Anglican Tradition 101K

By Fr. Jeff Hubbard | Mariners’ Church of Detroit

How do I read and use the Book of Common Prayer?

Worship in the Anglican tradition, according to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) follows daily, weekly, yearly, and lifetime rhythms (or “practices”), which will be explained further below. These can easily be seen by flipping to the Table of Contents in the BCP. The section that you’ll want to notice are:

  • Daily: The Order for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer
  • Weekly: The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion or Eucharist, representing the weekly rhythm, and immediately under it:
  • Yearly: The Collects (prayers), Epistles, and Gospels, signifying the yearly rhythm (also the Psalms and Lessons for the Christian Year and the Calendar in the first section), and,
  • Lifetime: The Ministration of Holy Baptism (and what follows, for example Confirmation, Matrimony, Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child) are services that are used once in your life.

How is the BCP used at Sunday services?

The principal Sunday services at Mariners’ stand at the intersection between the weekly rhythm of the Holy Communion, or Eucharist and the yearly rhythm of the Church’s Calendar. (Our short Thursday services of Holy Communion also follow this rhythm. You’re invited to stop into Mariners’ and join us for this beautiful and brief service on your lunch hour! It begins at 12:10).

What does the word “Eucharist” mean?

Sometimes you will hear the service of Holy Communion referred to as the Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” and refers to Christian services that recall Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, along with his Last Supper with his disciples. In the Eucharist, we offer our lives to God in thanksgiving and worship in response to his ultimate sacrifice, and partake of the body and blood of Christ, mystically present in bread and wine. Since the beginning, Christians have been gathering together weekly to offer prayers, hear the word of God in Scripture, and celebrate (“take part in”) the Eucharist. This principal weekly service of Holy Communion is celebrated on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, because it is the day that Christ arose from the dead. The Holy Communion goes by many names: the Liturgy, Mass, the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist, but they are all the same service.

  • Bible Reference: Christ’s actions at the Last Supper were foretold in the Psalms, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord[…] I will offer unto you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:12,13,17)
  • BCP: The service of Holy Communion is found beginning on page 67 in the Book of Common Prayer.

What is the content of a Service of Holy Communion?

The Holy Communion has two parts, oriented around ‘Word’ and ‘Altar’:


  • Prayer, Scripture & Song: The service begins with prayers (called “collects,” explained below), a summary of God’s law, and readings from the Scriptures (passages of the Holy Bible). At our 11 AM service, hymns corresponding to the Scriptures being read and the liturgical season (covered below) are also sung. The Choir chants portions of the psalms.
  • “I believe…”: After hymns and Psalms, is the recitation of the Nicene Creed. The word “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo,” meaning, “I believe,” which are the first words of the Nicene Creed. The words of the creed are given to us by the Church. The practice of reciting the Creed reminds us that our faith is not something that we make up on our own, nor is it a conclusion we make as individuals. Rather it is a gift that is given to us by Christ through his Church. The Creed is based on and summarizes the truths that are contained in Scripture and embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. The Creed also tells the story of God and his people: beginning with creation, continuing with the incarnation of Christ and the redemption he brings to the world, continuing in the life of the Church and concluding with our final end in the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment.
  • Sermon: This first part of the service concludes with a sermon: The sermon is, in short, a proclamation of the Gospel (the Good News) as it is revealed in the Scriptures that are read on that day and in the liturgical day or season being commemorated.

Altar: Next follows the service of the Altar. In grateful response to God’s gracious gift of salvation, we offer to God our gifts and ourselves and in return receive his gracious gift of himself to us in the Eucharist.

  • Offertory: Here we make offering to God, of our material resources through the giving of money, and of the fruit of the earth in the bread and wine that will be o ered to God during the Eucharist, and which he will return to us by mystically transforming it into the body and blood of Christ.
  • Prayers: Next, we pray for the Church and the world, and conclude by a prayer of confessing our sins, so that we can approach the Lord’s Table in a state of grace and holiness. This is something that can’t be achieved on our own, it is a gift of God to us, and so the priest speaks over the people an absolution, a statement of God’s forgiveness of sins.
  • Bread & wine: The climax of the service is the offering of bread and wine to God in union with, and as a participation in Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross. The bread and wine mystically become the body and blood of Christ. We do not know how this happens, but simply take Christ’s word for it, that when he gave bread to his disciples and said “This is my body,” and gave them wine to drink saying “This is my blood,” we believe what he said.
  • Receiving the bread & wine: All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion at Mariners’. During communion, ushers invite the congregation by row to receive. To receive the host (bread), place your right hand over your left, palm up, hand so the priest can place the bread in your hand. To receive the chalice, take hold of the foot of the chalice as the server holds it, helping them guide it to your mouth. If you prefer a gluten-free host, please let the priest know.
  • Final Prayer: The service concludes with a post-communion prayer of thanksgiving, and the priest blesses the congregation.

Why does the priest wear different colors, depending on the week?

If you worship at Mariners’ regularly, you’ll start to notice a change in the colors that adorn the altar and are worn by the clergy (the priest, deacon, etc.). These correspond to different seasons of the year. Also, there are different readings and prayers for every Sunday or major Feast Day (for example, Christmas) of the year.

What are the Church’s “Seasons”?

