When I was a teenager and member of the Anglican Church of Canada worship services began with this exhortation:
Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy.
The service would continue with words of like eloquence, interspersed with a reading from the Old Testament, another from the New Testament, the reciting of some poetic passages of Scripture, either in unison or as a responsive reading. There would be a few hymns mixed in plus a sermon. All followed the familiar pattern of the Book of Common Prayer, which was little changed since it was formulated by Thomas Cranmer 400 years earlier.
It didn’t take long until one had the services memorized and no longer needed to follow in the book. This held a danger: the words were beautiful, meaningful and true, but one could recite them with nary a thought as to what one was saying. I have no doubt that many Anglicans were born-again people, others could drone along with their mind somewhere else.
A few years ago I took an inventory of the things I learned from the Anglican Church and still believe to be good and true and right, and wholly conformable to a sound faith in God. I found much for which I could be thankful and which I would not have learned in other churches in our area during my growing up years. Passages within quotation marks are taken from the Book of Common Prayer, 1959 edition.
A love for the spoken Word of God
In every service there was a reading from the Old Testament and another from the New Testament, plus a number of other verses that were either spoken by the minister or recited by the congregation as a whole.
To pray for those in government
“That all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
To kneel for prayer
The kneeling boards that folded down from the pew in front of us got considerable use in each service.
To love the old hymns of the faith
The beautiful old hymns have a depth of meaning that is lacking in many of the feel-good choruses of our day.
That there is an inward and spiritual grace that God wishes to grant us
The Anglican catechism says that a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”
The need for self examination before communion
It is required of those who come to the Lord’s Supper “to examine themselves, whether they truly repent of their former sins, steadfastly purposing to lead the new life; have a living faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.”
An acceptance of people of other backgrounds
Even in a little Saskatchewan town, we were exposed to the reality that Anglicanism included large numbers of people of different backgrounds and different skin colours.
That the true church of God had a continuous existence since the time of the Apostles
The Anglican Church understood this as meaning an unbroken lineage of the laying on of hands in ordination.
As I neared adulthood I began to feel that the outward form served to cover a lack of the inward and spiritual grace. Many others seem to have come to a similar conclusion. The Anglican Church was once the second largest Protestant denomination in Canada and present in most communities across the country. That was changing already in my youth as the spiritual element seemed to become more and more elusive.
Twenty years ago a commission studied the future of the Anglican Church in Canada and concluded that if present trends continued, in 75 years the Anglican Church of Canada would have one member. Sadly, the trend has continued. How can it be otherwise when the spiritual heart of the church has been eviscerated and the leadership attempts to renew the church by conforming to the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times in which we live?
In my adult years, a study of the Word of God convinced me that infant baptism, weekly communion, a trained and salaried ministry and a liturgical form of worship are not hallmarks of the true faith. Nevertheless, the Anglican Church once steadfastly proclaimed a large part of Biblical truth, perhaps better than most other denominations, and it is with sadness that I contemplate its impending demise.