Welcome to the “Being Anglican” pages. Whether you are curious about Anglicanism, want to become an Anglican, are wondering what to expect during worship services at your local Anglican church, these pages are for you.
Do you have any questions about being Anglican? Email us and we’ll be happy to answer them.
Anglicanism is a denomination of the Christian religion. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth, a first-century Jewish preacher in Palestine, was God personified. (If you are completely new to Christianity, you can learn more about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith at http://www.rejesus.co.uk.) There are more than two billion Christians worldwide. Three major branches of Christianity are the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the various churches of Protestantism. Anglicans are part of the Protestant branch.
Anglicanism originated in England, where it is called the Church of England. The Church of England became independent from the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation in the 16th century. For more details on the history of the Church of England, see An ancient church, catholic and reformed on the website for the Church of England.
Anglicanism developed and spread outside England in two stages. Beginning in the 17th century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonization in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. For more information about the history of the Anglican Church in Canada, read A Brief History on the website for the Anglican Church of Canada. The second stage began in the eighteenth century, when missionaries worked to establish Anglican churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Anglicans worldwide have common beliefs, practices, and ways of worship, which are expressed locally in a wide variety of languages and customs. The whole Anglican family worldwide has more than 70 million members in 164 countries, and is known as the Anglican Communion. The parishes, dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion are interdependent, supporting each other by sharing financial and other resources. While each national or regional church within the Communion is autonomous, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual head and the chief sign of its unity.
Do you have more questions about Anglicanism or Christianity in general? Your local parish priest will be happy to tell you more. Find a parish near you in our Find a Church/Cleric section.
Becoming an Anglican
Whether you are a baptized Christian or exploring Christianity or Anglicanism for the first time, you are most welcome at your local Anglican church. You may become a member of the Anglican Church (“an Anglican”) by regularly attending an Anglican church and contributing to its life and work (also known as its “ministry” or “mission”). To find an Anglican church in your neighbourhood, visit Find a Church.
If you are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in a Christian church or denomination, your baptism is acknowledged as valid within the Anglican Church. You may decide to acknowledge your membership in the Anglican Church through a service of confirmation or reception by the bishop. Please speak to the parish priest (the spiritual leader in the church).
If you are not baptized and are interested in becoming baptized, please approach your parish priest. For more information about baptism, see the Life Events page.
Anglican Worship: What to Expect
So you’ve decided to visit an Anglican church. Maybe you’ve always passed a local church and wondered what goes on inside. Perhaps a friend has invited you to come to her church on Sunday or you are attending a wedding or other celebration. Whatever the reason, you are very welcome at one of our churches. If you have never attended church – or even if you have but much time has passed – many sights and sounds may be unfamiliar to you. This brief guide might help.
Anglicans believe that the most important thing we do as Christians is gather together for worship. Our main opportunity to do so is the Sunday morning worship service, sometimes called Eucharist, Communion, or Morning Prayer. Some congregations also have worship services during the week. The easiest way to find out about services in your chosen church is to visit its website or phone the church office. For websites and phone numbers of churches in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, visit the Find a Church section.
ON your first visit, arrive a few minutes early. More often than not, there will be a friendly greeter who will provide you with a leaflet (sometimes called a Bulletin) with details of the service. Pick a seat and relax. In the seat (sometimes called a “pew”), you will probably find books, which might include the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Alternative Services. These set out the form of the service for each Christian season and provide the text for most of the prayers. You will also find a songbook (sometimes called a hymnal) that you can use to sing along when the congregation is singing. Some congregations put all the hymns for a particular service into the service leaflet.
You will find that most services are a mix of readings, prayers, hymns and a talk (sometimes called “Sermon” or “Homily”). You might be wondering when you should do what: kneel, sit, stand, say Amen. Just relax and follow what others are doing. Enjoy the music, the words of the Bible and the silences, and contemplate the symbols and images – the cross, the altar, the candles, the stained glass windows – that enhance the worship space.
Some congregations have coffee hour after the Sunday service. Feel free to join in and mingle, but don’t feel obligated to do so. If you do stay, introduce yourself and ask questions. Pick up flyers about upcoming events and services. Most importantly, come back! We’d love to see you again!
Christian marriage celebrates the union of husband and wife in the context of their relationship with Christ and the whole Christian family. For this reason, Anglican weddings normally take place in church buildings. (If you want to be married outside, or in another venue, you should speak to the priest.)
Once you choose the church where you would like to be married, you will want to contact the parish priest well in advance of your wedding date. Each parish has its own wedding policy. Some welcome all couples, whether or not they are members of the parish, while others have more strict expectations around membership. Each parish also has its own fee structure for weddings, which can range from free of charge to several hundred dollars.
At least one of the couple must be a baptized Christian. In preparation for the promises made in the wedding ceremony, the couple must meet with the clergy of their chosen church and are often required to take special classes with other engaged couples. For more information about weddings, please contact the parish priest at the Anglican church where you’d like to have your wedding.
Some couples who have been civilly married, later choose to ask for a service of Blessing for that marriage. For more information about such blessings, please contact the parish priest at the Anglican church where you’d like to have your service.
To find a church in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, visit Find a Church.
A number of churches in the Diocese offer the blessing of a same sex civil marriage. At least one of the couple should be baptized and active in the Anglican parish where they are seeking the blessing service. For information about churches that offer this blessing, please contact the Bishop’s Office.
In Christianity, baptism is the ritual act by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church. When individuals are baptized, they make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. This means that they are willing to let go of our old ways of seeing themselves and others. They make a conscious decision to respect themselves and others, to grow in their ability to live in harmony with others, and to forgive when others hurt them. They believe that they have a responsibility to resist evil in their own lives and to work to transform our society into a caring community which is centered on God’s passionate love for the world.
If parents are bringing children to be baptized, they make a commitment to bring them up to understand God’s purpose for justice and joy in the world and to encourage them to participate in bringing about this purpose. Baptized individuals and parents of a child being baptized also promise to support the work of their local congregation and diocese through their gifts of time, talent, and financial resources.
If parents are not ready to make baptismal promises or wish to defer baptism until the child is able to make his or her own decision, the Anglican church also offers a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. This service provides an opportunity for a family to give thanks for the birth of a child and to pray for God’s help in the child’s care and nurture.
Adults who wish to be baptized should speak to their parish priest.
Christians believe that the end of this earthly life is the beginning of a glorious new life in Christ. Anglican funerals attempt to balance the grief and bereavement of the living with a celebration of the life of the deceased, and faith in the hope of the resurrection.
The Anglican Church of Canada offers two forms of service: one in the The Book of Common Prayer and a more contemporary service in the Book of Alternative Services (provides more opportunity for involvement by family and friends of the deceased). Both service books assume the presence of the body, and the priest needs to be consulted if the family wishes to exclude the body from the public service.
With cremation becoming more common, the family may request a memorial service without the presence of the body.
Service structure, readings, music, readers, prayer leaders, and the form and content of any reflection are all arranged with the family. For more information on Anglican funerals, contact your local parish priest, or ask your funeral director to direct you to an Anglican clergy person.
Other special services
There are many other ceremonies and services available for personal celebrations, such as the blessing of a new home or the renewal of wedding vows. For details, speak to your parish priest.
~ appreciation expressed to the Diocese of Toronto for sharing the resources on this page ~