Toronto’s Anglican Catholic community has always had a very strong musical tradition. The members of our ordinariate parish, St Thomas More’s, come from a number of different Anglican parish backgrounds, many of which had longstanding choral establishments and a solid culture of congregational singing.
When members of our community gathered in the 1990s to seek to become an Anglican Use parish in the Catholic Church, under the patronage of Sir Thomas More, we began with regular celebrations of Evensong.
Sometime after the promulgation of Anglicanorum Coetibus, we began having weekly masses and from the very start they were sung choral masses, led by a professional choir and joined by enthusiastic congregational singing.
One of the reasons why our congregation so actively participates in the singing of our Eucharistic liturgy (as do so many others in the Anglican ordinariates) is because of our proud Anglican tradition of hymn singing and our extensive and beautiful repertoire of worthy hymns.
A favourite source of that repertoire for musically-inclined Anglicans in Toronto has always been the old green English Hymnal, the one used for many decades at Healey Willan’s old parish of St Mary Magdalene’s.
Originally published in 1906 and edited by the renowned (& patrimonial) composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, the English Hymnal went through many editions over the course of the twentieth century and was followed by an updated version, the New English Hymnal, in 1986, which has itself gone through numerous printings. The EH & NEH have been strong influences on the ecclesial musical culture of the English-speaking peoples for more than a hundred years and are still used by Anglicans, Catholics, and others all around the world.
Thanks be to God – and Pope Benedict XVI – we in the ordinariate are able to continue worshipping God as Catholics according to our beloved Anglican tradition, and thanks to the generosity of anonymous benefactors, our Toronto parish does so with our own set of New English Hymnals.
So it is yet one more moving sign of continuity for us at STM, Toronto, that we are able to continue our proud tradition of Anglo-Catholic hymnody with these familiar green books in our pews and the stirring hymns of our forefathers in our singing.