Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Why do you…?

Here are some common questions and answers regarding Holy Trinity and our expression of the Anglican tradition. If you have other questions about why we do the things we do, please ask Fr Rob and we will add the question and response here.

Does the Anglican church follow the liturgical calendar with colors?

Yes. Our worship and devotion is guided by the seasons of the Church. In the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, we use purple for the paraments, veil, stole, and other vestments. In the seasons of the celebration of the holiness and sovereignty of God, Christmas and Easter, we use white. In seasons where we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, confirmation, ordinations, and the feast days of martyrs, we use red. In the seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost, we use green to symbolize growth. Here is a great video that describes the Liturgical Calendar.

May women serve in positions of authority? Be priests?

At Holy Trinity, we welcome the ministry to which God has called each of us in our life together. Both women and men may serve as lay readers, intercessors, teachers, leaders of ministries, and members of the vestry. This is what the Bible calls the priesthood of all believers. In this way, we are all called to be priests.

The Anglican Church also orders ministry within the Biblical and historic tradition into ordained and lay ministry. The lay ministry is the priesthood of all believers and the ordained ministry is divided into Deacons, Priests, and Bishops. Ordination of priests and deacons is discerned within the diocese and performed by the bishop. Ordination of bishops is discerned within the province. Within the Anglican Diocese of the West (CANA), our bishop follows the tradition of the church and its reading of Scripture and does not ordain women as deacons, priests, or bishops. 

Why do you wear cassocks? Stoles? What do they mean?

Cassocks, stoles, and other vestments are generally items of clothing that had a very practical purpose and a later symbolic purpose was imparted for those items that were retained in corporate worship. 

The black cassock was generally the daily wear of priests in Europe. The black color is symbolic of humility. A white surplice was put on over the black cassock for the Daily Office. The white being symbolic of holiness or purity for worship. Here in Texas, a cassock is too hot for daily wear so you will normally find me in black slacks and a black clerical shirt as daily wear. 

For the Sunday service, white replaces black for the color of the cassock. A number of styles, each with its symbology and private devotions, is available. At Holy Trinity, we usually wear a cassock alb with hood. I wear it for the very important reason that it is what I have! I do like the hood because it keeps the stole from becoming twisted and from rubbing on my neck. 

One of the great tensions in the liturgical tradition is how the service represents Christ. Do we celebrate and represent the majesty of Christ or the humility of Christ? I would love to be able to answer “BOTH!” but in vestments in particular, it is necessary to choose one or the other. I generally choose to represent the humility of Christ by wearing a simple cassock without chasibule, tying the cincture around my waist in a simple monks knot, and wearing a stole in the Guatemalan style. For me, this is a reminder of the humility and simplicity of the Gospel in a culture that is obsessed with excess.

Why do we pray the liturgy every week but have no open and unrehearsed prayers?

Within the Prayers of the People, there is a place for the people to offer their individual prayers and supplications, either out loud or privately, but the corporate worship service is intended to be corporate that is something everyone participates and agrees upon. It is what brings us together. Open or unrehearsed prayer is welcome at other times, in devotional groups, before or after the corporate worship, or even during the service with the priest or intercessor who is available during the serving of communion.

I read this in the 39 Articles, what does it mean? ”It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.” 

While at first glance this may seem to be referring to the practice of speaking in tongues, it actually refers to the language of worship. At the time of the Reformation, the entire church service, the prayers, the Scripture, and the Sacraments, was spoken in Latin, a language that few of the people (or even the priests) understood. One of the distinctives of the Anglican Church is that the service is spoken in the common language of the people so that all understand what is being said.

Why do we sing the Gloria and the Kyrie? But just say the other prayers?

I would love to sing the entire service. Others would prefer to say the whole service. Most would prefer that I say the service! We use the musical settings that we use for the prayers that we sing because they are generally easy for the congregation to learn and sing, since the liturgy is the work of the people and not the work of the priest or the work of the choir.

