Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any enquiries about the Church of the Holy Ghost or the Anglican faith and worship experience, the Chaplain is always available for help, advice or spiritual counsel. Some frequently asked questions are listed here. If you have a question that is not addressed below, please feel free to contact the chaplain.
Do you need to join the Anglican Church to worship here? No.
I’m planning on visiting an Anglican Church. May I take Communion? Since Jesus gave himself for all people, and since he ministered to all (especially to sinners), in the Anglican Church all baptised Christians are invited to receive Communion. Some churches believe that Communion is a sign of unity. The Anglican Church believes it is Jesus and therefore the source or means to achieve unity.
What is an Anglican? Anglicans are Christians who are members of and worship in the Anglican Church or in one of the 44 churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion (such as the Episcopal Church in the USA, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Church of Bangladesh). The Porvoo Communion is another example of the process of the reunification of Christianity. With it, 13 different churches in Northern Europe can share clergy. In the USA, the Episcopal Church has the same agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Moravian Church. The Anglican/Roman Catholic reunification process has been underway for many years and continues to make progress.
What is the Anglican Church? The Anglican Church is a church that has its roots firmly planted at the dawn of Christianity — from the time Jesus walked the earth. We believe Holy Scripture (the Bible) — both the ancient Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament — as it has been formed by early councils of the Church is our rule of life. We do not merely believe that Jesus Christ is God and that he is our Redeemer – we KNOW he is. The ultimate goal of the Anglican Church is that every Christian who calls himself or herself “Anglican” will be known mainly because they are to the world a mirror of that same Christ we know from the Scriptures.
What is a Christian? Christians are people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Christians believe that the Word of God as it is set forth in the Bible contains everything we need to know about how we should live our lives in this world, how we should relate to God and to the people around us. We believe in the tremendous power of prayer. We believe that being a Christian also calls us to form communities of believers (the Anglican Church calls them “parishes”) where we believe we can accomplish more as a group working for Jesus rather than as individuals trying to do the same thing.
What is Baptism? Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Christian faith. Since Scripture teaches there is only one faith and one baptism, we are not “baptized Anglican” or “baptised Baptist” or “baptized Roman Catholic.” Although we may grow up in the church where we were baptised, sometimes people make the decision to change to another way of expressing their Christian faith (to another church). But no matter where we worship, we do so in the wonderful context of that “one faith” into which we were baptised.
- Baptism calls every Christian into a new and wonderful life in Jesus Christ. Following Jesus opens the door to knowing what life is supposed to be all about. Jesus is a wonderful guide. From him we can learn to live as God designed us to live. Jesus explains very clearly why we’re here and why each of us is so very important in God’s eyes, and where we will go when life in this world is over.
- Baptism also calls each Christian into the ministry of Jesus Christ — to BE Jesus Christ to the world. How people know US is the only way Jesus and his message of life and salvation will be known to the world. Clergy can only do so much. It is really the baptised who preach God by their word, life and example – where they are (at work, in school, while partying with friends, driving on the motorway, at the beach or dining in a restaurant).
How did the Anglican Church get started? The Anglican Communion traces its origin to Jesus through the episcopacy (bishops). The office of bishop is explicitly referenced in Scripture. Since the beginning of Christianity bishops have handed their office to new bishops by the laying on of hands and the calling down of the Holy Spirit. Bishops can trace the successive handing down of their office back to the Apostles. The Roman Catholic Church (our root) and the Orthodox Churches, e.g., Greek and Russian, enjoy this same succession of bishops back to the time of Christ. The Anglican Church maintains the three-fold order of ministry that traces its roots back to the Apostles — deacons, priests and bishops.
So is the Anglican Church Protestant or Catholic? Neither. Either. Anglicanism is often referred to as a “bridge tradition.” When the Church of England separated itself from Rome, it did not consider itself to be a “Protestant” tradition. Rather, it saw itself returning to the original organization of the church, with local/national congregations organized under the rule of their own bishops who understood the needs of their people in their time and their place in the world. As the church evolved in England, certain elements of the Reformation (such as worship in the vernacular, allowing priests and bishops to marry, an emphasis on the authority of Scripture, no manmade doctrines, and a broader view of what happens during the consecration of the Eucharist) became a part of its tradition. In an attempt to reconcile the views of the Reformers with the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Anglican tradition became a home for both. Thus you will find Anglican parishes where it is difficult to discern whether they are Anglican or Roman Catholic. Some parishes have the rosary, statues and in some places the Mass is even celebrated in Latin. And there are some parishes that are not nearly as “Roman.” Most parishes fall in the middle of the two extremes. All have this wealth of tradition back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles.
