The Church is the worshipping assembly of Christians. In the Cathedral there are at least three occasions for worship every day: at Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer (Evensong) and Holy Communion. Holy Communion, sometimes known as the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper or the Mass, is central to Christian worship. At the Last Supper before his death, Jesus took bread and wine, shared with them his disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 22, verse 19). Christians believe that worship gives us an experience of the kingdom or reign of God, and empowers us to live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
From New Testament times onwards there have been a variety of images and doctrines to describe the Church, rather than any single definition. For example the Bible describes the Church in various places as the people of God, the body of Christ, a new humanity, the household or family, the flock and the faithful. From the letters of St Paul to young churches recorded in the New Testament, and the Gospels themselves, it is apparent that the Church has always been diverse, although common elements can be identified: faith in God the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the practice of baptism and the celebration of Holy Communion, preaching and teaching, an emphasis on communal love, and a reaching out to those in need.
The Church is both a local community of faith, and a wider body of communities stretching all around the world. Part of the role of the bishop is to represent the wider church, and the Cathedral plays a part in this as the ‘Mother Church’ of the Diocese of Chichester. We also have European links with churches in Bamberg, Bayreuth and Chartres.
The Church has an ordinary day-to-day reality, aware that its life and work falls short of what God requires, but it is nonetheless the means by which new Christians are baptised and confirmed, the Gospel is preached, and the presence of Jesus Christ is made real in the celebration of Holy Communion.
While the Church’s life centres on worship and prayer, it is also called to be involved in the complexities and compromises of human history. It seeks to avoid the extremes sometimes found in Church history of (on the one hand) holiness movements which have entirely separated themselves from ordinary society, and (on the other hand) occasions where the Church has been inappropriately caught up in political movements.
The issues mentioned above have sometimes led to Christian division, particularly at and since the sixteenth century Reformation. In modern times there have been strenuous efforts to overcome divisions between the churches. The Church of England seeks positive relations with both the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant Churches of the Reformation. It aspires to be both ‘catholic’ and ‘reformed’, living in continuity with the faith and practice of earlier generations while seeking imaginative ways of following Christ in the 21st century.