Sunday, 15 February 2015

Experiencing the Scottish Episcopal Church

Tonight I was passing by an Episcopal church and saw a service was just beginning so I went in. As I climbed the carpeted spiral staircase I came to a glass door, through which I was presented with rows of wooden chairs in darkness. At this point, the priest appears and I followed into the little side chapel and took a seat at the back. As a Catholic, it was interesting to make comparisons.

On dress, the minister had a Roman style chasuble and Alb, but no stole or cincture. The other 7 people that made up the congregation had a varied dress style - some informal and some in suits. The service was celebrated Ad Orientem, that is, facing East. The people didn't kneel for the Eucharistic prayer but stood, but received "Holy Communion" kneeling at an altar rail. There was no homily. The bidding prayers included mention of Pope Francis and the dead. The sign of peace took place before the start of the Eucharistic prayer, and we were forced to shake every person's hand. What was most interesting is that this is the liturgical style of that church, but presumably it is not on the "anglo-catholic" wing since the minister was a woman. It didn't feel like it was the time to question the integrity of the theological position then, but I thanked the lady and went on my way after the service.

I think it is interesting to see - had there been no women priests in the anglican communion, reunion would seem possible. Of course, not every Anglican would want this. It would mean being bound by the canon law restrictions on marriage, and obligations to attend Mass. So it would have created swathes of cultural Christians who would suddenly find their status is questioned by their lack of attendance. Perhaps it might focus some people to a deeper committed faith, but maybe it would have alienated too many and closed them off to hearing the Good News. Maybe the Anglican Church's wide sweep is providential to prepare for the fullness of the message as understood by the Catholic church.

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