Advent: The Church’s year begins with Advent. The word Advent is a Latin word that means “coming” and is a time of preparation for Christmas, preparing us to remember the first advent of Christ into the world in the manger at Bethlehem, and his second coming “in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.” (Nicene Creed) The liturgical color for Advent is purple and it lasts for four Sundays before Christmas.

Christmastide: Contrary to the consumer celebration of Christmas which ends abruptly on December 26, the Church invites us to linger on the mystery of the incarnation (God becoming human in Jesus Christ) for 12 days, ending on the feast of the Epiphany (January 6), commemorating the visit of the Magi (3 Wise Men) to the Christ child. The liturgical color of Christmastide is white or gold.

Epiphanytide: The season between Epiphany and Septuagesima Sunday (the beginning of Pre-Lent) recalls various ways Christ was revealed to the world during his earthly life and continues to be revealed in the world in the life of his body, the Church. The liturgical color is green.

Lent: Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, is a time of penitence and fasting in preparation for Holy Week (the remembrance of the last week of Christ’s life, recalled in dramatic reenactment) and celebrating the resurrection on Easter Day. We call to remembrance our sins so that we can be reminded of God’s forgiveness, and fast (reduce intake of food) as an exercise of self-control and reminder of our dependence on God. The color for Lent is purple.

Eastertide: Easter Day commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead. St. Paul calls Christ “the firstfruits of them that sleep” because Christ’s resurrection is not just for him, but for those that are mystically united with him in baptism. The Church gives us fifty days to contemplate the mystery of the resurrection. This time recalls the fifty days after Jesus’ death, including his appearances to his disciples, his ascension into heaven, and the promise of the Holy Spirit given to believers at Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. The liturgical color for the Easter season is white and Pentecost is red.

Trinitytide: The Sunday after Pentecost (also called Whitsunday) is called Trinity Sunday. This Sunday is a remembrance of the doctrine of the trinity – that God is a trinity of persons in unity of essence / substance. The “Sundays after Trinity” comprise nearly half the year, and continue until the beginning of the following Advent when the calendar starts again. The color of Trinitytide is green.

Feast days: Throughout the year, there are feast days of joyous celebration. These days commemorate events in the life of our Lord Jesus, and the lives of the Saints. Examples include the well-known feasts of Easter and Christmas, and also feasts such as the Transfiguration and the Ascension. The color for feasts of the Lord is white. There are also days throughout the calendar when the Church remembers its Saints (“holy ones”), who lived exemplary Christian lives. The colors for a Saint’s day is red for a martyr, and white for other Saints.

What is a “collect” (kahl-ect)?

A collect is a simple prayer making a request to God on behalf of the people gathered to worship. This prayer “collects” the prayer of the congregation, presenting it to God, hence its name.

Who or what determines which passages and prayers are read during a service?

The Book of Common Prayer includes a daily rhythm of Morning and Evening Prayer, intended to offer the day to God, by beginning and ending the day by attending to God’s presence with us in prayer. Rhythms of daily prayer go back to the beginnings of the Church, and are taken from Jewish practices of praying at various times during the day.

Daily rhythm (practice) of prayer eventually became associated with those who lived consecrated lives in monasteries (monks and nuns), who prayed eight “offices” of prayer every day. Thomas Cranmer, compiler of the first Book of Common Prayer published in 1549, wanted to once again make the rhythms of daily prayer accessible to the average men, women, and families that did not live in monasteries, so he simplified the eight offices into two, which can be said at morning and evening, prior to beginning the day’s work, and at the end of the day’s work before the evening meal.

What’s in the Morning or Evening prayers in the Book of Common Prayer?

The services of Morning and Evening Prayer include:

  • An opening prayer of confession of sin, an absolution (declaration of God’s forgiveness)
  • A selection of the Psalms, readings from Scripture
  • Two canticles (hymns from other portions of Scripture outside the psalms)
  • The Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Collect, and other prayers

Like the weekly Sunday Holy Communion, the Daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer intersect with the yearly rhythm of the Church calendar. The Collect for the previous Sunday is prayed (or if the day is a major Feast Day, then the Collect of that Day is prayed), and a yearly rotation of Scripture readings (called the Lectionary, beginning on page x) is followed.

How can I use this Morning and Evening prayers on my own during the week?

  • Praying Morning and Evening Prayer is also a great practice for individual devotions during the week – connecting your own prayer with the prayer of the whole Church, and giving you a program of reading through most of the Bible over the course of the year. At Mariners’ we give you a sample of Morning Prayer on the last Sunday of every month, when Morning Prayer is prayed as the first part of the Sunday service of Holy Communion.
  • If you have questions about incorporating Morning and Evening Prayer into your own devotional practice, please ask one of the clergy!

How does the Anglican Tradition approach ‘baptism’?

Baptism is the sacrament (explained below) of initiation in the Body of Christ, the Church. In the Bible, the Church is likened to a body: a whole living organism with many members, with Christ as its head (Ephesians 4:15-16). Disciples of Jesus are baptized into his life, death, and resurrection, and thus have the promise of everlasting life with Christ. In the Anglican tradition, we baptize infants, following the example of the early Church and of Judaism before it, of initiating infants into the worshipping community.

What is a ‘sacrament’?

Baptism is a sacrament, and the gateway into the other sacraments. A sacrament is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” (BCP 292, 581, 607). Through physical means such as water, bread, and wine, God gives spiritual grace to the Christian. In addition to Baptism and the Eucharist, other sacraments include: confession/absolution, holy matrimony, confirmation, ordination, and anointing of the sick.