The Ancient British Church was the original, and only, Church of these lands until Rome landed on our shores in the sixth Century in the person of Augustine of Canterbury. His mission from Rome, however, did not succeed in bringing about Papal authority for many hundreds of years after that. The British Church was already well established by early missionaries from St. John the Apostle in Ephesus by the time Augustine arrived, and is refered to in the writings of some of the Early Church Fathers. It was this original Church which over the passage of time has generally been refered to as the Celtic Church since it was the Celtic peoples who were first evangelised.
The Ancient British Church is an autocephalous Church that is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (which also includes the Orthodox Church, the Roman Church, The Old Catholic Churches, et al.) grounded in the Holy Celtic Church of the Ancient Britons, which, until the imposition of the Latin way by Rome between the 7th and 11th Centuries, was the only Church of Christ in these lands for the whole of the first millenium. Whilst there are several Churches that call themselves Celtic in some way or other, we endeavour to be as close to the original, ancient Church as possible: in our Sacraments, our liturgy, our organisation and our spirituality.
We are committed to spreading the Gospel, of serving God, and providing for the Sacramental and spiritual needs of His people, whoever and wherever they may be.
We are self-supporting clergy who live by the work of our hands, as was the way with the Celtic Church, and so take no money for being ‘the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the Mysteries of God’ (1 Cor. 4:1)
We celebrate the Ancient Celtic Liturgy (in English) and the expressions of Celtic Spirituality, and following the Rule of St. Columba, which was abandoned by the Latin Church in favour of the less exacting Rule of St. Benedict. We believe, along with the Celtic Saints that have gone before us, that the missionary enterprise of proclaiming and spreading the Gospel can only be achieved, and has only ever been achieved from the Apostles downwards, by people who have caught the ascetic spirit so as to surrender this world and completely absorb themselves in the task of evangelising.
From our illustrious history we offer a renewed vision based on the original Second Century Church of Jesus Christ in these lands, for those who seek a Church that is truly Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox and Sacramental. No ministry is denied to anyone who seeks the love of Christ, and we do not demand that anyone renounce their denominational affiliation in order to worship with us or to receive ministry from us.
We believe that all persons should have access to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to the grace of Her Sacraments, therefore, all the services of the Ancient Britishc Church are open to all, since the love of God is offered to all. As was the way of the Celtic Church, we establish small community churches; the local Priest creates a Chapel in his own home rather than having large buildings to accommodate great numbers; and he also goes the homes of the faithful to cater to their sacramental and spiritual needs. Alternative accommodation is found locally if the groups become larger.
What is unique about the Celtic Church is that it is not so much Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Northumbrian or Cornish, but that it is uniquely the Church of the Britons. Whilst the rest of Europe was becoming more and more Roman, the British Isles, cut off as they were from the Continent, developed in their own way and at their own pace; the result was a Church that had more in common with the Orthodox East (from whence it came through St. John the Apostle) than the Latin West, and became unique in its Liturgy and practices. The Ancient British Church honours, as it always did, the Bishop of Rome as the Patriarch of the West, and equally the Bishop of Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) as the Patriarch of the East.
The prominent English Medievalist Nora Chadwick said about the Ancient British Church: ‘The disappearance of the idiosyncratic Christianity of the Celtic Church was inevitable owing to the absence of a central organisation, but it is impossible to reach the end without a feeling of regret; a Christianity so pure and so serene as that of the age of the Saints could hardly be equalled, and never repeated’. Our simple, yet sincere endeavour in the restoration of the Ancient Celtic Church of the Britons, is to create 'Something beautiful for God'.
The main characteristics of The Ancient British Church are:
I. The Divine Liturgy (the Mass) and other Sacraments: these are taken from the oldest surviving Missals and Sacramentaries.
II. The authority of the Abbot: rather than authority being invested in an Archbishop or Bishop, authority lies with the Father Abbot, who is as concerned with the spiritual well-being of his Bishops and Priests as he is with the organisation of the Church.
III. Non-celibate: Celtic clergy have always been allowed to marry, although they can take a voluntary vow of celibacy if they so wish.
IV. Organisation: the Church remains at the local, community level, where Bishops and Priests live and work and minister along-side the laity. Local churches are small and intimate.
V. Spirituality: Celtic clergy were always noted by outsiders for their deep spirituality, humility and ascetic discipline, and that is no different today as we endeavour to emulate them: it is almost as if their local communities were wide-open monasteries and the clergy were monks working along-side their brethren.
CELIC CHURCH PROVINCES
Wessex (Cornwall, Sussex, Kent, Essex, East Anglia)