Our Anglo-Catholic Traditions
St Alban’s has an Anglo-Catholic heritage. Catholic comes from of a Greek word meaning “for everyone”. To us the Church of England is a Reformed Catholic Church, maintaining the faith of the Creeds and the Early Councils, the Sacraments and the succession of Bishops from the Apostles.
Our Catholic tradition celebrates the Incarnation – the coming to humanity of God in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, who is present among us today in the form of the Bread and Wine which become for us his Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We keep some of the consecrated bread – the Blessed Sacrament – in a Tabernacle either on the High Altar or in St Patrick’s Chapel.
Our style of worship makes use of the things of this world to approach heaven: fine music and architecture, formal and dignified language, the light of candles, the sound of bells, incense, holy water, coloured vestments, movement and bodily gesture. In the ceremonial of our Eucharist these God-given earthly things draw us heavenward.
Vestments – The Priest’s vestments have a biblical basis in the priestly robes of the Old Testament.
Servers – The Priest is assisted by robed lay servers. The thurifer carries the censer or thurible filled with charcoal for burning incense during the service, acolytes lead the Priest carrying lighted candles and sometimes a crucifer carries the cross in processions.
Choir– Our robed Choir sings parts of the liturgy and leads the hymns.
Lights– Lighted candles and lamps remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.
Incense – is a symbol of prayer, reminding us to worship with all our senses. In Psalm 141 prayers are said to be like the smoke rising from burning incense. It is used in processions and at key points in the Liturgy: at the Gospel, the Offertory, and the Consecration.
Bells – draw attention to important moments in the service, especially when the body and blood of Christ are raised for all to see and the tower bell is rung, to let the parish know that this part of the service has been reached.
Using the Body in Worship–Anglo-Catholic worship invites us to participate through bodily gestures. The guiding principle is the Incarnation – God taking a human body in Jesus of Nazareth and living a human life among us in that body. This means that what we do with our bodies is important. The whole person is involved in worship, body and soul. We use three major gestures:
We make the sign of the cross, reminding us of our Baptism and Profession of Faith, at those points in the service marked X. In the Western tradition we make the sign of the cross by touching the fingertips of our right hand to our forehead, touching the centre of our chest below the heart, touching the front side of our left shoulder, touching our right shoulder and finally touching our chest over our heart.
We bow to the altar, to the cross at the head of a procession, to the passing of the Priest in a procession, at the name of Jesus and in the Creed at the words describing the Incarnation.
If we are physically able, we genuflect – by bowing while bending the right knee towards the ground – in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and therefore when approaching or crossing in front of the altar where the sacrament is reserved.
Communion – The Church of England offers Eucharistic Hospitality: visitors who are regular members of another church and receive communion in that church are invited to receive communion here.