Episcopal Worship 101
At first glance, Episcopal worship might seem strange to those who are unfamiliar with our liturgical tradition. We use real candles. Our ministers and acolytes wear robes. Sometimes we process with banners and crosses and music. We use prayers from a red or black book marked “Common Prayer,” and we often pray them together out loud. We worship indoors and outside the church walls.
We move a lot in our worship, sitting and standing and kneeling. We worship with our entire bodies, not just our minds, from taste and smell and sight and voice and hearing up to and including body posture. Using our bodies in worship to sit, stand, kneel, and even bow involves us more fully in what we’re thinking and doing. Watch what others are doing and feel free to go along as you are comfortable or not if you don’t want to. You’ll see not everyone around you does the same thing.
Our liturgy, or the order of service, comes from the red or black Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which is in a rack in every pew. If you take a close look at the Book of Common Prayer, you will see that many, if not most, of the prayers we use are worded directly from the Bible.
For most of the church year, we use the contemporary language of the prayer book’s Rite II. In the season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday through Palm Sunday, we use Rite I from the prayer book. You’ll notice “thee” and “thou” and poetic language from the tradition of our 450 year history as you pay attention to the words and prayers we share.
We read four lessons from the Bible each week in a set rotation. You can find the lessons for any given Sunday at The Lectionary Page. We usually have our Bible lessons printed out for you, but of course you can bring your Bible. Our ministers usually preach on one or more of the scripture passages. They’re not noted for preaching overlong. We publish our sermons online.
In special services of celebration and on certain holy days (Christmas Eve, Easter Vigil, Pentecost, St Martin’s Day, All Saints’ Day, and maybe a few others), we may use incense. In 10:30 am Sunday worship, that is from 6-8 Sundays a year, so it’s a special day when we use incense. Using incense in worship is a meaningful and worshipful tradition with ancient Hebrew roots, and in modern times a tradition that we share only with Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, but not with other Protestant churches. Incense engages our senses in inescapable ways. The smoke we see rising from the burning incense is the physical representation of our prayers rising to God. The aroma we smell reminds us to live our lives as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
In our normal Saturday and Sunday worship services, we celebrate Holy Communion, or Holy Eucharist. Eucharist is a Greek word meaning thanksgiving. Every person who joins with us in worship, and is prepared in their own conscience to receive Christ in this way, is welcome to share in the bread and wine of Holy Communion with us at the table in the front of the church. No matter where you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome at this table. You are welcome to receive communion kneeling or standing at the rail at the front of the church. If moving is a difficulty for you, let an usher know and our ministers will bring communion to you in your pew. If you have a wheat allergy, we have hypo-allergenic bread at communion – let the minister offering you bread know.
Children of all ages are welcome in our worship, and we know they are not always still and quiet! We think that some children can participate better if they have something to do as they listen, and so we provide simple “hospitality bags” on a coat tree at the rear of the church. Feel free to get one and bring it with you to your pew. There are usually papers for drawing and coloring, and sometimes illustrated Bible story books, Bible coloring pages, stickers, crayons, and assorted items in each bag. Please return it to the hook when you’ve finished, or if your hands are too full, leave it in your pew. And if your children get bored with our activity bag, you can certainly prepare your own bag of tricks and bring it along.
On the first Sunday of each month, our worship is centered around our children, and children will be invited up for a children’s sermon so they can be a part of discussions and activities. Read more about our first Sunday family worship.
We offer Nursery care for children from infancy to 3 years at our 10:30 am Sunday service. Our Sunday School program for kids is held during the 10:30 am service three Sundays a month. Children rejoin their families in time for the Eucharist.
After each service, we catch up with each other over a cup of coffee or lemonade and a snack of donuts in a building adjacent to the church. We’d love to meet you!
If you have any questions while you’re at church, ask someone with a nametag on, and they’ll try to connect you with the right person to answer your questions. We wear magnetic nametags so everyone can get to know each other. There’s a spot on the “Tell us about yourself” card in the pew rack to request a nametag. Many people leave their nametags on the metal board by the back door so they have them at church; that’s where new nametags will be after they’re made.
Not all of our worship uses the Book of Common Prayer. One specific devotional is Stations of the Cross. Stations of the Cross is a walking, praying devotional as we remember Jesus’ path to the cross. Learn more about Stations of the Cross.
Join us for worship!