The Drama found in Anglican Worship 3 – The Place of God’s Word
I have been spending the past week reflecting on my return back to the Anglican fold. It all started with the discussion I had with my wife on the meaning and value of the various aspects of the Anglican worship. This got me thinking. If I were to return to the Anglican Church after spending 8 years in the Baptist Church, how would I go about bringing meaning into Anglican worship if I am called to lead. So the past 5 days I have been on a journey of reflection. This is my third blog in the series. In my first blog I explored the place of processions in Anglican worship. In my second blog, I explored the place of gathering together and preparing our hearts for worship as God’s people. In this third blog, I want to explore the place of God’s Word in Anglican worship.
It is often said that the Anglican Church was formed because Henry VIII broke with Rome because the pope refused to allow him to divorce his wife. But the reality is that the English Reformation actually started much earlier. As the English kings gained power and influence throughout the Middle Ages, they had conflicts with the Catholic popes who were also becoming powerful and sought greater control. So when Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England, it was not a shock. The way the English Reformation was developing, the Church of England would have broken away anyway to become part of the Protestant Reformation that was already happening in Europe. As part of the Reformation the Anglican Church “professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds: which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation”. Scriptures play a very important part of the Anglican worship. This forms the second part of the Anglican Eucharist, the first part being the preparation the God’s people for worship .
In this part of the worship, there are 2 or 3 Bible passages that are publicly read during the worship. These readings are linked to the theme for that Sunday. There is a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from one of the Epistles and finally a reading from one of the four Gospels. In some Anglican churches a psalm is read or sung. The Gospel reading is the last of the Scripture readings and becomes the highest point or the climax in this part of the worship. Hence great honour is often given to the gospel reading. Whilst the congregation sits for the other readings, they stand for the gospel reading to show honour and respect to Christ and His words, since He is the Lord and head of the Church. In some Anglican churches, there is a gospel procession where the Bible is taken from the sanctuary to the middle of the congregation to visualise God’s Word in the midst of His people and the fact that the gospel is for everyone.
After the readings comes the sermon. For me the preaching of God’s Word is a very important part of the Eucharist. In many churches the worship leaders and musicians take a more important role in the service than the preaching. In the Anglican Church, the reading and preaching of God’s Word plays a very important part of the Eucharist. Following the preaching, the congregations affirms their faith publicly by saying or singing one of the creeds of the church. The final aspect of this part of the Eucharist is the prayers and intercession of the gathering. This is often led by a person or a group of people praying on behalf of the gathering.
Having been to many worship gatherings, I love the place of prominence Anglicans give to God’s Word in their worship. However Anglicans also give prominence to the Holy Sacraments of Communion and baptism and I would like to reflect on that in my next blog.