What it means to be a Christian
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and in common with other Christians in the church seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught. For Christians God is understood and known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Father… God is love, caring for creation and for every human being as God’s beloved child.
…Son… God is as he has revealed himself to be in the historical person of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection hold the key to knowing and loving God, and to making sense of life, before and after death.
…and Holy Spirit… God is alive, loving and active today, inspiring faith, justice and truth, sustaining the life of the world, giving spiritual gifts to the church and bearing his spiritual fruit in the world through changed lives and a transformed society.
The Church of Ireland is made up of communities of Christians in every corner of the land. Most of these communities can be found via the parish church buildings in every city and town, and almost every village.
Many Anglicans now meet in and through smaller groups, relating to networks of people in our fast-changing society. Or they seek to serve particular groups of people and to find their Christian identity alongside them. Other Anglicans are committed to traditional religious communities, whether as monks and nuns or as people associated with those communities. There are also online communities of Christians who use online resources to make contact.
Overview of the Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland’s homepage (www.ireland.anglican.org) gives an overview of the church, mainly that it:
- is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has 70 million members in 164 countries
- is an apostolic church, maintaining an unbroken link with the early apostles and drawing on the apostolic faith in its teaching and worship
- is a catholic and Reformed church
- is able to trace its roots to the earliest days of Irish Christianity
- is a church with three orders of sacred ministry – bishops, priests and deacons
- has services which follow an accepted liturgical form and structure
- has one prayer book – The Book of Common Prayer (2004) – plus other services authorised for use by the General Synod
- keeps a balance in doctrine and worship between Word and Sacrament
- has the Holy Communion or the Eucharist as its central act of worship
- is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
- has 375,000 members – 249,000 in Northern Ireland and 126,400 in the Republic of Ireland
- has two provinces, Armagh and Dublin, each with an Archbishop
- has 12 dioceses, more than 450 parochial units and more than 500 stipendiary clergy
- is a representative church, with each diocese electing those who will represent them at the General Synod, the ‘Parliament’ of the church
- has in its General Synod a House of Bishops which has 12 members and a House of Representatives which has 216 clergy and 432 laity
- also has diocesan synods where representatives of the parishes meet usually once a year
- has a parochial system where decisions at local level are made by select vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish.