I got my first prayer book when I was 9. It’s white, gold, and sparkly (or it was those things.) I loved that thing.
As a child, I thought of the prayer book as something approaching magic. It had an answer for EVERYTHING. It somehow knew what the priest would do in the service! When we would all stand, when we would all sit! And if I wanted, it put the whole service in the palm of my hand.
(So many weddings were performed on my Barbies. So many.)
There are many reasons why I’m Episcopalian: we’re Catholic, yet still reforming ourselves. We’re Protestant, yet not so zealous that we tossed out all the babies in the bathwater. We are charismatic, orthodox, and progressive, and any manner of high-flying ideals—but on any given Sunday, what that means is this: the Altar Guild will care about getting the brass clean to preserve the beauty of holiness, and another 100 people are fed from a food pantry because Jesus said so, and the choir will twist itself into knots working out the Tallis anthem, but that’s actually what it comes down to.
That’s the main reason I’m Episcopalian: because this tradition truly adores people. Not just some people, and not just the idea of Humanity, but honest-to-God people. Anglicanism emphasizes the Incarnation to such an extent that all people become so important, since God blessed us with the divine presence. So we talk about human reason as part of how we read Scripture. We promise to seek and serve Christ in each person at baptism. We talk seriously about each person’s vocation and call to serve in the world.
And most staggeringly, we put the book that binds the whole thing together in everyone’s hands. There’s no secret priest manual in this church. There’s just a book of prayers that anyone can read, and follow along for themselves. If you can read, you can have all the prayers the priest does. You can hold all that the smartest minds in the Anglican Communion have figured out over the centuries have figure out over the years in the palms of your hands. All the poetry, theology, ritual, and quirky stuff that we’ve accrued is yours, because you’re a beloved child of God, first and foremost.
And for all of our struggles, and our occasional in-fighting, Anglicanism lives and breathes that idea.