The Way We Worship
Worship in the Episcopal Church
We are a liturgical church. During worship, people participate through their verbal responses, readings from Holy Scripture, singing of hymns, offering prayers and by receiving Holy Communion. Worship is corporate in nature, because the congregation shares in all aspects of the liturgy. The silence at various intervals provides time for the individual to think and reflect on his or her personal experience with God.
Practices vary—even among individual Episcopalians—as to when it is appropriate to sit, to stand or to kneel. The rule of thumb is “Stand to sing, sit to listen, and kneel to pray.” We also stand during the reading of the Holy Gospel. Just do what others around you are doing, or sit and observe, or do whatever is your custom. And please, PLEASE don’t try to do something that you are physically incapable of, morally opposed to, or creates you great pain!!! We really won’t care if you do the ‘wrong’ thing. Most of us are too caught up in the worship to notice.
The Book of Common Prayer
Episcopalians (NOT Episcopals) are known as a people ‘of the book.’ Some of us are kind of geeky that way—we were the ones who carried a lot of textbooks home from school, so flipping around from page to page is easy for us. You’re lucky! We have a full-text bulletin now, so you can follow along page by page and participate as you are comfortable.
The Book of Common Prayer has evolved over many centuries. The first Prayer Book is attributed to Thomas Cranmer, who, in 1549, drew on traditional resources to create services that were prayed in English for the first time. (He was eventually burned at the stake... not for the Prayer Book). This collection of prayers and responses provides the basic structure for the current Prayer Book being used in the Episcopal Church. The version in use today was last revised in 1979.
The Holy Eucharist
In the Episcopal Church, all baptized persons are welcome to receive Communion (whether you’re baptized Roman Catholic, or Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God, Pentecostal Holiness—remember, One God!) If you are not baptized you are invited, by our priest, to come to the Altar rail for a blessing. (This is God’s welcome table!)
At Communion, you will first be given a wafer (or bread), and then wine. You may keep the wafer you have received, and the priest or Eucharistic Minister will intinct (dip it) into the chalice (cup) for you, or you may drink from the chalice. Ushers will guide you to the front. If you’re our guest, or a newcomer, you probably sat in the back (just follow those in front of you). If you don’t want to come up for Communion, you can just stay seated.
We hope you will find the services of the Episcopal Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.