WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR FIRST VISIT
If you’ve never attended an Episcopal worship service before, we want to make it as comfortable as possible. Here are a few things that might help.
First, the Episcopal Church worships in the “liturgical” style, which means that all Episcopal churches follow a relatively common order of service. Our Sunday service includes an opening procession, singing, Bible readings, prayers for ourselves and others, a sermon, and Holy Eucharist, or Communion, where we share bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus and the Last Supper. You are welcome to come for communion, even if you’re not an Episcopalian. An usher guides the congregation to the altar rail to receive the bread and wine.
There is no need to wonder if you’ll know what to do during the service. Follow the service leaflet that you will receive at the door. We use three books: The Book of Common Prayer , The Hymnal 1982, and LEVAS (Lift Every Voice and Sing) and they will be in the pew rack in front of you. The leaflet will tell you what pages you’ll need. And if you just want to observe and participate silently, that’s ok too.
You will notice that in Episcopal worship we use a variety of postures. We typically sit to listen, kneel to pray, and stand to sing. But that varies from person to person, so you can do what is most comfortable for you.
ABOUT EPISCOPAL WORSHIP
What’s in a name?
The word Episcopal means that we are governed by bishops, whose position is called “the episcopate.” Members of an Episcopal church are called “Episcopalians.” People who attend worship at Christ Church come from a variety of church backgrounds or have no church experience. We are glad for anyone to come worship with us.
What is a worship service like?
Worship in the Episcopal church is what’s called “liturgical.” This means that we follow a standard pattern of worship with the same liturgy and ritual every week. There are variations within that pattern, but the basic prayers and form stay the same.
When you come to a service, you’ll find that we sing, listen to bible lessons and a sermon, pray for ourselves and others, and most importantly, that we gather around the Lord’s table to share bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus. Everyone who wants to draw nearer to Christ is welcome at The Lord’s Table. Jesus never excluded anyone, and we follow his example.
Episcopal worship is very incarnational. That is, we use our bodies in worship. We joke about our worship being “pew aerobics” because in a typical service you will stand, sit, kneel, and walk. It can get be confusing at first not knowing when to do what, and not everyone does the same posture at the same time. So, you can do what’s most comfortable for you, which may mean doing what someone else near you is doing or it may mean sitting still.
Our worship is not passive, where you come and sit and watch a performance by a group of people dressed in robes and then leave at the end. We engage our faith. Worship is a celebration by the whole community. We each bring our own joys and cares and sorrows, and gathered with the faith community in prayer and sacrament, we hope to find God’s strength and the assurance of God’s love and direction for our lives.
Books we use in worship
There are three primary books we use that you’ll see in the pew rack in front of you: The Book of Common Prayer, the red book, The Hymnal 1982, the blue book, and Lift Every Voice and Sing, the black and red book. It may sound a little daunting that we use all these books. But an usher will give you a service leaflet when you come in and it has all the page numbers and the order of worship in it to help you follow along. And if you get lost, you may want to just sit back and let the Spirit meet you where you are.
Parts of the Service
Our service has two parts: The Liturgy of the Word and Holy Communion. In between the two parts is the passing of “The Peace.” At this time, people move around and say to one another, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or just, “Peace.” And the response is, “And also with you.” This can sometimes take a few minutes, and you are free to sit down if you so choose. Also at this time, the children come into the church from church school.
At the time when the bread and wine are being shared, an usher guides people to the altar rail where you may either kneel or stand to receive communion. Typically, the bread is received in your hands, which are held open, together, and palms facing up. The wine can either be sipped, or you may dip your bread into the wine. If you do not want to receive the wine, just reach out and touch the cup.
The End of the Service
At the close of the service, we offer ourselves to God’s service in the world, in whatever way God calls to each of us. We go forth renewed and empowered to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
When the service is ended, we go next door to our Parish Hall for Coffee Hour when we have a chance to visit with one another over refreshments.
The best way to find out what worship in the Episcopal Church is all about is to come experience it. We hope to see you in church!