Visiting an Anglican Church has been in my curious-things-to-do checklist these past few years and I had an opportunity to do it yesterday. Yesterday was an opportune time since it was Ash Wednesday and Anglicans are one of the few handful of Protestant churches that retained the tradition. One particular Anglican parish was close to where I am in the Ortigas Center. The Church of the Holy Trinity in Forbes Park, Makati is one of the few handful of Anglican churches in Metro Manila. Anglican liturgy is not all too alien to me since I have known a handful of people who are Anglicans, a bulk of which attend either St. Stephen Church, Cathedral of Sts. John and Mary in Quezon City and a handful in this same church.
I arrived at Holy Trinity just as they were about to start the service and happened to even meet the main celebrant along the way. He was wearing a purple clerical robe under his liturgical vestments for the day and I immediately identified him as a bishop since only bishops wear purple clerical robes or clerical shirts for that matter. I was not wrong since the main celebrant really is a bishop, The Right Rev. Arthur L. Jones, a bishop from the Anglican Church of Australia. The church, as with other traditional churches, covered the crosses with purple cloth to signify the start of the Lenten Season.
There were surprisingly only a handful of attendees in the Ash Wednesday Service and it meant no place for me to hide but it was worthwhile. I knew that the readings from the lexionary would fall under Year A of the liturgical calendar but I had a hard time flipping the pages of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The parish assistant was kind enough to point me to the page that has the liturgical prayers for Lent and Ash Wednesday in particular. The service went on smoothly even with just a handful of people. It felt like in a mini-version of what the Universal Church is since people of every race were represented in the Service.
There was an imposition of ashes in the Service and I lined up to get mine too! I was a bit shaken since I do not have a single idea of the liturgy that the regular parishioners must exercise but it was simpler than I though. After the imposition of ashes, the bishop muttered the words “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”, quoting from Genesis 3:19. After the imposition of ashes, Bishop Arthur has a short but precise sermon. The readings were from Joel 2: 12. and Matthew 6:16 to which he exhorted on the importance of the sanctity of God’s people and acts of faith done in secret. He reminded the church goers what ashes symbolize, the potent consequence of sin, DEATH. Forty days after this day, Easter will be celebrated, the day that Christ defeated this very DEATH itself!
He recounts an experience in his days of youth about going through the fire in his native New South Wales. Despite his honored looks and academic standing, he was once a son of a simple farmer. While he was with his uncle in the field, they were caught all of a sudden in a bushfire that quickly ravaged the field. Braving the 15ft. flames, he and his uncle braved the fiery bushfire and got out unscathed but shaken. This was a life-changing experience for him.
After a few prayers, especially those for the nation and the Filipinos still stuck in Libya, a silent reflection ensued to examine one’s self before taking of Communion. This particular aspect of the Communion struck me a lot since the people were deep in prayer. Many of us Evangelicals or Baptists for that matter has somehow forgotten this very aspect. I was glad that Anglicans practice what we call Open Table Communion and invite Christians from other traditions to join. Those who want to receive kneel before the altar rails and receive the wafer by cupping the hands right on left. Communion is in both kinds since the 39 Articles clearly stipulate such. Consumption of the wafer and wine is either consuming both kinds separately or dip the wafer in consecrated wine. I did the latter since I thought of it more hygienic and thats what the Indian lady beside me did.
There was a blessing of peace afterwards by which the familiar “Peace be with you!” is muttered, something to which has been lost in the contemporary denominations by which only the customary shaking of hands indicate a link. The bishop was gracious enough to go down the chancel and greet each and everyone peace before heading back to mutter the last liturgical rites of the Service before dismissing the crowd. After the benediction, the bishop went down the aisle in usual practice of traditional recessional of the Service. Not ending my surprise there, the bishop gave a blessing and a HUG! to each person heading home after the Service. O, how I wish that is done anywhere in my denomination!
The whole service was somehow a new experience for me. I guess another check is added to my checklist but the most important thing is to experience once in a while the liturgy of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from another Tradition. I guess that would not be the last of my visit. I heard that they have something special for the Trinity Sunday which commemorates the triune God or the Trinity by which is the namesake of the Church. Church of the Holy Trinity, see you in June!