From its unique history, Anglicanism has drawn a spirituality distinctively its own. At its heart, Anglican spirituality involves an openness to God as expressed through shared prayer, the worship of a gathered community. To describe this, Anglicans often quote the Latin maxim, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” which might loosely be translated, “praying shapes believing.” For Anglicans in the USA, who are known as Episcopalians, this prayer is centered in the Book of Common Prayer. This is not simply a book for private devotion (although many Episcopalians use it for that too). It is the basis for all Sunday worship and for whenever Episcopalians gather. Drawing upon words and rituals that have fed Christians for nearly 2000 years, the Book of Common Prayer guides us as a community as we listen to God’s word as proclaimed in Holy Scripture, as we sing God’s praises, and as we share the Eucharist, the sacred meal of God’s presence among us. It is in this way that we Episcopalians come to know God as an unstoppable force for love in the world. It is a love made visible in the magnificence of God’s creation. It is a love also made visible in Jesus Christ, God’s son. It is a love made further visible in all the ways in which we human beings embody that love for others.
Vital to Anglican spirituality, then, is that ours is a shared prayer, a gathered worship. For Anglicans, Christianity is something we do together. To help us with this we depend always on God’s guidance as provided by Holy Scripture, as well as by the wisdom of those who have gone before us, and by our collective reason and experience. This means that, as we Anglicans read and interpret Scripture, we do so with the help both of our tradition and of each other. We continue to learn, first of all, from the women and men of ages past whose own relationship with God helped to make ours possible. Building on this “cloud of witnesses,” we also read Holy Scripture confident that when we approach it prayerfully and humbly within the context of our community, God will open us to even deeper understandings of God’s purpose for us. Inevitably, though, this will point us outward. We Episcopalians believe that in the end prayer and worship will always draw us back into the world to love and to serve others. For some, this may involve a commitment to mission. For others, it may mean helping those in need or finding the courage to stand with the oppressed. In whatever way it is expressed, however, Anglican spirituality leads us to reach for God by reaching out to others. It calls us to extend God’s love and God’s peace further and further still until it reaches all who need God’s help, God’s comfort, and God’s guidance.
By Ernie Boyer/April 2009