What it is about Anglican patrimony that gives it distinctiveness? What is it about it has made the Anglican Church unique, while still a strong, if troubled, member of the Catholic family of churches?
Father Thomas Fraser, the now retired rector of Saint Paul’s, Riverside (near Chicago) after 42 years, provides a lecture that addresses those questions in an accessible and authoritative presentation that is 52 minutes long. In this time of confusion about Anglicanism in England, the United States, and elsewhere, it can be difficult to see what makes us, in a healthy sense, “us.” Father Fraser provides a historical overview of what is called “the Anglican ethos,” as well as what it means for us, today.
“Anglican ethos” is a term that refers to how the feel and sense—or “culture”—of Anglican life emerges from our tradition of liturgy, parish life, sacraments and monastic tradition. The Book of Common Prayer is absolutely crucial to this ethos, this “less tangible patrimony.” To understand it correctly, the Prayer Book must seen not as a collection of worship services, but rather as a Regula—or pattern, framework of corporate life that orders the threefold prayer life of Office-Mass-Devotion. This is the heart of what gives Anglicanism its ethos, its distinctive characteristics and quality. As Father Fraser says, “Regula is what forms our life. . . . No other western Church has as its liturgy its Regula.”
In the course of his lecture, which is taken from a recent Adult Theology Class (a five-semester course taught for 35 years at St Paul’s, Riverside and mandatory for full membership in the parish), Father Fraser also describes how it was Martin Thornton who gave language and vocabulary to what older generations of Anglicans understood to be the Anglican ethos. It was well understood, he says, often implicitly. But not until Martin Thornton came along, particularly with his classic English Spirituality, was the general sense of our identity explicitly demonstrated to be consonant with, and a continuation of, Benedictinism. Father Fraser also describes how Anglicanism, seen broadly with the Book of Common Prayer as its foundation, is Catholic in its doctrine, practice and imagination.
Enjoy this lecture, study it, and share and discuss in your home parish. Listen to Part 2 here.