Our historical context
The movement within the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) stressing continuity with Catholic Christendom, the authority of bishops, the threefold order of ordained ministry; Bishop, Priest and Deacon and the importance of sacraments, rituals, and ceremonies is often described as ‘High Church’ but a better description is Anglican Catholic or Anglo-Catholic.
St Mary’s was part of the wider Catholic Church before the Reformation and has retained a catholic identity and heritage within the broader Church of England. At St Mary’s our catholic roots and values are important as they provide us with stability, while we remain fully Anglican and open to transforming church and lives as the Holy Spirit directs us in prayer. This offers us continuity with the Oxford movement which renewed the Catholic Tradition within Anglicanism over 100 years ago, while at the same time engaging us today in the revitalisation of our church and community as we recall our secularising culture to its spiritual inheritance. Central to this is our understanding of Mission - we seek to be a church with invisible walls where all are welcome, loved and engaged in a relationship with the Lord. The implicit catholic identity of St Mary's Church is a direct result of our historical context but continues to be important to us today, with our emphasis upon the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Therefore, there is always a warm welcome for all at St Mary's Church, Thorpe.
Following the imperatives that guided our catholic forebears in the Church of England we focus on Christian theology, the seven sacraments of the church catholic, spirituality and the life of prayer, liturgy and worship, vocation, priesthood, mission and pastoral encounter, ecumenism and social justice. This is a call to inclusivity with a welcome for all. Pastoral ministry is not simply the role of the priest at Thorpe; it is shared by the whole family of faith. We seek to model a style of discipleship faithful to the riches of our tradition, which encourages us to be creative and credible, imaginative and generous. We are not here to judge each other but show love and share fellowship as disciples of Jesus in the world today.
At St Mary’s we hold to the great Creedal and Apostolic doctrines of the Church. We believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the Word made flesh and we revere the Bible as the source of our knowledge but believe it is to be interpreted in the light of tradition, reason and experience. It is this witness that has become the hallmark of St Mary’s mission and teaching and draws a wide appeal.
The Reserved Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist and Morning / Evening Prayer
The Eucharist (Mass or Holy Communion) is very important to us at St Mary’s; our main Sunday 10am service is Eucharistic (with the exception of Remembrance Sunday). We reserve the Blessed Sacrament (consecrated Bread and Wine) from Sunday to Sunday in the tabernacle, upon the High Altar where a white candle burns 24 hours a day to remind us that Holy Communion has been reserved – that Jesus is present, just as he promised. Communion reserved here is taken to the sick and housebound during the week (or as required) as a reminder that they are still a part of our Church Family even when they can’t regularly attend the Church for worship. We keep enough reserved Sacrament so that, in the unlikely event our priest or another in a neighbouring or local church is taken unwell, communion can still be distributed among the congregation on a Sunday. At St Mary’s we believe that Jesus is Present and meets us in the broken bread and wine out-poured and therefore we should always pass the reserved Sacrament (Tabernacle, Chancel Area and High Altar) with respect and reverence as we recognise the dignity of Christ's Real Presence.
Liturgy is important to us at St Mary's Church. We use the services authorised by the Church of England found in Common Worship (2000) order one and the supplementary seasonal material found in Times and Seasons & Festivals (2006). We use modern language at our services although it is customary for us to use the traditional language version of the Lord’s Prayer. Our Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (from the NRSV translation of the bible) which is arranged in a 3 year cycle – A, B & C, which runs from Advent Sunday to Christ the King. To help us follow the Mass/Eucharist (Holy Communion) we use ‘Order of Service Cards’ which are changed for each of the liturgical seasons: Ordinary Time, Kingdom, Advent, Christmas & Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide. We also produce special service sheets for festivals including Ash Wednesday, the feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary (our patron), Mothering Sunday and Pentecost. (For those leading worship a President’s copy known as the Altar Missal is available for each season to guide the priest through the various choices available including seasonal prayers). We also have special service cards for a Requiem Eucharist as well as Compline. Quarterly, hymns and musical settings are chosen by the Ministry Team to reflect each season and festival. Morning and Evening Prayer services usually come from the Church of England’s authorised services – either the Book of Common Prayer (1662/ 1928) or Daily Prayer (2000). Morning or Evening Prayer can be led by those who are not ordained.
The Church Liturgical Seasons and Colours
At St Mary’s we use coloured hangings and vestments which are worn by the clergy that reflect the seasons of the Church year. The High Altar frontal and Tabernacle cover, and the hanging at the Lectern, as well as the choice of vestments worn are changed with each season or festival. The different colours used have special liturgical meanings:
Ordinary Time / Sundays after Trinity. This is the default setting and used most often.
All Saints to the day before Advent Sunday (Kingdom Season). Palm Sunday / Holy Week & Good Friday. Pentecost Sunday. Holy Cross Day. Confirmation and Ordination Services. Red is also used for the commemoration of a Christian Martyr.
Purple (or Violet)
Advent & Lent (times of preparation) and some Funerals, All Souls Day, a Requiem Eucharist. Purple is also used for the ministries of healing, anointing and confession.
Very special celebration days. Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemas, Easter, Ascension, Transfiguration and All Saints.
For the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany and Eastertide. Also for some Saints Days. We also use white hangings for weddings and wedding blessings. White is a marker of Heaven and so can also be used for Christian Funerals and All Souls Day.
At St Mary’s we have a very special set of hangings which are a combination of gold and blue. These are used for Mary festivals: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Assumption and the BVM. We also use them for our Patronal Festival.
It is the policy of St Mary’s PCC, by agreement with the Incumbent that all clergy leading worship at St Mary’s should follow our vesture policy:
Eucharistic worship: vest in cassock Alb (or traditional English alb etc) and Stole (Chasuble for the president of the Eucharist)
Family Services, Weddings & Holy Baptism: cassock Alb and Stole
Other occasional offices such as Funerals and Evensong: choir dress and stole for the season.
NB: No vesture is worn for the daily said services of Morning and Evening Prayer.
The importance of involving people in our Worship
We rejoice that at St Mary’s people of all ages, both women and men, old and young are involved in leading a full range of worship. We gather to offer before God the very best of who we are in praise and thanksgiving as we pray for the Holy Spirit to renew our lives and community of Thorpe. From reading the bible in services to preparing and leading the prayers of intercession, to Morning and Evening Prayer and singing in the Choir or a Cantor, to welcoming people at the door or taking responsibility as a sides person or warden on duty, to lay preachers, Locally Licensed Ministers (Readers) and Pastoral Assistants we all have a leadership role; leading the congregation deeper in faith and praise. We have also grown the number of people who administer a chalice at Communion and take the sacrament to the sick and housebound. Over the coming years we intend to further grow the lay ministry of our congregation including lay preaching; expanding our pastoral support for one another and praying with each other on a more regular basis.
Prayer & Bible Study
Prayer is at the centre of the Christian life and worship and at St Mary’s we encourage everyone to participate in the ongoing prayer ministry of our Church family. We produce a calendar of prayer which every member of the congregation is encouraged to use daily. We pray for local community groups, our local schools; Thorpe Primary and TASIS England as well as the local shops, pubs and business. We also pray for Thorpe Park, staff and visitors. Small groups for prayer are encouraged and a Contemplative Prayer group meeting monthly on a Monday.
Every Sunday we supply each visitor to St Mary’s with a newsletter. On the reverse is printed the Collect for the week and the Sunday bible Readings which we encourage people to read at home and use to assist with their own personal bible study and prayer during the week.
We also run regular courses of study with a Lent Course every year, meeting weekly at least twice and a regular Emmaus Course and Faith Confirmed Group for those who wish to further their Christian understanding and study the bible. During 2020 we hope to establish more small home groups for prayer and bible study. These will reflect upon the Sunday readings, following our liturgical tradition.
Families and Children
Our Family Service is held on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday every month and is an exciting opportunity for all ages to experience church. These service are usually non-Eucharistic and include a short bible story, prayer time, craft activity and fun songs. We also welcome back to church families whose children have been Baptised recently so they can be welcomed by the wider Church Family. Children are very important to us and our community so we take their safeguarding very seriously. Noah’s Ark, our Toddler Group runs from 9.30-11.30am every Thursday of term-time for parents with pre-school age children and our "Faith & Fun" group offers a modern take on Sunday School for children aged 4 – 11 years, every 2nd & 4th Sunday of term-time during our 10am Sunday Eucharist/Mass, so parents and children can come to worship together and enjoy their time in Church. Children and young people are very much encouraged to take part in every aspect of our Church life and children over the age of 7 years or older are admitted to Communion following a course of preparation, in advance of Confirmation when they are over 12 years old. We also run an evening Sunday Group once a month for teenagers, in the Rutherwyke Room including pizza, games and much more.
Inclusivity – Always a warm welcome for all.
At St Mary’s we are committed to a warm welcome for all. We won’t judge – we know that we all come to Jesus as very different, unique individuals with complicated lives and all on a pilgrimage of faith. In God’s presence we are transformed into the people He is calling us to be and that is so exciting; indeed liberating! All are loved and welcomed to be a part of the family of faith here in Thorpe and we hope taste the kingdom promised on earth, just as it is in heaven.