Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 32,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand

South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo
Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

Our copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer includes the 39 Articles of Religion, of which number XXIV says

'It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the cuſtom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to miniſter the Sacraments, in a tongue not underſtanded by the people.'

Those Articles of Religion underwent considerable revision in the 16th century, but nowadays treating them as a rigid absolute is a bellwether of conservatism for most Anglicanate churches not in the Anglican Communion. Despite their reduced prominence, many of the Articles are still relevant in Anglican worship. Certainly our churches hold to the 24th article: our worship services are in English. And if our first language were Igbo or Mandarin, we could probably find an Anglican congregation using one of those languages. It all depends on who 'the people' might be.

San Nicola da Tolentino agli Orti Sallustiani
Ignoring the time we attended Sunday morning service in a parish church in Royston, South Yorkshire, we have almost always taken our publick Prayer and ministry of the Sacraments in an understanded tongue. Despite the presence in the pew of a service leaflet or prayer book, we are usually able to recite from memory those parts of the service said or sung by the congregation.

We aren't sure what it would be like always to worship in an alien language, but because of the exigencies of business travel, we have twice in the last few months attended church services in languages 'not underſtanded'. One was an Armenian service in Rome, and the other was an RC mass in a regional German dialect, in Berlin. We were fascinated by how well it worked for us. At the Armenian service, we knew none of the music and could not read the service leaflet, but when it was all over we could still feel the presence of Christ that came to us. At the German service, the liturgy was similar enough to our customary that we almost forgot that we couldn't understand the words. And the music was familiar.

On the walk back to where we were staying, after the Armenian service, we thought about the exhortation usually misattributed to St Francis, 'Preach the Gospel; use words when necessary'. We didn't understand the words of worship, but we knew the intent, and the meaning, and the sequence, and from that we were able to understand the պատարագին in its most elemental form.

At other times in other venues we've experienced liturgical dance, and we once attended Sunday worship in a 'Church for the Deaf' (featuring extensive use of drums). It worked, and we suspect that if our home church liturgy featured dance or sign language, we would after a while come to accept those as ordinary.

Since we are blessed with the ability to see and hear and smell and read and sing, we normally choose what for us is a 'conventional' Anglican service. We like smells and bells and high-church liturgy. But an occasional folk mass or spoken service or Հայերեն երկրպագությունը ծառայությունը doesn't make us feel deprived at all. It helps with our visceral understanding of the universality of Christ's presence.

On the walk back from the German Mass, we stopped to wait for a traffic light and realized that we had been quietly singing a stanza from the hymn our parish normally sings just once a year, on Trinity Sunday:

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

17 July 2016

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2015 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to