What is Anglicanism?
Christianity was planted in England in the first few centuries after the Apostles (Anglican means "of the Angles," or "of England"). Having grown closer to the Roman Catholic Church in the 7th century, the English Church reformed itself from aspects of late-Medieval Roman Catholicism in the 16th and 17th century. As the Gospel was spread from England to other nations, a characteristically "Anglican" tradition of preserving, practicing, and propagating the historic Faith spread with it, being adapted locally, and growing into what we know today as global Anglicanism. A few notable Anglicans include C. S. Lewis, Jane Austin, John Newton (author of "Amazing Grace"), Bishop Lancelot Andrews, Susanna Wesley, George Washington, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Central to the Anglican Church's reform of itself was the translation of the Bible into English, along with the Church's ancient liturgy (pattern of worship), preserving continuity with Christians from the earliest times, and providing a comprehensible and elevating way for people to worship God and encounter him in Word and Sacrament. Liturgy means "the work of the people," hence the term "worship service." Liturgical worship is participatory in nature, as we offer our "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" before the throne of God.
What is known to many as the Anglican Way is a path of Christian faith, piety, and practice that is most recognizably connected to the use of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and its subsequent revisions and adaptations into the various language and cultures of the nations where Christianity spread from the British Isles. The Book of Common Prayer (hereafter, BCP) provides patterns of prayer and Scripture reading for daily, weekly, annual/seasonal, and occasional use (life events like birth, marriage, and burial), filled with grace and truth. The BCP provides a consistent "prayer rule" for individual, family, and parish use. It has been called "the Bible arranged for worship," because almost every phrase is either a direct quotation or an echo of some place in Scripture. The entire Book of Psalms is printed in the core of the BCP. Alongside it, one traditionally carries a Bible and a Hymnal.
Our parish primarily uses the 1928 BCP, which is the latest, widely recognized successor in the United States to the Prayer Book tradition, making use of other adaptations authorized in our ecclesiastical jurisdiction where helpful. The 1928 BCP is marked by simplicity and elegance. It is in an elevated style of English, as were earlier editions. The reason for this is not to make God distant or incomprehensible, but to inspire devotion and prolonged meditation through memorable, poetic cadences, training us in a usage that helps set worship apart from merely mundane occupations of life. It takes a little time to get used to—but only a little if you give it a chance. The "pay off" in the long term, we've found by experience, returns the initial investment in dividends. It reintroduces us to a culture of the sacred, to beauty and majesty in expression that appropriately reflects the Truth of our Faith, and to a practice of prayer and devotion shared with countless heroes of the faith and ordinary saints who have gone before us and are coming behind us.
The BCP is traditionally paired with the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. Other translations are valid (we make use of them too!), but using the KJV is not "elitist"—actually, it is the most widely owned, read, available, and familiar translation of the Bible! Instead, its poetic cadences connect with and reinforces both the language of the BCP and of familiar English hymnody, making it all the more memorable and pleasurable over a lifetime of use. Using elevated language, however, does not make our prayer inherently more reverent. That depends on the posture of our hearts. In all our worship, however elaborate, we are merely like children playing "dress up" for our loving and majestic heavenly Father. The language and posture we use in worship is for our own benefit, to train ourselves inwardly by what we do outwardly.