Thursday, 5 March 2009

Demystifying the Church

This is the first in a series of articles I am writing for the local Parishes Mag... Thought it might be worth sharing, a bit of an antidote to the usual Anglican mystique/obscurity* (*delete as appropriate)

Demystifying the Church
Part ye firste

Christian Faith is quite simple - Jesus said ‘follow me’ and that is what most of us try and do.

The Church, on the other hand, has had two thousand years or so to build up lots of traditions, practices and theology that exist alongside this simple message. The purpose of this ritual is not to confuse people or exclude them but to add depth and life and colour to our worship and to the way we do things. In this occasional column I will try and explain a little of what we do in the Church and why we do it, I hope it adds to our appreciation and enjoyment of Church services in our Mission Community! I was tempted to call this series ‘Church for Dummies’ but realise that most of us (myself included) may not have any idea why the Church does things a certain way, but have got used to things being that way ‘because that’s what we do’. This doesn’t make us dummies, so instead I am attempting to demystify what our Church does and why we do it.

You will notice if you came to Church in December that our Altar (the table at the front of the Church) and our Pulpit (where the minister stands for the sermon) have coloured cloths on them. The Vicar also wears a scarf for services called a stole which comes in different colours. From Advent Sunday until Christmas Eve the cloths are purple, and then they will be changed to white for Christmas until 2nd February when they are green, then back to purple from Ash Wednesday, white for Easter Day and so it goes on, this is because the Church uses certain colours to represent important parts of the Church year.

Green is the colour we have for much of the year, it reminds us of growth and life, that God is a part of the world we live in and is alive and around us in all things.

White is a celebration colour that we have at Christmas and Easter- the two most important celebrations of the Church year. It reminds us of light and life and happiness and purity – all part of Christian life. We also have white for weddings and baptisms and ordinations.

Purple is a serious colour that is called a penitential colour – it is the colour that is used for Advent (the lead up to Christmas) and Lent (before Easter) - it was the colour Jesus wore before he was crucified, and used to be the colour royalty wore. It reminds us of the suffering and death of Jesus, and so reminds us that we are often sinful and sorrowful. Clergy also wear purple for funerals.

Red is the colour we use to remind us of the fire of God’s Holy Spirit, which is a passionate colour. God can set us on fire with his love, we can be passionate about faith and about the God who loves us passionately. Red is also used to remind us of the blood of those who were willing to die for their faith, the martyrs of the Church – so we often use red for services when we remember saints of the Church.

So the colours in Church all have a meaning, we don’t just chose them at random but we have different colours through the year. Next time you are in Church you’ll see that we have one or other of these colours to remind us of one of the important parts of the Christian Faith.

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