‘There was nothing effeminate about it, as there was nothing fanatical; there was nothing extreme or foolish about it; it was a manly school, distrustful of high-wrought feelings and professions, cultivating self-command and shy of display, and setting up as its mark, in contrast to what seemed to it sentimental weakness, a reasonable and serious idea of duty. The divinity which it propounded, though it rested on learning, was rather that of strong common sense than of the schools of erudition. Its better members were highly cultivated, benevolent men, intolerant of irregularities both of doctrine and life, whose lives were governed by an unostentatious but solid and unfaltering piety, ready to burst forth on occasion into fervid devotion.’ [The Oxford Movement, ch. 1.]
The centre round which High Churchmanship revolved was a liturgy, the Prayer Book; and that perhaps in all its implications constitutes the significance of the High Church tradition for Anglicans today. The Church of England, as indeed all western Christendom, is fighting for its life; the days when Christianity enjoyed a comfortable and established place in society are gone, and the Church stands face to face with a paganism which is enslaving each country in Europe, a paganism which sometimes glories in its apostasy and is crudely barbaric, more often it masquerades as secularism, broad-mindedness, and indifference.
The inner life of the Church is built round its worship; here it truly becomes itself and finds power and strength. But the Church as it prepares to do battle with the pagan world finds that its own inner life, the life of worship, has disintegrated. Worship has become divorced from dogma; it has been individualized and has lost all contact with the ordinary life of man. It is a dead thing, a meaningless round of word and gesture.
The worship of the Church is offered in the midst of a society which has turned its back on the intellectual, the spiritual, and the supernatural, and finds its main happiness in the examination of the visible world and a ceaseless round of activity ... It is a society which sees life in terms of doing rather than being. Worship is something which it cannot understand; for worship is being rather than doing, and is concerned primarily with God.