“Is this it?”
The thought snuck into my head every Sunday. Despite the faithful preaching, there was something missing from the standard order of three songs, a prayer, announcements, sermon, final song, lunch at Chipotle.
It wasn’t that I was looking for more components that suited my preferences. I wanted to come to church and worship God, not to be a consumer or to be entertained.
But something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Until I entered the Anglican parish I work at now.
What was different?
Like most people, probably, I had my initial hesitations about the way Anglicans did things.
“Why are we reading prayers?”
“Since we look Roman Catholic, aren’t people going to think we are Roman Catholic?”
“Aren’t these rituals just getting in the way of what really matters?”
But something kept me coming back. The preaching was expository and gospel-centered, but that was not the only reason I continued to attend.
I was drawn to the singular effort of the whole service to direct our hearts to Jesus Christ.
From the procession to the prayers, the songs to the sermon, the responsive liturgy to the Lord’s Supper, not one part of the service was done unintentionally or irreverently. Everything pointed to Christ.
Every part of the service was thoughtful. Not one part was done flippantly, but each piece served to build up the church in the faith (1 Corinthians 14:26).
This meant I had to be present. I was surprised at how much work it was to worship! Every prayer and song required me to pay attention to what I was saying. The sermon was rooted in the Scriptures and demanded that I truly hear. When I knelt down for confession, how could I say the prayer without truly asking for forgiveness for the actual sins that I committed? And after confessing my sins, there was a time for me to make peace with anyone I had a grievance with.
Every Sunday I was thrust into a context that demanded me to be wholly there.
An Atmosphere of Awe
I never had a sense of awe at the churches I grew up in. Is that to say that God was not present? By no means. But there was nothing in the service to remind me that He was.
Reverence and awe do not need to be manufactured. If God showed His face to me right now, I’d… well… die.
Ever since God established worship for His people in Israel, however, He instituted means by which they would be reminded of His holy presence—means that gave them a sense of reverence when coming to the Temple.
While worship in the church is pretty different (there’s not as much blood now), the same Holy God who hates sin is still present (Acts 5:1-11).
While God was not more present in the Anglican service than the other church services in my life, the difference was the atmosphere that reminded me of the complete transcendence of God. The ministers wore robes that communicated they were filling an office that exceeded them as individuals. The recitation of the creeds reminded me that I was worshipping a triune God that created everyone in the room. When the congregation knelt down to confess sin, we were truly kneeling before the Lord.
God’s holiness and greatness were called to mind throughout the whole service.
Christ in All Things
The liturgy of the service challenged me to be present in worship, and the atmosphere produced in me a sense of reverence. However, the greatest thing to me about the service was the clarity of Christ in all things.
The crucifer lit the candles on the altar, reminding me that the Spirit of Christ was among the congregation. I came to worship in His presence.
The ministers conducted the service in vestments—visuals of Christ’s white robe of righteousness that covers everyone who trusts solely in Him.
The Gospel reading was done in the midst of the people, preaching the beautiful reality that the Word incarnate came to people. He drew near, and His good news was offered for everyone.
And what’s more, I ate from the Lord’s Table every week. The sermon called me to trust in Christ and his work on the cross. And I was able to respond to that every Sunday by feeding on Christ.
Every piece of the service shined light on Jesus Christ. It was impossible to leave on Sunday having not seen Him and His work on the cross.
Involvement in Worship
The liturgy was more than an order of service for me to observe. It was an invitation to be truly involved in worshipping Christ.
I realized that what I was missing at my old church was the involvement of my whole being and body in the service. I didn’t view my time in the sanctuary as worship, because there was not much there to help me see it as such. The Anglican liturgy pulled me into an atmosphere where I was given the tools I needed to worship Jesus.
That’s not to say that my Baptist brothers and sisters are not worshipping God when they meet. However, it is to say that the order of the service at my old church did not help me picture my Sunday as gathering with the people of God to worship Christ in awe. It may have done it for others, but it didn’t for me.
I needed Christ everywhere around me, not just in the sermon. I needed him in the clothes, in the food, in the walking, and in every single song and prayer.
Today I work as a pastoral assistant at the Anglican parish my wife and I have attended for more than two years now. We are currently in a confirmation class continuing to learn about Anglicanism, and we are determining what ministry will look like for us in the future. We praise God that He has led us to such a rich tradition that equips us to worship Christ and know Him more every Sunday.
Jonathan Groves has his B.A. in Biblical Studies at Liberty University and is currently earning his Master of Divinity through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a pastoral assistant at Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, NY where he and his wife, Angel, were first introduced to Anglicanism. Jonathan enjoys reading books, drinking strong coffee, watching movies, running, and following his home NBA team—the Dallas Mavericks.