What is Anglicanism?
The Christian Faith came to the British Isles very early in the common era. We’re not exactly sure when or how. What we know for certain is that the British Church was sufficiently organized by the year 314 to send representatives to the Council of Arles (and was also poor enough to accept Emperor Constantine’s offer to pay travel expenses). Today, this Church has spread to include over 80 million adherents on every continent.
Anglicans are a diverse group. Wherever the Faith has gone, it has picked up aspects of local cultures. We think this is a good thing. Consequently, the traditions of the Anglican communion include everything from High Masses with lots of ceremony and incense to ecstatic charismatic worship with loud drums and dancing. We see ourselves as bringing together the three streams of Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic Christianity into one broad river.
Amidst all of this diversity, the thing that binds Anglicanism into a cohesive whole is our Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book tradition is a way of spiritual practice including prayer, Scripture reading, fasting and feasting, and the celebration of the Sacraments. When used faithfully, the Prayer Book provides the foundation for a well-balanced, well-grounded, “meat and potatoes” spirituality.
Anglicanism is more of a way of practicing Christian Spirituality than a list of doctrines to be thought. While Anglican Christians have no particular doctrines of our own, we firmly hold the beliefs of the entire Catholic (or, universal) Church. We believe that our salvation, the healing of our sin and brokenness, is found only in Jesus Christ who is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in the Bible, in the Sacraments, and in the life of the Church.
The Nicene Creed dates back to the first centuries of the Church and spans many Christian denominations. It encapsulates the core beliefs of Christianity. We respond to the reading of God’s word by confessing our faith.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Prayer Book Spirituality
In medieval Europe, the greatness of Western civilization had waned due to the end of the Roman Empire, frequent wars, and plagues. During this time, however, Benedictine monasteries continued to preserve literature, science, peace, order, and beauty. The Benedictines governed their lives around ideas of balance: prayer and work, regulation but not strictness, peace within and peace without, love of God and love of neighbor.
During the Renaissance, the English Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, simplified the monastic practices and translated them into English. This was the first Book of Common Prayer. His idea was that every parish Church should be run like a monastery, a place of peace and prayer. The idea was that in every village, people would begin and end their days together in a nearby chapel listening to the offices being sung and the scriptures read. Each Sunday, everyone would attend Mass together and actually participate in it. They would also follow the Church Calendar together with its regular round of feast days and fast days. Other services were provided to mark major life events in the community. The Church was given a healthy spirituality based on a communal experience of the Gospel of Christ. Prayer Book Spirituality, then, has the goal of bringing the vibrancy of Benedictine monasticism to ordinary people.