St. Thomas's Traditions

By Fr. Roy Hoult, Rector Emeritus

St. Thomas's is the kind of Anglican church commonly called Anglo-Catholic. This means that it is an example of the fruit of the Oxford Movement; the name given to an initiative among academics, in the midst of the 19th century, who were determined to show that our mother church-of-England was not just another part of the civil service (and it was about dead enough to appear that way) but the contemporary successor of the ancient Catholic Church of the land; and this despite the break with Rome at the time of the Reformation.

In the realm of worship, this kind of church wants to celebrate the glory of God with all the senses. Hence the importance given to music and vestments, incense and bells; and the bread and wine of the mass, the water and oil of other sacraments and sacramentals.

From the outset, there have been two cosmetically different kinds of Anglican Catholicism. One seemed to feel that it could only make its point by adopting all the outward signs of late 19th-century and, indeed, pre-Second Vatican Council Roman Catholicism: short cottas, birettas, and lots of lace. The other tended to say, Look! if we are the real catholic church in England (catholic but reformed) then we ought to rediscover the forms of dress and general tenor of worship that pertained in England prior to their senseless destruction at the time of the Reformation. Saint Thomas's is an example of this second kind of Anglo-Catholicism; its lack of lace and the predominance instead of plain albs and long surplices bear witness to this, as does the traditional Anglican arrangement of the chancel with its choir stalls. Oddly enough, the modern post-Vatican Council liturgical changes in the Roman Church have brought it nearer traditional Anglican simplicity,(although, generally speaking, the priest stands behind the altar, facing the people - as we do on occasion).

Even as little as less than fifty years ago Saint T' s and a relatively few other places looked very different from typical Ontario Anglican churches which were "broad" and even "low", with a said Morning Prayer, appealing only to the sense of hearing, as the principal Sunday service. Now, many things that the Anglo-Catholic movement strove to accomplish -like the centrality of the Eucharist ("the Lord's own service on the Lord's own day") - are taken for granted. Thus Saint Thomas's is not as different as it used to be. I do believe, however, that things here are done with exceptional care and attention to liturgical detail, and that the beauty of holiness is most dramatically and effectively set forth.

You may have many questions. We have an extensive parish library for your use. The parish clergy stand ready to help you as best they can.

R.A.H.