Our Theology

St. Paul’s by-the-Lake is a traditionalhigh churchAnglo-Catholic parish, committed to the historic teaching of the universal Church. But what exactly does that mean?

Traditional– Describing ourselves in this way is not to imply that we blindly do things “the way we have always done things.” It simply means that at St. Paul’s we have a high esteem for the witness and wisdom of those who have gone before us in the Christian faith, and we strive to continue that witness in our current time.

High Church– This term often refers to a style of liturgy that includes vestments, chanting, incense, observation of feast days, etc. Our liturgy is certainly high church, and this flows out of the high regard we have for the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is our primary act of worship and the center of our devotion to Christ, the Word-made-flesh. At St. Paul’s we offer the Eucharist (commonly called the Mass) on a daily basis for those seeking to worship God and receive the grace of the sacrament during the week.

Anglo – This descriptor does not refer to race or ethnicity! It simply means that the particular expression of the Christian faith that we know and practice has come, historically, through the Church of England. The Episcopal Church (USA) is a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which grew out of the Church of England.

Catholic– This term here does not refer to Roman Catholicism (though we do share much with our brothers and sisters from that tradition). In this context, “catholic” is used in its literal sense, “according to the whole.” This encompasses the totality of Christian faith and practice, as revealed by God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This Christian faith and practice is transmitted from generation to generation though the Church throughout the world. We believe that the faith that we hold is simply what has been received from those generations who have gone before us. In the words of St. Vincent of Lerins, the catholic faith is what has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all.” This is the unchanging faith found in the Scriptures, the Creeds, and the Sacraments of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Anglo-Catholicism, then, is not merely a “style” or a “party” within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It denotes a particular fidelity to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and kept “whole and undefiled” (Athanasian Creed). In other words, Anglo-Catholicism is an expression of the universal Christian faith that manifests itself in the particularities mentioned above.

Putting it all together, our theology and practice of the historic teaching of the universal Church is what fuels our church to actively seek to serve Christ through works of charity and outreach, both in our Chicago neighborhood, as well as through fellowship with Anglicans in places like the Sudan and the Congo. To that end, we have been a member parish of Forward in Faith (previously known as the Episcopal Synod of America) since 1989, and also joined the Communion Partners in 2018. As a lively family-oriented parish, we welcome all people to visit and become involved in our community.