First and foremost, all good wishes for a happy and prosperous 2022 from us here at St Mary’s. We enter the new year with some essential restoration to the fabric now complete, and a regular pattern of worship with Fr Pete Molloy and Fr David Milnes sharing the role of celebrant. We have welcomed some new members of the congregation in 2021, but also sadly miss some long standing members who have passed on.
Like all churches, we have notices and information on display. We like to keep this to a minimum at St Mary’s, as too many leaflets are likely to overwhelm and be ignored. One set of leaflets that we keep permanently is the ‘Why?’ series produced by the Church Union. Wikipedia describes the Church Union as ‘an Anglo-Catholic advocacy organisation within the Church of England’. It dates back to the 19th century and has offices in Tufton Street in Westminster. So these are titled the ‘Tufton Leaflets’. There are six in all, dealing with aspects of worship which are associated with the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
We are often asked about the tradition and meaning of using incense as part of worship, and Leaflet No1 puts it far better than I can-
We try to offer the best of ourselves to God in worship. Worship involves all our senses. Light, colour, movement and music are important parts of our offering. Our ears hear the Word of God. Our mouths sing His praises. Our eyes see the colours of the Christian Year (purple, white, red and green) often set within a glorious church or cathedral. Through these scented clouds, our prayers and praises slowly rise to heaven, enfolded in perfume.
The leaflet goes on to list a number of references to incense in the Bible. Here are two of them-
Frankincense (incense) was one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus by the Three Wise Men (Matthew 23.11). It was a rare and precious gift for the new born King.
Incense is used to describe the worship of Heaven in picture language. The living creatures and the Elders fall before the Lamb of God ‘each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the Saints’ (Revelation 5.8).
I shall be taking a look at two more of the leaflets next month, and you can find all six in the Walsingham Chapel lobby on the rotating leaflet stand. The church is open all day during daylight hours.