Why are some of the prayers something we do together as a congregation and some of them are you alone?

This is mostly a matter of practical tradition again. As literacy among the people increased and the cost of printed books decreased, the ability of the congregation to participate in the prayers increased. Most of the prayers that are said regularly are prayed together.

Why do we use this specific prayer book?

We use the 2019 Book of Common Prayer published by the Anglican Church in North America. We could also use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or the Nigerian Book of Common Prayer. All of these are good prayer books, so the choice is not between good and bad or even between good and better, it is more a matter of style. 

For the Daily Office, I like the online resource at legereme.com which uses the 2019 BCP text and lectionary. For the Eucharist, I prefer the older Christus victor theology reflected in the Renewed Ancient Text of the 2019 BCP to the penal substitutionary atonement of the eucharistic prayers of the other books or the Anglican Standard Text of the 2019 BCP. 

Who is the head of the Anglican church here on earth?

Jesus is the head of the Church, Anglican and otherwise, on earth and in heaven. The basic unit within the Anglican tradition is the diocese which is composed of parishes led by a bishop. Within a country or region, the diocese are gathered into provinces and the provinces are in communion with one another at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

When we ‘join our voices with angels and hosts of heaven’ in the prayer, does that imply that the worship is happening outside of our time regardless of our involvement? So when we come together to worship, we are just stepping briefly into the ongoing eternal worship and then stepping out again? Because that’s trippy to think about!

Your thought on us stepping out of our temporal existence and into the eternal worship is one way to see it. I prefer to think of it as the temporal and eternal meeting such that we do not leave the temporal but instead encounter and participate in the eternal. Descriptions of mystery are always difficult and incomplete, otherwise it wouldn’t be mystery! Either way, we experience something of the eternal as we join the angels in praise. Isaiah (Is 6:3) and John (Rev 4:8) give us glimpses of this eternal worship. Trippy indeed!

Can you explain the mystery of communion? Is it transubstantiation? What exactly do the wine and water become?

If the mystery could be fully explained, it would not be a mystery. We can partially understand mystery by metaphor, but this is always incomplete because we are using earthly, temporal terms for heavenly, eternal events. One of my mentors described this as holding onto the mystery like wet sand. As long as our hands are cupped, they hold the sand, but as soon as we try to squeeze and hold tightly, all the sand slips through our fingers. As we try to grasp the mystery of communion, we have to be careful not to squeeze too hard such that we are defending the metaphor instead of the mystery. 

Transubstantiation is a metaphor that works reasonably well within an Arostotelian metaphysic. Within Anglican tradition, transubstantiation is rejected because of this dependence on a metaphysic. Instead, we use the term “Real Presence” to describe the mystery of the Eucharist because it is comprehensive enough to be useful in a variety of metaphysical understandings of our temporal existence but also descriptive enough to convey that in some way that remains largely mystery Christ is present in the Eucharist. 

I prefer a view of the Eucharist often termed impanation by which we describe the mystery of the Eucharist in the same way that we describe the mystery of the Incarnation. That is, the bread is fully bread and fully body and the wine is fully wine and fully blood by the same Spirit and mystery by which Jesus was fully human and fully God.

How is the wine and the wafer blessed?

One way to describe the prophecy is as the forthtelling of the eternal truth of God into the present, temporal experience of the people of God. If we see the Eucharist as a point at which the eternal and temporal meet, then the Celebrant speaks the blessing prophetically declaring the eternal truth of Christ’s words, “This is my body given for you” and “This is my blood of the new covenant” as true regarding to the temporal and physical elements of bread and wine. The other corporate acts reserved for the priest, blessing and absolution, can be seen in the same way. The priest does not make something new happen in these actions, instead the priest speaks prophetically and calls the people to see the eternal truth of God in the present, temporal experience.

Why do you drink it all at the end of the service?

