For more information about what we do in church and why, see our About What We Do pages here
About Our Faith
Christians believe that God created the universe and our world and all life. When he created human beings, he gave us "free will" so that our love for Him would be genuine and not forced.
This free will also means that we can decide to behave in ways which do not show love for God or our neighbour.
Throughout human history God has sent to us the people who we need to help us understand His will. Unfortunately, we humans are a headstrong lot! We frequently do things which lack love and because we carry sin within us, we cannot be with God. It is almost as though his warming love is too much for us and, recognizing our sin, we turn away.
In Jesus Christ, God has enabled us to be forgiven our sins and reunited with our creator. Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we are once again able to see our Creator face-to-face.
During Jesus' ministry on earth, he had disciples (a disciple is one who follows) and from among them he appointed apostles (an apostle is one who is sent.) The apostles were given the gift of the Holy Spirit which they shared with all who came to worship God in the name of Jesus Christ. The way we accept Jesus as our Saviour is Holy Baptism, the administration of water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles established churches and groups of those churches were looked after by bishops (this comes from a Greek word Episcopoi, meaning overseer.) The bishops could not be in every church all the time and so they appointed priests. The Apostles also established the order of deacons who serve the Christian people.
Over time, different Christian churches developed different characters. When the Church of England split from Rome, there were those who remained loyal to traditional beliefs and practices whilst others moved in a more reformed direction. In the 1800s, a number of priests and people began to rediscover a sense of their Catholic heritage and so developed a movement within the Church of England which re-connected people with a form of worship which nourishes the five senses for in our services there is plenty to see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
St Mary's has statues (which act as the church family photo album, reminding us of the heroes of times past who still pray for us in heaven today.) We use incense as a sign of prayers rising to heaven. There are icons which play the same role as statues and holy water which reminds us of our baptism. You will also find candles, the Rosary, Benediction and a host of other things which we hope will nurture the faith of the people of Swanley for many generations to come.
St Mary's is sometimes called 'high church' which means that it has the bells and smells but we are more than that: at its root the teaching in our parish is Catholic. The word 'catholic' means universal and we believe that salvation is available to all who have received baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity. More than that, though, our teaching is Catholic because it is rooted in our understanding that the Church of England is part of the one true Church and is bound by those traditions as much as by her own. We teach that the Church has an authority which is bigger than its members and that to hold fast to Catholic faith and order is vital for us to know ourselves to members of a universal and timeless body of believers. We hold fast to traditional teachings on marriage and human sexuality, on holy orders and on the dignity of human life.
We teach that the saints are in the very presence of God and can pray for us. We hold that after earthly death, it is possible for our prayers to help those we have loved and lost. We honour Jesus present in his Holy Sacrament and reserve in the tabernacle the Sacred Host which we use to take Communion to the sick and housebound. We show due respect for this most important presence with us.
Our church is not a society of saints, however, but a school for sinners. Each of us recognizes that our imperfections mean that we fall short of God's design and need His grace. We walk the way of the Lord, asking that He show us where and how we must walk and we seek to share His love as we make our pilgrim way.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us on our journey. To walk over the threshold of a church sometimes seems like an enormous and monumentous act. When you do it, though, you can find a peace and a sense of God's presence which can help all to ponder His great love.
Go on... treat yourself... Try it!