Newcomers – What to Expect

What to Expect When You Worship in the Episcopal Church

Sunday is traditionally when Episcopalians gather for worship. The principal weekly worship service
is the Holy Eucharist, also known as: the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, or Mass. In most
Episcopal churches, worship is accompanied by the singing of hymns, and in some churches, much
of the service is sung.

Before we learn about the order of the service (Mass) let’s answer a few questions that you might like to know.

Will I be welcomed in your church?  Absolutely!  We firmly believe in the teaching of Jesus Christ.  Remember the commandments He gave to apostles to carry on with?  “Love your neighbor as I have loved you.”  We take this commandment very seriously, so no matter who you are, where you come from;  you are welcome in our home of worship and community.

How shall I dress?  We here at St. Paul’s dress in what suits each individual.  There may be some gentlemen in coat and tie, some ladies may be in dresses and even hats.  There might be folks in walking shorts and sandals in warm weather.  We come together to worship God in community, not to vote on the best dressed!

Where do I park?  The main parking lot is in the front of the church, there is usually available parking there.  We also have a small lot in the back of the church.

I have small children, what do I do?  We do have Sunday School with certified teachers from early September through the end of May.  During the school year, we also have an accompanying nursery for our littlest ones (or they are welcome in the service too).

Am I required to give a donation during the service?  No, you are not required to give.  There will be donation baskets going around the pews during the “offertory,” which is our offering of ourselves and our possessions to God and God’s work in the world.

If you questions that are not answered here, please click on our contact page and complete the form and our priest or assigned lay leader will contact you.

Worship Styles

Episcopalians worship in many different styles, ranging from very formal, ancient, and multi-
sensory rites with lots of singing, music, fancy clothes (called vestments), and incense, to informal
services with contemporary music. Yet all worship in the Episcopal Church is based on the Book of
Common Prayer, which gives our worship a familiar feel, no matter where you go.

Liturgy and Ritual

Worship in the Episcopal Church is said to be “liturgical,” meaning that the congregation follows
service forms and prays from texts that don’t change greatly from week to week during a season of
the year. This sameness from week to week gives worship a rhythm that becomes comforting and
familiar to the worshipers.

For the first-time visitor, liturgy may be exhilarating… or confusing. Services may involve standing,
sitting, kneeling, sung or spoken responses, and other participatory elements that may provide a
challenge for the first-time visitor. However, liturgical worship can be compared with a dance: once
you learn the steps, you come to appreciate the rhythm, and it becomes satisfying to dance, again
and again, as the music changes.

The Holy Eucharist

In spite of the diversity of worship styles in the Episcopal Church, Holy Eucharist always has the
same components and the same shape.

The Liturgy of the Word

We begin by praising God through song and prayer, and then listen to as many as four readings
from the Bible. Usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the Epistles, and
(always) a reading from the Gospels. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation.

Next, a sermon interpreting the readings appointed for the day is preached.

The congregation then recites the Nicene Creed, written in the Fourth Century and the Church’s
statement of what we believe ever since.

Next, the congregation prays together—for the Church, the World, and those in need. We pray
for the sick, thank God for all the good things in our lives, and finally, we pray for the dead. The
presider (e.g. priest, bishop) concludes with a prayer that gathers the petitions into a
communal offering of intercession.

In certain seasons of the Church year, the congregation formally confesses their sins before God
and one another. This is a corporate statement of what we have done and what we have left undone,
followed by a pronouncement of absolution. In pronouncing absolution, the presider assures the
congregation that God is always ready to forgive our sins.

The congregation then greets one another with a sign of “peace.”

The Liturgy of the Table

Next, the priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread
or wafers, raises his or her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be With
You.” Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the presider tells the story of our faith, from
the beginning of Creation, through the choosing of Israel to be God’s people, through our continual
turning away from God, and God’s calling us to return. Finally, the presider tells the story of the
coming of Jesus Christ, and about the night before his death, on which he instituted the Eucharistic
meal (communion) as a continual remembrance of him.

The presider blesses the bread and wine by which we believe that Christ becomes really present, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the
presider breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of

The congregation then shares the consecrated bread and the wine. Sometimes the people all come
forward to receive the bread and wine; sometimes they pass the elements around in other ways.

All Are Welcome

All baptized Christians—no matter age or denomination—are welcome to “receive communion.”
Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but
because we take our baptism so seriously.

Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to
receive a blessing from the presider.

At the end of the Eucharist, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving, and then is
dismissed to continue the life of service to God and to the World.


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