|Church Year Observances|
It is virtually impossible to document all the liturgical customs that surround the practice of the Church Year. The following summarize those found in the Anglican Church (English Catholic Church) and represent a "middle" churchmanship. A high to anglocatholic form of Anglican worship tends toward more ritual, while low church evangelical will tend toward less. Go to Worship Services for some simple liturgical services suitable for celebrating Holy Days.
Advent. November 28
The liturgical year begins with Advent. On these four Sundays before Christmas, we celebrate the coming Christ, his coming to be with broken humanity, his coming into our lives and his final coming to rule.
On a table, a wreath of evergreens is woven in the form of a crown. Four red (or three purple and one pink) candles are placed in the crown, with a white candle in the center. A new candle is lit each Sunday, with the white candle lit on Christmas day.
Christmas. December 25
The first Christmas Holy Communion is held on Christmas eve at midnight and involves the lighting of the Christmas candle. A simple liturgy is easily constructed around the theme "The light of the world has come to us". The liturgy is best placed after the seasonal sentence of scripture and before the prayer of preperation. The first service celebrates the birth of Jesus and the announcement of the angels, the second, at dawn, the visit of the shepherds, and the third, the wonder of the Word made flesh. All three are Holy Communion services. The white Christmas candle is lit for each service through to Epiphany eve.
A Christmas nativity scene is often erected on Christmas eve, the shepherds are added at the second service, the wise men on Epiphany, and the scene removed before the festival of Christ's presentation in the temple, the conclusion of Christmastide.
The Circumcision and Naming of Christ. January 1
Celebrating the naming of Jesus, and all that the name implies for us.
Epiphany. January 6
Celebrating the visit of the wise men, and thus the revealing of Christ to the Gentiles. The wise men are added to the Christmas nativity scene on this day.
First Sunday after Epiphany
The baptism of Jesus is commemorated. The focus of this commemoration is of Christ's provision for our incorporation with him.
The Presentation / The Purification. February 2
This festival commemorates the presentation of Christ in the temple and/or the purification of Mary. Thematically it touches on the obedience of Mary and Joseph.
The Annunciation. March 25
The commemoration of the incarnation of Christ, the Word made flesh.
Forty days before Easter. This is a time of reflection and often involves some form of fasting. The decoration of the church is usually kept subdued, leading up to no decorations on Good Friday. During Lent, it is often very helpful to hold a series of mid-week Lenten studies in the church. An evening meeting is usually best. The service of Compline works well in this setting. Lenten study books are freely available, but, of course, vary in quality.
A Holy Communion service is held early in the morning. In many churches a service of Ashing is incorporated in the Holy Communion, following the sermon. Some of last years Palm Crosses are burnt and members come to the communion rail to receive the sign of the cross on the forehead in ash.
The 4th Sunday in Lent is known as Mothering Sunday and involves children giving flowers and a piece of Simnel cake to their mothers.
Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday
The church is decorated in palm fronds. The service may commence outside the church and the congregation, with the ministry team, process into the church, with each member provided with a palm cross to carry. Matthew 21:11 is proclaimed. A short liturgy follows, developed along the following lines: "Today we honour Christ our triumphant King. May these crosses remind us to honour our Lord and King." The Holy Communion follows when the congregation is seated.
Morning: It is the custom in some dioceses for the Bishop to hold a Holy Communion service for the rededication of his clergy and for the blessing of the chrism oil used to anoint the sick.
Evening: The service of Maundy Holy Communion is held in the early evening. The service focuses on the institution of the Lord's Supper. The service may include a rite of foot washing where the minister washes the feet of twelve church members. This rite is usually performed after the ministry of the word.
It is traditional that there be no decorations in the church other than draping the cross in purple and with a crown of thorns arrangement placed in front. The focus of the service should be on the dramatic reading of the passion narrative. The Litany is rarely said these days and Good Friday is one occasion when it works well. Devotionals, instead of a sermon, are more appropriate.
Easter Vigil. The Service of the Light begins at midnight with the lighting of a fire outside the church where the congregation is gathered. The minister lights the Easter candle, decorated with a cross, the current year and the alpha and omega, and proceeds into the unlit church. The assistant ministers follow and light their own personal candles from the Easter candle. Moving further into the church, the members of the congregation begin lighting their candles, filling the church with light. The Easter candle is placed in the sanctuary. The service continues and may involve a series of sevenfold readings: i] The Creation, Genesis 1:1-2:3; ii] The sacrifice of Isaac, Genesis 22:1-18; iii] God saves his people, Exodus 14:15-15:1; iv] God is our redeemer, Isaiah 54:4-14; v] The promise of a new covenant, Isaiah 55:1-11; vi] Walk in God's way, Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4; vii] Washed in pure water, Ezekiel 36:16-28. Following the sermon, a service for the Renewal of Baptismal Promises may follow. A bowl of water can placed in front of the congregation as either a static symbol or, after the renewal of promises, the water can be sprinkled on the members of the congregation. For the liturgy, the formal responses of the adult baptism service are used by the congregation as a means of rededication. The service concludes with the Lord's Supper.
Easter Day Holy Communion, the second service is held on Easter morning. Church decorations should be in white.
Celebrating the ascension of Christ, his ascension to the throne of God, and thus his present reign. The Easter candle is moved from the sanctuary to beside the font.
Whitsunday / Pentecost
Celebrating the coming of the Spirit of Christ upon his church. The church should be decorated in red colors to symbolize the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Celebrating the majesty and mystery of God's person.
The Last Sunday of the Church Year
A celebration of Christ the King - King of kings and Lord of lords. This Sunday was known as "stir up" Sunday, stirring up the fruits for the Christmas Cake. This idea came from the English Prayer Book Collect "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of they faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons