Rituals and Worship

An additional impact of Anglo-Catholicism has been the popularity of formal clerical vestments in worship, which had long been out of favor in Anglicanism.  Most vestments are simply vestiges of ordinary garments used in ancient times, such as robes.  But symbolic meaning has been attached to them for centuries.  For instance, clergy might wear a white linen robe, signifying purity.  Other items indicate rank, such as a miter (a type of hat) for a bishop.  Bishops also may have a crosier, a bent staff indicating his or her role as shepherd.

The popularity of formal vestments has waned in recent decades, however.  Clergy might wear a simple clerical shirt and collar in order to indicate his or her status (not to say higher status) as a clergy person.  Some might even wear street clothes (commonly along the lines of so-called "business casual"), indicating equality with the parishioners.  This approach has been criticized, however, as indicating equality with the mainstream, but not with the downtrodden.

Another symbol accepted by many Anglicans--and indeed most Christians--is the fish.  The Greek word for fish (ichthus) fits as an acronym for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" in Greek.  Jesus also called the fishermen Andrew and Simon (Peter) to follow him so that they could be "fishers of men."  The dove is also an accepted symbol for the Holy Spirit--this is particularly popular among those Anglicans influenced by the Charismatic renewal movement.

Study Questions:
     1.     Why is the cross the most visible symbol of Anglicanism? How is it represented?
     2.     What is role of imagery within the Anglican Church?
     3.     Why do many Anglican Churches use candles within worship?
     4.     What symbolic meaning do clergy vestments hold?
     5.     Why is the fish often used to symbolize Christianity?

Back to Religion Library