Journeying together in Christ

Frequently Asked Questions

      1. Will I have to dress up in fancy clothes when I come to St. James? For the answer click here
      2. I know very little or nothing about Christianity. Is that all right or will I be ridiculed? For the answer click here.
      3. Why do priests, deacons, Lay Readers and choir members wear such unusual clothes? Why not dress like the people in the congregation? For the answer, click here
      4. Why do you  always read from a book instead of looking up and experiencing the drama of the service, especially when the priest is remembering the words of Jesus before and after he died on the cross? For the answer click here
      5. What is a Lay Reader? For the answer click here
      6. What is a deacon? For the answer click here

Answer Section

        1. Will I have to dress up in fancy clothes when I come to St. James?
          • How you dress is not as important as what is in your heart. Wear what you would normally wear when you go to a restaurant or to a concert.
          • Some people wear jeans and t-shirts. Others like to dress more  formally.  Both are good and accepted without comment.

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        2. I know very little or nothing about Christianity. Is that all right or will I be ridiculed?
          • We’d love to tell you what we believe and wait for your questions. We will talk with you without demanding that you accept what we believe.
          • Perhaps in answering your questions you will makes us realize exactly what we believe.
          • Perhaps you will teach us a new way to think about God.

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        3. Why do priests, deacons, Lay Readers and choir members wear such unusual clothes? Why not dress like the people in the congregation?
          • The easiest, unscholarly answer is tradition. That’s what they have been wearing for centuries, perhaps believing that they were clearly looking more like the Biblical characters in the Old and New Testament.  Perhaps, the clothes go back to the medieval robes worn by grand Lords as well as by commoners in cold unheated, drafty churches.
          • Tradition can  create a heightened sense that what is happening is important, set aside from the ordinary daily life.
          • Tradition  sometimes, when followed unthinkingly, can lead to dusty, bloodless, re-enactments, devoid of any heightened solemnity, any sense of the sacred.
          • It is a cause for  thought for us at St. James. Why are we wearing those clothes and are they still effective in creating a heightened sense of the sacred?

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        4. Why do you  always read from a book instead of looking up and experiencing the drama of the service, especially when the priest is remembering the words of Jesus before and after he died on the cross?
          • Tradition.
          • The Church of England, parent of the Anglican Church of Canada, was born in a turbulent historical time when Henry VIII, not only divorced wives, but also divorced the English Church from the Catholic Church. His Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer enabled Henry’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
          • Cranmer served under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. There was much friction between Catholics and Protestants during those reigns.
          • In Europe the Reformation was causing a split with the Catholic Church. Reformers based their faith on the Bible. The “Word” in the form of a book, that is, the Bible was everything. Reformers rejected the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the bread during the Eucharist, turned to the actual body of Christ. “NO more symbolism, no more metaphor,” intoned the  Reformers who rejected sculptures, images until  they stripped their churches to bare walls.
          • Under Edward VI, Thomas Cranmer, a Reformer, published two versions of The Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy (what was said and done) in the services of the English Church.
          • The tradition that one read from a book started with this Book of Common Prayer, which is still in use today in a revised form. The congregations needed to learn the words of the new service, especially if making mistakes could land one in serious trouble.
          • In 1985, The Anglican Church of Canada, authorized The Book of Alternative Services, which was intended to be a modern liturgy, in the language of the common person.
          • Many, right from its introduction, criticized The Book of Alternatives Services as not having gone far enough in modernizing the language and in liberalizing the liturgy of the service. Initially, Canadian Anglican Churches were ordered to use only The Book of Alternative Services; however, there was such an outcry by those who loved  the Book of Common Prayer that both are being used today in the Anglican Church of Canada.
          • When the worshippers had to deal with a new liturgy both in Cranmer’s time and in our time, they needed to have their noses in a book to follow along.
          • Is it time to get that nose out of a dusty book,  get a breath of fresh air and actually listen, and experience the drama and beauty of the story of how Jesus suffered, died and was resurrected?

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        5. What is a Lay Reader?
          • A Lay Reader is a member of the congregation who takes responsibility for certain parts of the liturgy (what happens in the service and what is said.)
          • Lay Readers are a recent addition to the liturgy; as recently as 30 years ago, some priests resisted using Lay Readers and their functioning in the service.
          • Recently, in the last 8 years or so, Lay Readers attend two summer schools for training.
          • What Lay Readers do within a service is very much dependent on the church in which they exercise their duties.
          • At St. James, they lead parishioners to read with them a part of the liturgy, for example the Nicene Creed, and the Psalm. They read the Gospel assigned for that service.
          • They may administer the bread (the host) and the wine at the second station for communion located at the baptismal font. (Click for more information.)
          • There is some overlap in the Lay Reader’s functions and those who read scripture, and administer (give) the wine at the main altar rail.

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        6. What is a deacon?
          • Deacons again, are a recent addition to the liturgy in the Canadian Anglican Church. In our diocese (an area of responsibility for a Bishop. Please go here for more information on a diocese.)  the first five deacons were ordained in 2001 as an experiment to establish the diaconate in the diocese. A number of others have since been ordained to the diaconate, a sign that the experiment must have been successful.
          • Deacons have existed in the fledgling church during and after Jesus’ time on earth and in fact deacons became very powerful church functionaries, until the middle ages, when church Bishops, and Archbishops reduced the power of deacons.
          • Deacons today, in the Diocese of Ontario, must follow strict guidelines in order to be eligible to be ordained. They must take courses in Church History, on the Old and New Testament, homiletics (preaching), among other educational requirements.
          • Deacons offer themselves for a specific ministry within the church in which they serve and in the diocese. The list of what deacons do in the Church in Canada, in the USA, in Britain is as long as the list of deacons who serve.
          • At. St. James, Deacon Sharon Dunlop is engaged in prison ministry as well as social justice issues. (Please go here if you wish to read more about her ministry.)
          • Deacons also have a function in the service of a church. In many churches, deacons serve at the altar, they read the Gospel, they send the congregation into the world to engage in their own baptismal ministry.
          • At St. James’ deacons serve at the altar and send the congregation into the community exhorting them to serve God at work, in their pastimes, in their own worship times in their family life.

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A work in Progress. We will continue to add more Frequently Asked Questions.

You are invited to send in your question which we will gladly answer, if need be, with help from scholars.

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