Controversy and Unity. No church is immune from disagreements. Wherever there are thinking human beings and whenever Scripture is not absolutely clear about a particular topic, there will be differences of opinion. Some individuals, and indeed some churches as a body, may interpret Scripture differently in respect to such things as authority, dancing, consumption of alcohol, divorce, birth control, sacraments, the type of music used in worship, infant baptism, homosexuality and women clergy. The Anglican Church prides itself on being a church that has both highly respected scholars as well as laity with informed opinions who take different sides in many of the issues of today, where Scripture is not absolutely clear and is in need of interpretation. They acknowledge that the cultural practices and languages used at the time the Scriptures were written absolutely necessitate interpretation. No church, no matter how literally it believes it interprets Scripture (sometimes called “conservative” or “fundamental”) or how one-sided it may appear, is without people who have serious differences of opinion about some matters.
- The Anglican Church believes there is room for differences of opinion, because people do differ in interpreting religious issues. Exploration opens new vistas to see God more clearly and to see better how we ourselves relate to God and to one another. Opening new vistas may take time. Rome was not built in a day.
- We all must realize that there is a huge body of Scripture and religious practice and issues about which we are all one. Indeed we could spend the rest of our lives exploring our commonality and improving our Christian walk by studying Jesus, never needing to get into controversial issues. It is those common issues upon which every church needs to focus, and it will be with them that we can someday call ourselves “one church united.”
- One of the biggest focuses of the Anglican Church is the unity of all Christian churches. This is exemplified when at Mass ALL baptised Christians are invited to receive Jesus in Communion. That is why we frequently share pulpits with clergy from other denominations. That is why the Anglican Church has a wonderfully solid partnership with other churches and is actively working on more of such partnerships, including partnership with the Roman Catholic Church.
- The Anglican Church asks each of us to respond with unbridled love for our brothers and sisters with whom we have differences of opinion, and not to separate ourselves from them, causing further division in the Body of Christ, which is supposed to be ONE. Splitting a family (of which a Christian congregation is) because we disagree with the Church or someone in the church about a limited number of issues does not respect God’s command that we love even our enemies. Loving them means living with them, hugging them, accepting them, not running from them, not splitting a church.
Isn’t it true that the Church of England was founded by Henry VIII? Not entirely. While Henry VIII’s desire for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was, in a manner of speaking, the straw that broke the camel’s back (and, for what it’s worth, Henry’s request wasn’t out of line with church laws of his day…but that’s another story), the trend toward separation from Rome had been building for quite some time in England, which had never fully embraced the rule of the papacy.
Isn’t the Archbishop of Canterbury the Anglican Pope? No, he’s not. We don’t have a pope. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Church of England, and is considered “first among equals” by the rest of the Anglican Communion. He is highly respected and he is a wonderful spokesperson for the Church, but he does not have the same authority over the churches of the Anglican Communion that the Pope has over the Roman Catholic Church.
How do Anglicans worship? If you are familiar with Roman Catholic or Lutheran services, you will find Anglican services remarkably similar. The central rite is the Holy Eucharist (aka “Communion,” “The Lord’s Supper” or the “Mass”), analogous to the Roman Catholic Mass. The first part of the liturgy (“The Liturgy of the Word”) consists of prayers, scripture readings and a sermon (also called a “homily”). This is followed by an Affirmation of Faith (the ancient Nicene Creed), the Prayers of the People, Confession of Sin with Absolution, and the Exchange of Peace.
- The second part of the liturgy (“The Liturgy of the Eucharist”) begins with the offerings of the congregation (bread and wine to be used in the Mass) as well as the monetary offerings of the congregation that will help to maintain and grow the church. Church growth is important because of the Great Commission of Jesus…to baptize the whole world, an obligation we cannot take lightly. This part of the Mass also includes the Eucharistic Prayer, during which the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus happens. Then the reception of communion with both the consecrated Bread and Wine. Communion is followed by a final prayer, a blessing and a dismissal to follow Jesus.
What are the sacraments of the Anglican Church? They include Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation (“confession”), Ordination and Anointing of the Sick. Of these, Baptism and the Eucharist are considered “necessary” sacraments and the others are “conditional” sacraments (i.e., they are not required of all persons, but apply in certain situations). “Sacraments” are defined as “Outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” They all have their origin in Scripture and have been in use by the Church since its beginning.
How is the church governed? The world is a community of people. Countries are a community of people. Church denominations are a community of people. Parishes (i.e., congregations) are a community of people. Communities need order and leadership to survive. No society can survive without effective leadership. So leadership in an Anglican parish is centered in a panel of elected lay people called a “Council.” The head priest (variously known as a vicar, pastor or rector) handles spiritual and worship-related matters, and usually serves in an advisory capacity on church committees. Depending on the size of the congregation, the rector may have one or several ordained assistants (priests or deacons who are sometimes referred to as “curates”).
