Who Are We?

I recently had to fill in a form describing the worshiping tradition and spirituality of the parish. Like many of these things the form soon descended into ‘Christianese’!

One option was Central – or ‘Middle of the Road’. Every Parish I have ever worshiped in thought it was ‘Middle of the Road’. Unfortunately the ‘Middle of the Road’ is always moving about - and there is a lot about us at All Saints that is not ‘Middle of the Road’. We have votive candles, incense, a robed choir, processions, servers, statues of saints, Stations of the Cross, and our main Sunday service is always Holy Communion. Not only do we have these things but we inhabit them - they are a part of how we pray, how we live and how we worship. We are not ‘Middle of the Road’.

So perhaps we are High Church - well this wasn't even an option! High always seems to come with a following ‘and Dry’ and All Saints is anything but dry. There is an infectious enthusiasm to our worship and family life, evidenced in how we share the peace, greet one another and wave flags. I know a few folks in a Matins congregation who would consider us rather Happy Clappy!

Happy Clappy was also not on the list, but Charismatic was. You may associate Charismatic with Evangelical teaching and loud worship bands. Yet in Anglicanism the Charismatic started in churches much like All Saints and spread through places of pilgrimage like Walsingham. Archbishop Ramsey was a great supporter of the movement too. At All Saints we have an openness to the Spirit, especially expressed in prayer ministry and the laying on of hands, and in some of the more modern hymns, chants and songs we sing.

Inclusive was also (sadly) not on the list. At All Saints we have an openness to all people and their ministry irrespective of their gender or who they have fallen in love with. Fr. Jeffry John is an inspiration to many of us too. Last year Fr. Jeffrey visited All Saints with other ordained men and women who are members of the Society of Catholic Priests - he would describe himself as Anglo-Catholic.

As would I.

I am an Anglican Catholic, which doesn't mean I am secretly a Roman Catholic, any more than an Anglican Evangelical is secretly a Baptist Evangelical. What it does mean is that I see Anglicanism as part of a great family of spirituality that includes Lutherans, Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Middle and Far Eastern Christians. Catholic to me is a broad inclusive term that speaks of spirituality and depth. It sums up the richness of sign, symbol and sacrament we treasure at All Saints, and our welcome to all.

And so I put Catholic. And to reflect our openness to the work of the Spirit among us in action, prayer and song I went for … Contemporary Catholic.

Which doesn't really matter that much – forget the label, it was only for a form! But I hope the process of getting there reminds us of what is so special and unique at All Saints, as individuals and as a worshiping congregation. We bring together different paths and experiences into a community rooted in a precious history, centred on breaking of bread and sharing of wine as we offer our all to God. May we all grow into the fullness of what God has called us to be.