When people worship with us for the first time, they often have lots of questions. The gestures and ritual of our worship can seem formal, complicated or downright strange!
Why are some people dressed in a special way?
Why do you use incense?
Why do some people cross themselves?
Are you Roman Catholics?
We hope you find answers to these questions below but if not, you are welcome to join us and to ask us in person.
The tradition at St Matthew’s (sometimes described as ‘Anglo-Catholic’ or ‘High Church’) finds its roots in a nineteenth century movement within the Church of England. The followers of the Oxford Movement, as it was called, sought to re-awaken the Church of England to its identity as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - its continuity with the ancient church, most seen in its teaching, sacraments and practice. The word ‘catholic’ means universal and refers to our receiving and handing on of the traditions of the ancient church. At the same time we recognise that those traditions are growing, evolving and changing in response to the needs of the world and our increasing understanding of the universe and human nature.
Each of the different traditions within the Church of England seeks to emphasise different things about the nature of God and the relationship between God, the world and individuals. The Anglo-Catholic tradition seeks to hold together our understanding of God as transcendent (mysterious, majestic and incomprehensible) and immanent (present and knowable in our midst). The rich variety of traditions that make up the Anglican tapestry need not be set against one another, often differences are simply the result of choices about aesthetics or ethos.
St Ignatius of Loyola, a romantic Spanish nobleman living in the sixteenth century, wrote that ‘we are created to praise reverence and serve God’ and that ‘all the other things on the face of the earth are created to help us fulfil this purpose’. When we worship at St Matthew’s we try to draw on the richness of the world’s gifts to enhance our worship and help us meet God as we pray.
The usual form of worship at St Matthew’s Church is the Mass (also called the Eucharist or Holy Communion). The service falls into two parts where we first listen to and reflect on the Word of God from the scriptures and then remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as we recall - in words and gestures - Jesus’ Last Supper with his friends. The Risen Life of Christ is shared with us as we gather around the altar and receive bread and wine together.
Whilst the gestures and ceremonial that are observed throughout the celebration of Mass can seem complicated or formal, it should be remembered that it is natural for human beings to develop customs and rituals around important events. What we do at St Matthew’s has been informed by natural human behaviour that has developed under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit over many centuries through evolving cultural traditions. The use of special clothing, bells, sweet-smelling incense, music and different gestures is intended to draw the whole body and all its senses into the act of meeting, worshipping and being transformed by the Living God.
There are other, simpler forms of worship at St Matthew’s, notably Morning Prayer which happens on several weekdays. This is a time for listening to the words of scripture, resting in the stillness of God’s presence and uniting ourselves with all people of faith throughout the world. As the sun rises and brings warmth to the earth we pray that God’s love will be known in all places, bringing strength, blessing and wisdom to all whose hearts are open.
Other opportunities for worship, prayer and to help us engage with the different phases and ‘moods’ of the church year are advertised in our weekly news sheet.