- Often there will be other lay or ordained people in charge of specific areas, such as a music director (who coordinates worship music for the congregation) and “sexton” (i.e., a person who handles the physical maintenance of the church building and grounds). Churches that are not self-sustaining are called “missions.” Often they are newly formed congregations, or congregations with a very small membership. These churches are administered by the bishop’s office. The head priest of a mission is called a “vicar” because he or she serves as the bishop’s representative.
- All individual congregations are part of a larger geographical area called a “diocese,” which is lead by a bishop. Some churches in the Anglican Communion also have larger administrative districts called “archdioceses,” which are comprised of several dioceses and are administered by archbishops. Holy Ghost church is part of the Archdiocese of Italy and Malta.
What are the books called “Common Worship” and “Book of Common Prayer”? Just what each says. They mainly contain wonderful and spiritually uplifting prayers used in the various ceremonies of the Church: baptisms, ordinations, weddings, anointing of the sick and the various formularies of the Mass. They also have prayers for numerous everyday occasions and the Book of Common Prayer organizes the Scriptures that will be used during the Mass to be sure that the entire Bible is read every 3 years.
- The first Book of Common Prayer was produced by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1549. It has been subsequently revised from time to time. The book was intended to facilitate worship in English rather than Latin, and to bring the rites of the church together into one book for use by both clergy and laity. Each national church in the Anglican Communion has its own adaptation of the Prayer Book. It also contains the Outline of the Faith (Catechism) and various historical documents.
- Holy Ghost uses the approved and more contemporary alternative to the Book of Common Prayer, namely the Common Worship services.
Does the church celebrate other rites? Other public rites of the church include Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer and Evensong or Evening Prayer (held at various times in various churches). The Church also has the sacraments of confirmation (a reaffirmation of the Christian faith by those who are strong in the faith, done by the bishop of the diocese) and Holy Orders (ordinations to the episcopacy, priesthood and diaconate).
How can I learn more about Anglican worship practices? The best way to learn more about our worship practices is to look through a copy of the Book of Common Prayer or the book of Common Worship. These can typically be found in the pews in every Anglican Church. Copies can also often be found in libraries and bookstores as well as on line.
Does the Anglican Church baptize infants? We believe that the grace conferred by the Sacrament of Baptism is not and should not be reserved only for “informed believers.” In baptizing infants, we follow the ancient practice of the Church from its inception.
At what age may a child take communion? A child may take communion at any age. We do not believe that a certain “understanding” of the proceedings is necessary for the sacrament to be valid. Indeed Jesus came to many little children, who certainly did not have the full knowledge and understanding of who he was. The decision of when to take communion is left up to the child and his/her parents.
Does the Anglican Church ordain women to the clergy? The Anglican Church has ordained women to all orders of ministry for many years. The Church simply adheres to what the Bible teaches – that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God as well as other parts of Scripture that call out for equality of men and women. Although throughout much of Christian history the Church has been male-dominated, that practice arose because of cultural influences rather than from the mind of God. In a real sense, we have “matured” in the understanding and practice of the faith. Many Bible scholars believe that the writers of Scripture would be amazed that those who came after them did not recognize what was merely cultural practice in what they wrote and that it took us so long to adapt as culture matured and changed, and as our relationship to God matured.
How do I join the Anglican Church? Do I need to be confirmed? If you are coming from a church in the Apostolic Succession (i.e., Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox), and have already been confirmed, you would be “received” by the bishop of your diocese. Reception is a ceremony that normally takes place during the bishop’s annual visit to your parish. If you are coming from a different tradition, confirmation would be appropriate when you feel you have grown strong in the faith. Most churches hold “inquirer courses” for people interested in reception or confirmation prior to the bishop’s visitation. Please arrange to speak with the pastor if you are interested. Note that confirmation or reception is NOT necessary before you can take communion or participate in the life of the church.
I have already been baptised in another church. If I become an Anglican, do I need to be re-baptised? We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Once you have been baptised with water in the name of the Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), you have been received by adoption into the family of Christ (not into a particular denomination). Baptism should not be repeated. This is true even if you were a tiny baby when you were baptised. If you wish to make a public, adult affirmation of faith, you may choose to be confirmed. Also when Baptisms occur, all Christians in attendance are invited to renew their vows taken at Baptism.
I’ve heard the Anglican Church has some disagreement about homosexual people. What is the status of that? The treatment of gay and lesbian people in Christian churches has created quite a stir in the membership of many churches. It is not the position of Holy Ghost Anglican Church to take a side in this issue, but rather to say that our calling as Christians is to love all people, even those we might like to consider our “enemy under a special circumstance.” Judgment is up to God, not us. Too many have placed gay and lesbian people outside of the scope of “love all people” and “love our enemies” and created a special category in which it is OK to hate by unloving words and by throwing darts at that group. All of us are sinners and come short of the glory of God.