Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, celebrates the Last Supper, a meal Jesus shared with his disciples and the institution of the Lord's Supper, also known as Communion or the Eucharist.
Maundy Thursday is celebrated by many branches of Christianity, including: the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, some Methodists, some Baptists, and other Protestant groups. It is not often celebrated by churches of a more Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or Charismatic bend.
Common ceremonies on Maundy Thursday include: foot washing, which bears in mind Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and calls to mind humility; celebration of Communion; blessing of holy oils; and all night vigils.
As stated, I will be visiting Good Shepherd Episcopal Church for this service, part of The Episcopal Church which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. In other words, The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Church.
The Anglican Communion is a worldwide union of national churches with a shared history and tradition. All are rooted in the Church of England which was started when Henry VIII proclaimed himself the Head of the Church in England thereby separating himself from Rome. Historically, the Church has been at various times hyper-Protestant and hyper-Catholic. Today, both traditions can be seen in the tradition of the Church, and the Church considers itself to be the "via media" or middle road between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Things the Episcopal Church shares with Catholicism:
- Belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in Communion, though this isn't defined and members are free to interpret this belief.
- Practice of baptism, including infant baptism, by flow of water, generally by pouring water on the head.
- Formalized liturgy with a similar structure.
- Belief in creeds, particularly the Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasian Creeds. Again members are free to interpret these creeds.
- Episcopal structure, meaning their church is ruled by bishops assisted by priests and deacons.
- Belief in Apostolic Succession, meaning the Church claims it traces its priesthood back to the Twelve Apostles in an unbroken line.
- In addition to the Two Sacraments of baptism performed by the Church, they also recognize five additional rites that are sacramental in form but not sacraments: confession (optional with a priest), confirmation, anointing the sick, marriage, and holy orders. These together with the two sacraments of baptism and communion correspond to the Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church.
- Shared use or ritual items, vestments, holidays, etc. (This varies from church to church, some are more Protestant in nature and shy away from these things.)
- Interpretation of the Scriptures through reason and Tradition. (Though The Episcopal Church allows more freedom of interpretation and diversity of belief.)
Things The Episcopal Church shares with Protestantism:
- Belief that the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation.
- Clergy are free to marry.
- Belief in Heaven and Hell, but not Purgatory.
- Rejection of the Apocrypha as scripture, though members can learn from it.
- Primacy of the Bible as the final word in matters of doctrine and faith.
- Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit and are the Word of God.
- Confession of one's sins must only be done to God and no one else, though confession may be done with a priest if one desires.
Additional things about The Episcopal Church:
- There is a wide theological and ceremonial spectrum in the Church, as you may have gathered. Some churches are much more Protestant, some more Catholic, some traditional, some liberal. Beliefs can vary widely among members even within a certain congregation. Diversity of opinion is welcomed and critical approach to the study of Scripture and Church teachings is encouraged.
- Historically, the Church has wrestled with many progressive issues, including: slavery, racism, the role of women in the Church, and LGBT rights. Today, most of the Church ordains women, there have been several female bishops (including the previous bishop of Utah) and the bishop who is the head of The Episcopal Church is a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori.
- Though The Episcopal Church has a presiding bishop, she does not rule the Church as a pope would, instead she is considered the first among equals, and has the honorary role as well a role in the secular functions of the Church.
- The Church has, for the past decade or so, openly discussed and debated the place of LGBT people in the Church. In 2003, Gene Robinson was ordained the first openly gay bishop in the Church. Many bishops will ordain people regardless of sexual orientation, though some protest this matter. Members who are LGBT are allowed to participate fully regardless of sexual orientation without restraint, though others may view this as sinful. Many churches also bless same-sex unions.
Some things about Good Shepherd Church in Ogden:
- This church leans more Catholic than Protestant.
- This church tends to be more liberal in their attitudes toward the roles of women and LGBT people.
- The church building is a historical landmark, being the first non-Mormon church to be built in Ogden back in the 1800's
- This church is the home parish of a close friend of mine, who may accompany me on this adventure.
I will let you know how it goes. Until then, peace be with you.