While there are times when the consecrated bread and wine may be reserved and distributed to the sick and others who are unable to attend the service, most often, it is consumed. This follows the custom of the Old Testament in which what has been declared holy is consumed in the holy place. 

Can you still come to the table of God even if your spirit isn’t at peace and you are confused? 

I can’t think of a better time to come to the Table. To not come to the Table implies that peace and clarity are found somewhere outside the presence of Christ. I think Jesus said it best, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

How have you complied the prayers of the people? Who are they?

The Prayers of the People are a response of the proclamation of the Word in the readings, sermon and creed. The declaration that God is loving, present, and sovereign invites us to pray for those things that are part of our common life. Several forms are available within the Book of Common Prayer and there is an option to use or compile other forms as long as the following elements are included:

  • The universal Church, the clergy and people 
  • The mission of the Church
  • The nation and all in authority
  • The peoples of the world
  • The local community
  • Those who suffer and those in any need or trouble 
  • Thankful remembrance of the faithful departed and of all the blessings of our lives.

At Holy Trinity, we have taken this outline and used it to pray by name for our bishops and clergy, the missionary activities we support, the parishes of our archdeaconry, our friends and family who are sick or in need, and our loved ones who have died.

Can you explain what the specific prayers are and why we say them? IE. The Sursum Corda, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei?

The prayers that are titled with Latin names are prayers that have been a part of the liturgy of the church for millennia. The “Sursum Corda” or “Lift up your heart” is the traditional beginning of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. The “Sanctus” or “holy” is the song of heavenly worship described by both Isaiah and John in their visions. The “Agnus Dei” or “Lamb of God” is a traditional prayer of adoration and devotion at the Eucharist.

What is the Great Litany in the back of the book? When do we do that?

The Great Litany is a penitential prayer that is used in congregational worship on the first Sunday of Advent and the first Sunday of Lent. It can be used as a private devotional at any time.

Do the Anglicans acknowledge and pray to saints?

Within the Anglican tradition, the saints of the church are recognized as examples of faith. Since the doctrine of purgatory is rejected in the Articles of Religion, the idea that some “saints” are in heaven and other “souls” are waiting is also rejected. The saints are not generally held to have a higher standing in heaven. In Christ, we have direct access in our prayers to God and we direct our prayers in this way. 

However, we do pray with the saints. In the mystery of the communion of saints, we join our voices with the church throughout all the ages in worship and intercession.

Why do you give us three scriptures in the liturgy but don’t always preach on them? Is it just to expose us to scripture we might not have read before?

The Scriptures for the Sunday service and for the Daily Office are found in the Lectionary, a calendar of readings that is a part of the Book of Common Prayer. The Sunday lectionary contains an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle reading, and a Gospel reading. The Old Testament reading is selected to be thematically related to the Gospel reading. The Epistle reading may be related on special feasts of the church but is generally not selected thematically. The Gospel  readings guide us through the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) during the Ordinary time of the church calendar in three successive years. Selections from John are read during Advent, Lent, and Easter.

At Holy Trinity, we generally preach on the Gospel text of the lectionary. The selection from the Old Testament, Epistle, or Psalm may also inform the theme of the sermon. Whether exposition of these other readings explicitly make it into the sermon, they always inform the devotions and study that preceded the actual preparation of the sermon. Hopefully, they become a part of the devotions and study that either precede or follow the Sunday service for you as well.

Why do you bow during certain prayers? Beat your chest? Make the sign of the Cross?

The corporal (bodily) acts of worship are ways in which we pray with our bodies as well as our minds. Some of the ways these devotional acts appear in our worship are bowing at the name of Jesus, beating the chest as a sign of contrition as we pray for mercy, making the sign of the cross at the naming of the Trinity, at the absolution, and at the blessing. In worship spaces that have kneelers, we might also kneel to pray. You may also see people kneel or bow toward the Cross when entering their pew as an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God.