The Episcopal Church
Did Henry VIII start a church?
Historians remind us that Christians were present in England and throughout the British Isles as early as the third Century. St. Alban’s ministry pre-dated the arrival of the Roman mission of St. Augustine of Canterbury, certainly. When Augustine (or St. Patrick for that matter) arrived in Britain, they no doubt encountered Celtic Christians—not Roman ones. What is debatable is the impact of a political, economic and religious uproar seemingly originating over the granting of an annulment to a head of state— something that was commonplace in Henry’s day. The Pope, working in league with the Spanish Crown, sought to limit Henry’s influence globally.
Henry VIII died a Roman Catholic, and was championed by the Pope as the “Defender of the Faith,” during happier times. These facts do not excuse Henry’s evil deeds, yet adding a bit of Historic context may help fill in gaps which are often ignored by those who erroneously claim that Henry started his own church.
The Episcopal Church lives out our witness by teaching and practicing a Sacramental life, just as the Roman Catholic Church does, among other liturgical Churches. We begin with the two sacraments Jesus himself instituted, Baptism and The Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion. God’s unmerited favor (grace) empower the people of God to work to bless God’s world, for whom Christ gave his life. Grace is evident in Baptism, in the sacred meal Jesus taught us to share, at special times like Confirmation, when we make our baptismal promises our own, when we seek god’s forgiveness, and each other’s when we are married, and when we are assured of God’s healing power when we are ill. Some are called to serve God through Ordination, or serving God’s people at worship and through the administration of her sacraments.
Of course God’s grace is not limited to these seven pathways. Yet believers have seen the Holy Spirit at work through the sacramental life, and as they encounter God in each other and within the created order.
Episcopal worship has been described as “fixed but not rigid”. Much like the human skeleton, with strong bones supporting musculature which in turn empower a moving organism— our worship is cast in the language and traditions of a living present experience of God—, even as it is anchored firmly in the past experience of God’s people over time. We draw upon the ancient practices and traditions of the undivided church set in worship. These include but are not limited to: our faith as we see it outlined in the gospels, the Hebrew worship settings of Temple and Synagogue, as well as our experiences of prayer, hymnody, preaching and Christian witness shared among us over the past two thousand years.
What we do distinctly is WORSHIP… it is what we are essentially and primarily about. Effective worship empowers our actions of service, witness, outreach, mission and care poured out in Jesus’ name into our world. No other agency, corporation, industry, science or art exists for the primary aim of worshipping God— that is our call. In worship, we experience God and find God at work through our very imperfect tools of music, preaching, proclamation, offering of time-talent & treasure, the Eucharist, and finally through the sending-forth of the Community into the world.