Monday, 4 March 2013

High Church

I have a standing policy that I don't talk about religion on this blog, I have other places I do that, but every so often I break my own rules because it's not anything deeply intellectual or controversial, and I'm still refusing to get into debates. This is just in response to a question that came up elsewhere where there wasn't room for it. I'm not expecting responses, but feel free to dive in if you want to.

So, we all know I am not a believer, but I'm not completely ignorant of the western church, and there's a cultural element anyway, or at least there was back then. As a kid I often visited one or other of the relevant parish churches, because of school, Brownies/Girl Guides, and so on. These were obviously Church of England churches, which are now part of the international Anglican system. Anglican = of England. This is the breakaway church begun by Henry VIII when he couldn't get his own way with Rome regarding his marital shenanigans. You know all about that.

Now, at that time there was a whole movement of "Protestant" schisms, in many European countries, and had been for a while, and we have to look at what "Protestant" means. It simply meant at that time "not governed by Rome". At the time (16th century) it would have been major headline news if there had been such a thing. It was a massive, massive change in the way things were done.

In theory, what it meant was that followers took all their authority from the Bible, rather than a human (the Pope). In practice there were some really influential humans interpreting said book, so that instead of there being one Protestant church, there were soon rather a lot, and now there are hundreds. But they can be grouped, more or less, into about half a dozen or so types, of which Anglican is one.

So, the question was, other than "NO POPE" in what way is Anglican different to Roman Catholic? In some ways, very different. In others, quite similar. Depends how you look at it. Depends what you're used to.

From my perspective as a child growing up familiar with the Church of England, it was poles apart. It was foreign. From the perspective of somebody used to "Low Church" they probably looked really similar. All the pomp, ritual, organs, choirs, etc was there.

This is an Anglican bishop:

If you are used to a pastor in a suit, "High Church" looks much closer to Catholicism than anything familiar.

There are various level of pomp in all sorts of churches, there's a scale, from the most humble, those who don't even have clerics, to the Pope, but on that scale, the simple fact is, the Anglican church is up there.

I wasn't aware of that, as a child. Not exactly. I knew there were churches that were far less formal, but as a child I simply swallowed what I was told, that they weren't "real" churches. The idea of orthodoxy is very powerful on the young. And I'll tell you this....I LIKED all the dressing up, processions, etc. I absolutely squeed when we went to services in Canterbury Cathedral. It made it a special occasion. The religion missed me completely, but then it did the vast majority of people, which is probably half the problem.

Now, the times, they are-a-changing.

I am actually rather sad that the parish church I knew as a kid, ornate in all its religious frills:

Has been converted into a music venue:

Of course it's inevitable. Pews were empty. As the old church-going generations died off, there was nobody to replace them. You soon can't pay the heating bills on a big building like that when there's nobody using it, so this was probably an economic decision. And a sign of the times. That's just how it is. People's modern spiritual needs are different.


  1. I really like going into old pompous ornate churches, but to look at the architecture and decor, not for services.
    Be that what it may, but I refused to pay £13 to look around inside St. Paul's Cathedral.

    1. They have bills to pay too, but neither would I. I let wealthier people pay for things like that and I go into the free ones. I've never been inside St Paul's, but I've been inside hundreds of others, in lots of countries, I never miss a chance to visit fancy old churches. Even my mother-in-law, who totally disapproves of anything not Methodist, has visited a lot of temples in Asia, simply because they are interesting and beautiful. I think there is more to the building. The qurstion of course is whether any of this is "right" or not, but it's not my question. I leave that for others.

  2. I like the ornate churches, too.

    There are a few fun differences between CoE and RCC, far as I can tell. CoE clergy can get married, and they are MUCH nicer to gay folks - and women - than the RCC.

    Which is why there are a few Anglican and Episcopalian parishes converting over to RCC. I mean the WHOLE parish... Because anything past the 16th century is scary!

    This seems very uncontroversial for a controversial post!

    1. For me, on this topic, this is very uncontroversial (and deliberately so!)

      Can you give me some examples of the parishes switching? I hadn't heard about that.

  3. Seeing churches closing or downsizing, like any form of social change, is something we really ought to keep in mind. I have read where there is a resurgence online of pagan and natural religions--the type that do not need big, ornate buildings, one special prayer book, along with fancy-schmancy clothes in order to get in touch with what it means to be spiritual or have good communion with God and each other.

    I've been anticipating 'collapse' since before the financial mess in 2008, and feel we are only postponing the inevitable. Change happens, and so many 'systems' have not changed with the times. Celebrations of life happen in various places these days, not only at the gathering space/place of church. Maybe it is part of the dimensional shift/shift of the ages that we undergo a major overhaul (or a few of them)? ~ Blessings!

    1. To be honest, I am not a predictor type. I am too acutely aware that every generation since we have written evidence to show it, have thought things couldn't get any worse. I think we'll plod on, some things will get worse, some things will get better, some will just change. And sometimes things look really bad, but they recover. So, seeing as there's nothing I can do about it, I assume the sun will rise tomorrow, and I carry on accordingly.