A Word about Worship


A Word about Worship

At Saint John’s in the Village, worship is central to our life and mission. The primary purpose of worship is not to entertain, inspire, motivate, edify, or instruct. It is to render to God the praise, adoration, and sacrifice which is God’s due. In the process of worship in spirit and in truth, all of those other things may or may not occur. The point is not what we get, but rather what we offer — ourselves, our souls and bodies, as a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to God, together with our praise and adoration. In so doing, we are transformed daily into the person we were created to be — a holy witness to the transforming power of the Spirit of God in Christ.

When Saint John’s was founded in 1843, the tradition of worship established for the parish by Bishop Whittingham of Maryland was patterned on the full Catholic tradition of the Church of England/Episcopal Church as expressed in the Tractarian and Oxford Movements of the nineteenth century, which were Reformed reclamations of the Catholic principles (Tractarian) and expressions (Oxford) of the ancient liturgies of the Church. These were a deliberate challenge to the meager offerings found in most Maryland churches, where both the Holy Communion and the daily prayers of the Church had fallen into widespread disuse. This older tradition of worship was meant to restore the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” which are the marks of the worship of the Church.

Saint John’s, together with other parochial foundations by Bishop Whittingham in the same period, evolved to become a leading exponent of what later was called “The English Use” in both liturgy and music. The ancient Catholic liturgies of the Church, zealously truncated and purged of many traditional elements during The Reformation, were restored using the English Book of Common Prayer, together with authorized material from the ancient English liturgical Uses of Sarum (Salisbury), Lincoln, London, Westminster and others. These restorations came to full flower in the English Church in the scholarly liturgical masterwork called The Parson’s Handbook by Dr Percy Dearmer, published in 1899. It was widely disseminated in America almost immediately. This book, continuously revised and updated, had gone through seven editions by 1905. Its use continued through the fourteenth edition in the late 1960’s well into the modern liturgical reforms in England and America, which resulted in the full incorporation of its principles in the revised Prayer Books of the 1970’s (America) and 1980’s (England). Some variation of its principles and ceremonial were at use in many, if not most, parishes throughout the Episcopal Church until quite recently.

The period from 1965 to the present has been one of great liturgical foment with many experimental liturgies and theories of worship coming and going, and everything from fads to true liturgical reform leaving its mark on our worship.

Dr Dearmer would easily recognize our relatively simple, dignified, traditional ceremonial and vesture, even as it is adapted to modern American worship. For those curious, our liturgical color scheme follows an old English usage:

  • Advent: Sarum Blue (navy), trimmed in violet

  • Christmas: Gold or White

  • Epiphany (Feast day): Gold, or White

  • Epiphany Season: Green

  • Lent: Ash (unbleached linen), trimmed in Red and Black (unbleached candles)

  • Holy Week: Passion Red (oxblood) and Black wool (unbleached candles)

  • Maundy Thursday: Sarum (brick) Red and Gold

  • Good Friday: Black (unbleached candles)

  • Easter Day: Gold

  • Easter Season: White

  • Ascension-tide: Royal Blue and Gold (a liturgical equivalent of White)

  • Whitsun/Pentecost: Sarum Red and Gold

  • Pentecost-tide: Green

  • Feasts of Our Lord: Gold, or White

  • Feasts of Our Lady: Royal Blue and Gold, or Sarum Red and Gold

  • Feasts of Martyrs: Sarum Red and Gold

  • Michaelmas: Royal Blue and Gold

  • All Saints: Gold

  • All Souls: Black and Gold (unbleached candles)

  • Funerals: Sarum Blue, or Black and Gold (unbleached candles)

We strive to preserve the best of our Anglican heritage while avoiding “British Museum” religion. We are traditional in worship, but fully engaged with modern realities. We are not “precious and mechanical”. We are not “Anglo-Catholic”, in what has become that term’s modern sense: importing the customs, ethos, vesture, and style of the nineteenth century Roman Catholic Church into Anglican services. We maintain the distinct English Catholic heritage of the Anglican liturgy, vesture, pastoral tradition, and ethos as valuable to the present generation for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all races and clans today.


Sacraments and the Spiritual Life

Are you considering joining us?  Would you like to be married at Saint John's?  Here you'll find a series of informational articles about the Sacraments and our Life here at Saint John's.

Sacraments and the Spiritual Life

Are you considering joining us?  Would you like to be married at Saint John's?  Here you'll find a series of informational articles about the Sacraments and our Life here at Saint John's.