31 October 2021
By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins
I wonder why Reformation Sunday (October 31) is not more recognised in Anglican churches. The Church of England and our Anglican heritage is no less grounded than every other Protestant church in the 16th century Evangelical revival that brought the church back to its true home in Holy Scripture, and to the key doctrines of the Bible: justification by grace through faith alone, and the universal priesthood of all believers. These central matters of the faith were enshrined and anchored in the way we view the sacraments and in the way we worship our Lord. The English reformers where willing to live in peril and often to die for the primacy of Holy Scripture and the catholic and apostolic faith of the church fathers. This is the resounding message of Anglican’s historic formularies: the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the two books of Homilies.
Here is my dream: that everyone who reads this will help your church recognise the landscape of our history, our core identity as Anglicans. Here are some ideas:
Announce in your newsletters the weeks leading up to October 31: “We will specially recognise our Anglican Reformation heritage on Reformation Sunday, October 31. This marks the day in 1517 when a German Augustinian monk posted the 95 Theses on the chapel door in Wittenberg Germany that sparked the debate that eventually led to fire of revival that we call The Reformation. The Church of England, our mother church, was not only influenced by the 16th century Reformation, but it was an integral part of the worldwide movement that led the church back to its original sources: back to the Bible and the teaching of the early church fathers.”
In the weeks leading up to October 31 select a few of the Articles of Religion and write brief commentaries on them for your people (e.g., what Anglicans believe about Holy Scripture in Article 6 and 7, how Anglicans see human nature in Articles 9 and 10, how unholy created beings can be reconciled to a holy uncreated God in Article 6, and what is the result and fruit of our being made right with God in justification by faith in Article 12). Note that these are the topics of the first four Homilies!
Provide resources for your congregation to learn more: consider what it would mean to have in the hands of your people copies of Reformation Anglicanism edited by Ashley Null and John Yates III, The First Book of Homilies: The Church of England’s Official Sermons in Modern English edited by Lee Gatiss, Divine Allurement: Cranmer’s Comfortable Words by Ashley Null, and other sources recommended on our Center’s website.
On October 31 mark the Reformation in your Sunday liturgy in some way: do an instructed Eucharist explaining how Anglican worship embodies justification by faith, quote from the Homilies, add an extra collect recognising the day (see the example below), launch a teaching series on the English Reformation, etc.
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer, and the other English reformers, we may live in your fear, die in your favour, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Revd Canon Chuck Collins is the Executive Director for the Center for Reformation Anglicanism.