Our Sunday and Wednesday services are acts of worship that draw us together in Christ. To get the most out of our services, you have to participate. We hope you’ll join in; we invite you to sing with us, pray with us, and take communion with us.
A Quick Glance at the Service
Before the service starts, many people will kneel and offer a quiet prayer. You may want to kneel or simply to sit quietly in God’s presence as our organist plays the prelude.
One of the most awkward things for newcomers is book juggling. During any given service, we will use the Book of Common Prayer, a hymnal, and sometimes the less formal Alleluia III songbook. The key to knowing which book to use is the bulletin you receive from the usher as you enter the service. Reference it to figure out which page in which book and to follow along. (And don’t worry if you get lost; there’s bound to be a helpful parishioner nearby to sort you out!)
We also do a lot of sitting, standing, and kneeling. It can be overwhelming at first. An old Episcopal joke tells about the sea captain who bragged that he didn’t have any trouble following our service; he “just sat in the stern and rose and fell with the tide.” If you’d rather take a more structured approach to our movements, though, the bulletin will help you with this, too. Also, please know: if at any time during the service you can’t or don’t want to stand and kneel, you can always sit quietly, even if people around you are doing other things. That’s okay here.
The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist
Episcopal services always follow a set liturgy, an ancient word that means “order of worship.” Our Sunday service usually includes the Eucharist, also called communion, which has been the principal Christian act of worship for more than nineteen centuries. The Eucharist is a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; in the bread and wine we have touchable, tangible assurance of the presence of Christ in our midst. It’s not magic or superstition; the bread is just bread, the wine is just wine. During the Eucharist, we gather around the table (the altar) to receive these outward signs; through the experience we remind ourselves of the spiritual grace of the Lord.
The Liturgy of the Word: Scripture and Response
The service begins with the procession of the people with special roles in the worship as we sing the first hymn. The priest conducting the service (the Celebrant) welcomes the congregation using an ancient ritual greeting, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responds with the equally ancient words printed in the Book of Common Prayer, “And also with you.”
Readers, called lectors, read from the Bible. Passages from both the Old and the New Testaments are read on specific days, according to the lectionary. We all recite a psalm. The priest or a deacon reads the day’s Gospel story. Then we listen to a sermon. The sermon is not the main part of the service in the Episcopal Church; the sacrament of Holy Eucharist is. So the sermon is not usually as long as you might expect.
After the sermon we’ll say the Nicene Creed. This is one of the oldest parts of Christian tradition, a simple statement of a complicated faith. The Creed is a shared framework on which we hang our individual understandings of the faith.
The Prayers of the People follow the Creed. Then we’ll say a joint confession of our sins and receive the assurance of God’s mercy and forgiveness in the Absolution. We share the joy of being forgiven in the Passing of the Peace, another ancient Christian tradition. This is the time to speak to the people around us and to greet each other with the love of God.
The Liturgy of the Table
We move into the second part of the service with the Great Thanksgiving. There are four forms in the Prayer Book; your bulletin will show you which one we’re using. In the Eucharistic Prayer, we’re invited to remember our Lord’s life, death and resurrection. We put ourselves at the Table with Him during the last supper, and we receive the Bread and Wine as sacraments of His Body and Blood. Some people will stand during this prayer, and others will kneel. Either is appropriate.
At the end of this long prayer, we all say the Lord’s Prayer together, a simple, beautiful prayer that many people know by heart. Then the priest breaks the bread, a symbol of our Lord’s willing sacrifice, and invites the people to come and share bread and wine.
Who Can Take Communion?
All baptized Christians of all ages and denominations are invited and encouraged to join us in receiving communion. Please understand you don’t have to, and you shouldn’t feel self-conscious if you choose not to. Many children receive communion, but that’s something for parents to decide. If you’d like to come to the altar, and we hope you will, here are some suggestions about what to do.
To Receive Communion
There’s no one right way to receive communion. Most folks will cross their hands palms up, one on top of the other, to receive the bread. Some will eat the bread and then take a small sip from the cup, and others will wait until the wine comes, dip the bread in the wine and eat it then. Some will pass on the wine altogether.
Please note: our services use real wine and not grape juice. If you’d like to receive communion but don’t want to receive wine, you can still come and receive the bread, and then leave before the chalice bearer comes, or cross your arms over your chest and they’ll know to pass you by.
People who don’t want to receive communion are invited to come to the altar rail to receive a blessing from the priest. Some of the children of the parish prefer a blessing to receiving communion, and that’s fine. To receive a blessing, just come to the rail and cross your arms in front of you.
When you get back to your pew, you may want to kneel for a prayer, sit and listen to our choir, or sing the post-communion hymn. After communion, we’ll say a prayer of thanks, and a priest will bless us in Christ’s name. Then we’ll sing a final hymn, and the same people will leave first, just like the procession in reverse.
Thank you for visiting us online. We hope you’ll come visit in person. We know you will find our worship service powerful, meaningful, and full of the joy of being in the presence of the living God.