Episcopal Churches: Defined

A very unusual note from a Project reader who wishes to remain anonymous. He offers a nice little comprehensive overview of the various types of Episcopal churches:


I have read with keen interest your blog of visits to local churches.
Being a third generation Episcopalian, my interest has been in your
reviews of the Episcopal parishes.

Since you are Roman Catholic, I thought I would write to give you some
background on the various types of Episcopal churches.

Episcopal churches fall generally
into three types of "churchmanship": High, Low and Broad.

A High church or "Anglo-Catholic" parish will have a more highly
decorated ornate church building than the other two types. It will
typically have a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and follow many
of the Medieval church ceremonial practices. Examples you have visited
include St.Tim's Roxborough and St. Clements on 20th Street.

High church building placement on its lot is done in the medieval
tradition so that the altar faces east to Jerusalem. That's why you
have found it difficult in some instances to find the main door. High
churches, like a Roman Catholic church, has Mass every Sunday. All
high churches will have stations of the cross.

A Broad Church is one that may have many decorative elements but they
typically will not celebrate Mass every Sunday and it will not have a
shrine to the Virgin. Mass is celebrated only on the 2nd and 4th
Sunday of the month. The other Sundays the service consists of only
"Morning Prayer". Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse square and St. Paul's
Chestnut Hill are "Broad" church examples.

A Low Church has a building that has minimal decoration and the
service is based on 18th century ideas that were prevalent at the time
of the country's founding: less is more. Emphasis is placed on the
preaching by the minister and not the ceremonies and symbols of the
medieval Church. Mass is celebrated in same manner as the Broad church
. Christ Church on 2nd street in center city is a Low church example.

I hope one day you will visit St.Luke's Episcopal Church in the
Germantown section of Philadelphia. It is by far, my favorite

If only all e-mails were so informative. It's interesting to discover the various divisions of church constructions, each designed to serve a specific purpose. Fascinating stuff, and a very big contrast to old Roman Catholic constructions, whose only instructions were usually to "make it as big and ornate as possible!"

(Oh, and it's nice to have at least some explanation for How the $#%@ do I get in here?)

We'll certainly keep this in mind when evaluating Episcopal churches in the future. And yes, that does include St. Luke in Germantown. We've actually tried to go several times before, but were always stymied by freak mishaps. We'll make it back over there eventually--if the Fates start smiling on us.