We thought it might be useful if we provided a few definitions regarding the Episcopal Church, Anglican tradition, and how we worship at St. Andrew's. It's easy to follow along with the service ... you will notice when the other members of the congregation are standing, sitting, or kneeling. If you make a mistake, don't worry ... what matters is that you are in church with us.
As you enter the church, an usher will hand you a bulletin outlining the service. The bulletin will also contain the Scripture readings for the service.
We begin and end our services in silent prayer. Upon entering the church, most parishioners will take a moment to kneel and pray before the service.
Our services use the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, which is descended from the original Church of England "Book of Common Prayer" first written in the sixteenth century. Although you will find the same prayer book used at almost all Episcopal churches, the style of worship varies from church to church. In this way, the Episcopal Church can offer a range of worship styles ranging from High Church (Anglo-Catholic) to Low Church (evangelical) to Charismatic. If you are familiar with the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, we use Holy Eucharist Rite I for our Sunday morning worship.
At St. Andrew's, you will find a traditional style of worship in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Our services are deeply reverential and include an emphasis on both Sacraments and Scripture. Bells are rung at appropriate times during the Holy Communion. In some special services incense is used, although it is not used in our regular Sunday services.
The Sunday morning service begins with a hymn. You should find a blue hymnal book in the pew. Hymn numbers are displayed at the front of the church and also in the service bulletin. Parishioners stand during the opening hymn, and the altar party will process from the back of the church.
Three Scripture readings are read during the service. The first reading is typically from the Old Testament (except during the season of Easter). After the first reading, we read a psalm (or part of a psalm) in unison. The second reading is from the New Testament. The third reading is from one of the four Gospel books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and is read by the priest or deacon. The readings for each Sunday are determined by a calendar, called a Lectionary, that defines the readings on a three year rotational cycle. During each three year cycle, a large proportion of the Bible is included in our services.
The sermon follows the three readings. It is customary for the sermon to expand on the three readings, and to help us to apply the words we have heard to our own lives.
The sermon is followed by prayers, including the Nicene Creed (where we state our faith), Prayers of the People (where we pray for our needs and the needs of others), and Confession (where we read a confession of our sin from the prayer book).
Parish announcements are next, and include an invitation for anyone celebrating their birthday or their wedding anniversary to come up to the altar for a blessing.
During the "offertory", the offertory plates are passed around for the collection. The money that we put in the plate is not a gift to God, but rather it is giving back a small portion of the gifts that God has given to us. Our organist (and sometimes the choir) provides music for us during the offertory.
The remainder of the service is the Holy Communion. In our Sunday morning "Sung Mass" much of the Communion part of the service is chanted. As Episcopalians, we believe that Jesus truly is present with us in the Holy Communion elements (the bread and the wine). After the Eucharistic prayer, the members of the congregation come forward and kneel at the altar rails to receive Communion. (Those who are unable to kneel are welcome to stand.) You are welcome to receive Holy Communion if you are baptized and believe that Christ is truly present in the blessed bread and wine, as this Church teaches. Please feel free to consult on this matter with a member of the clergy.
The service concludes with a final hymn, as the altar party processes to the back of the church. At the end of the service, people take a moment or two to kneel in silent prayer.
After the service, you are welcome to join us for coffee in the parish hall. On the first Sunday of each month, you can join us for a cooked brunch in the parish hall after the service.