Smells and Bells, Anglo-Catholic style

Today, I decided to scratch my occasional (about every five years) itch to attend an interesting religious service. I’ve been to Tridentine pre-Vatican II masses, Latin masses, a whole host of various Protestant services, synagogue on various occasions, and even a morning service at a Shingon Buddhist Temple in Japan. I’m not religious myself, but I do enjoy the history and ceremony behind services, constantly asking myself questions like, “so why is this important?” and “why do they say it that way?” It’s a strain of my history interest, but also a throw back to my Catholic upbringing.

Today we attended St. Hilda of Whitby, an Anglican Catholic congregation here in Atlanta. My interest lies in apparent contradiction between the two words in the title of their church, as well as my interest in high church liturgy.

Indeed, it was quite high church. Certainly it was the most Tridentine liturgy I’ve seen outside of a Roman Catholic church. The priest kept his back to the congregation for a large portion of the liturgy, there was plenty of standing, sitting and kneeling as well as intra-prayer genuflecting and crossing. Sung hymns were kept at 6 or even seven verses. None of this “two verses and done” nonsense! It felt very Roman Catholic.

Yet there was the Book of Common Prayer at every seat, specifically the U.S. Episcopal 1928 Book of Common Prayer. My quick reading today tells me that the Anglican Catholic Church in the U.S. exists primarily because of deep disagreement with the 1979 revision to this book as well as disagreement with the ordination of women. The Congress of St. Louis is key here.

It was a good Easter service, filled with tradition and history. I am glad I went, and I am happy to say that the people of St. Hilda’s, although small in number, were quite welcoming. Theologically, it’s not my cup of tea but I wish them well and I always glad to partake of the vast difference in religious experience this country allows.