer up our tithes and gifts in the third week of each month).
The Liturgy of the Table
At this point in the sermon, we move into the Liturgy of the Table, the time when we have Communion or what we generally call the Eucharist (derived from the Greek “to give thanks”). This is a time when baptized believers receive the bread and wine (both a symbol of the Lord’s Body and Blood and an actual means of grace, by which Christ is made present to us in a special way.) It is a time of communion with God and communion with each other. People who have not yet been baptized can also come up to the altar at this time to receive a special blessing from the priest.
While there are a number of elements of this section of the service that I could describe here, I will actually reserve that until a later post when I can focus on the Eucharist more fully, including the ways that Anglicans understand Communion. While we have a general common understanding of the Eucharist, we do have some variations in our theology, which I won’t get into here. Depending on you talk to, Anglicans may have a more Lutheran, Reformed/Calvinistic, Orthodox, or Catholic understanding of this Sacrament. This variation in theology is due to the interesting way that the Anglican Church came about during the Protestant Reformation and also subsequent historical/theological developments.
For a new post on the Eucharist, read “An Introduction to the Eucharist”.
The Blessing and Sending
At the conclusion of the service, the priest/presbyter gives a blessing over the entire congregation, such as:
“Now the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always.”
Then the deacon (or someone acting in the place of a deacon) concludes the service by giving the dismissal, which is “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” or something similar.
So we leave our service having been blessed and dismissed to go out and do the work that Christ has given each one of us to do.
Up until this point, I have not mentioned music. What role does music play in our worship? A very important one indeed! We believe that singing is a key way we express our devotion to God. Right now, since we are a small congregation, our music is simple. We hope to develop that as we grow and as talented musicians come into our church. Generally speaking though, we sing at the beginning and end of our service, we listen contemplatively to music after we receive Communion, and we sing various parts of the liturgy (like the Lord’s prayer, the Doxology, etc.).
So this is just a brief introduction to our service, but I hope it helps. And if you come, please feel free to ask as many questions as you want. If you are from a non-liturgical background, it may all seem a little strange at first, but as you participate in this liturgy week after week, it will become a part of you and will become a means of formation into the truths of Christ.
Hope you can join us!