St. Paul’s is an Anglo-Catholic parish, a more specific expression of the Anglican/Episcopal Church that arose out of particular historical circumstances. Rooted in the retention of Catholic Christianity within the English reformation, Anglo-Catholicism emerged as a dissident movement within an 18th-century church that had so absorbed the rationalism of its time that it had lost sight of the importance of the sacraments and of the centrality of an experience of awe and wonder in the spiritual life.
As Anglo-Catholics, our ultimate worship experience is one in which we not only glimpse but enter into and taste something of the beauty and mystery of God. About ten percent of parishes in the Episcopal Church call themselves Anglo-Catholic. The following are elements that exist in many of these parishes:
An emphasis on the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Holy Unction (anointing with oil for healing), and Reconciliation (confession and absolution) as a part of the rhythm of a holy life.
Holiness of life is seen as a process in which we engage in prayer on a daily basis and which expresses itself in weekly and yearly cycles of prayer within the church. Anglo-Catholics make use of a variety of devotional practices that assist them in prayer (the rosary, focusing on statues and icons in prayer, saying the Angelus, etc.).
Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses
Anglo-Catholics believe in the reality of the Communion of Saints. We believe that we have seen holiness of life in the lives of many holy men and women in the history of the church. We especially honor the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, as one whose life witnessed to God’s grace. We believe we are to pray for the Saints and are to ask that they pray for us.
Reverential, expressed through Music, the Senses and the Body
Anglo-Catholics emphasize sharing the divine life in a deeply reverent style of worship. We are drawn to liturgy that emphasizes adoration. We enter into this adoration through listening to and singing beautiful music, chanting, the use of gesture and embodied prayer (genuflection, bowing, crossing oneself) and the engagement of the senses (incense, baptismal water, bells, beautiful vestments, etc.). As Anglo-Catholics, our ultimate worship experience is one in which we not only glimpse but enter into and taste something of the beauty and mystery of God.
Committed to Beauty and Justice Together
Anglo-Catholics emphasize social justice out of a tradition that makes a concrete connection between worshiping God in beauty and holiness, and working to manifest God’s justice and mercy in the world. For Anglo-Catholics beautiful liturgy leads us into a divine life which celebrates the dignity of human beings. Out of this experience, our call is to work to create a world that acknowledges and advances the dignity of all.
Read John Orens’ articles describing the history and spirit of the Anglo-Catholic movement (text documents):