Ecumenism Series: Liturgy

Today’s Bellator Guest Contributor is Wade Murphy, friend of Bellator Society.  Wade is a practicing Anglican.  He lives in Denver, CO where he is a partner at SourceRock Partners and writes on the nature of policy, faith, business, and history.

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I was born into the Episcopal church, America’s version of the Anglican faith for most of my life.

We all know the meta story of Henry VIII and his desire to divorce his first wife that led to the split from the Catholic Church.

Growing up with the stigma that we were just Catholics-who-like-divorce, I never really spent much time learning and exploring just how much we Anglicans have in common with our Catholic family.  But once I delved more into it, the writings and doctrine that Archbishop Cranmer, put in place in the 16thcentury, opened my eyes to the beauty of our strong connections to the mother Catholic church.

Outside of things like prayer books in English, ability of priests to marry, and a few other reformation ideas, our common faith was so strong in its core.

So I was baptized as an infant, took communion regularly on Sundays from a young age, and was able to participate in the liturgy without referencing the prayer book.  But the responses for Sunday liturgies seemed so rote to me. Sure, we added a few alleluia’s after Easter but the sameness was just there, the responses in the liturgy became so ingrained that I sometimes forgot what we were saying.  I remember one time when I was still in high school, I ran into our priest randomly at the grocery store – he said something I didn’t quite hear and just responded “and also with you!” a little red-faced and went on my way.

The liturgy of the Anglican church from our Book of Common Prayer is taken so strongly from the Catholic church mass that it is sometimes hard to discern the differences.

Once I got to college though, something changed in my heart on this.  I always respected the Catholic Church and our split, so I had never been to a Catholic mass before, intending to worship in my church home.  Not surprising, when I was living in Italy for a year during a study abroad it was not easy to find an Anglican church to go to for regular church services.  I found myself sitting in a small random church tucked away in a back corner of Venice with a Catholic classmate, and after the mass was over I wept.

The church was almost 1,000 years old, and had held masses there regularly for a thousand years.  I realized that the liturgy I had taken for granted, the prayers and responses I often forgot I was saying, that those were the same words and the same prayers that had been prayed and lifted up in worship much, much longer than I gave them credit for.

Ever since then, I find so much more comfort and even power in our Anglican liturgy.

These words have been hallowed over millennia of our brothers and sisters in the Catholic church praying faithfully and continuously. Something about standing in a service, knowing that I am joining my voice not just with angels and archangels as we say in the eucharist, but with millennia of my brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church makes me feel a wonderfully profound sense of belonging.

While I may not be a confirmed Catholic by denomination, the small-c catholicism of the Church is something for which I am immensely grateful and humbled to continue that hallowing tradition.

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We are so very thankful to have Wade Murphy join us today!

He is one of those renaissance kind of guys and a dear friend.  Wade is a thought leader, wordsmith, and lover of humanities. We are so happy he agreed to participate in our Ecumenism Series as he is a fountain of wisdom, insight, and true kindness in building bridges for Jesus. His love of the Anglican liturgy is beautiful and inspiring, and he challenges us to think deeper on our faith journeys! Thank you, Wade. You are loved!!

Love, Tracy and Fran

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