As stated in the St. Mary’s Mission Statement, worship forms the heart of our identity as a Christian community. Celebrating the richness of our Anglican tradition, we strive to be inclusive of all persons as we share the Eucharist. The Episcopal Church is a Christian community of more than 2.2 million members in 110 dioceses in the Americas and abroad.
The Book of Common Prayer is unique to Anglicans the world over. It is the collection of worship services that all worshipers in an Anglican Church follow. It’s called “common prayer” because we all pray it together, around the world. The first Book of Common Prayer was compiled in English by Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century and since then has undergone many revisions for different times and places. However, its original purpose has remained the same: to provide in one place for the core of the instructions and rites for Anglican Christians, allowing us to worship together.
The present Prayer Book in the Episcopal Church was published in 1979. Many other worship resources and prayers exist to enrich our worship, but the Book of Common Prayer is the authority that governs our worship. The Prayer Book explains Christianity, describes the main beliefs of the Church, outlines the requirements for the sacraments and in general serves as the main guidelines of the Episcopal life.
The Anglican approach to reading and interpreting the Bible was first articulated by Richard Hooker in the 16th century. While Christians universally acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God and completely sufficient to our reconciliation to God, what the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place.
Episcopalians believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God’s Word in the Bible, and to do that, God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which we refer to as “Reason.” Based on the text of the Bible itself, and what Christians have taught us about it through the ages, we must sort out our own understanding of it as it relates to our own lives.
Perhaps the most clearly defined statement of our Christian beliefs as Episcopalians is the Nicene Creed. The Creed is repeated during every observance of The Holy Eucharist.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.