Neal Michell, an Episcopalian priest, has a lovely essay about what attracted him back to the Anglican-style of worship. A lot of what he says resonates with my experience, when I started occasionally attending Anglican Communion Book of Common Prayer liturgies, and then came upon our Traditional Anglican Communion parish, and I was hooked.
I spent my elementary school years attending an Episcopal church and my teenage years in fundamentalist/evangelical churches. But I was eventually drawn back by the way Episcopalians worship God. What first drew me to a local parish were six things that were different from the evangelical churches I had attended:
- The sacred space
- The majestic hymns
- The liturgy as a conversation with God
- The vision of God as Almighty
- The power of the Creeds
- The absolution of sin
The sacred space
I was fortunate to be (re)introduced to the Episcopal Church in a neo-Gothic building built in 1854. This was a far cry from the remodeled doctor’s office that the mission church of my childhood met in. The vast high ceiling spoke of the eternity of God within that space. The stained-glass windows, dark oak pews, creaky wooden floors, ornate woodwork, and even the eagle lectern spoke of the numinous, of the holiness and mystery of God. I immediately sensed that something holy and special was going on without a word being spoken.
The majestic hymns
“Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent,” “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” — these hymns spoke of the majesty and glory of God, in which I was called to bask. The hymns reinforced the architecture. The architecture befitted the hymns. God wasn’t just my friend. We weren’t happy all the time. These hymns drew us (me) into worshiping the awe-inspiring God. It wasn’t really about me; it was about the God of the universe. Wow!
I had that same experience when I first started attending Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa “that something holy and special was going on without a word being spoken.”
I had been a joyful member of an evangelical church and still feel thankful and blessed for what being a member brought me, but seeing the reverence in liturgy, the beauty of the prayers, the faith of the priests communicated so much more about the faith—about Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, about sacraments.
I am so glad this journey from evangelicalism to Anglicanism has taken me into the Catholic Church, but with all those things I had loved about Anglican worship.