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What is church like?


Our main worship service is at 10 am on Sunday. 
We usually celebrate the Holy Eucharist, though some Sundays may be Morning Prayer. 
Check the calendar to be sure. 

"Whoever you are; in whatever faith you were born and whatever creed you profess, 
if you come to this house to find God, you are welcome."  -- John Wesley 

That's really all you need to know to get started, 
but if you'd like to know more before you come, keep reading on this page.

Episcopalians worship in many different styles, ranging from very formal, ancient, and multi-sensory rites with lots of singing, music, incense, and fancy clothes (called vestments) for the priest and other ministers, to informal services with contemporary music and no special clothing. Yet all worship in the Episcopal Church is based on the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and a few other approved resources, which gives worship a familiar feel, no matter where you go.  At Grace, we tend to keep it simple.  You can expect the service to take about an hour. 

People wear a variety of clothes to church.  On any given Sunday, you'll see everything from jeans and a T-shirt to a suit and tie.  Wear whatever is most comfortable to you.  Children are always welcome in Sunday School or in the service, and if your children are prone to "wandering" during the service, they are welcome to do so -- freely.  We call it "free range" worshiping! 

Liturgy and Ritual
Worship in the Episcopal Church is “liturgical,” meaning that the service follows forms and prayers 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 for many people.

The first time you come, the liturgy may be exhilarating or confusing - or both!  Services may involve standing, sitting, kneeling, sung or spoken responses, and other participatory elements that may seem strange.  However, it's like a dance: once you learn the steps, it becomes fun to dance, again and again, even as the music changes.

At Grace, we have a bulletin that provides all the words, which makes it easier to participate even when you're new.  But you are very welcome to just sit, watch, and listen the first several times you come.  If you want to participate more fully, you'll always find people who are happy to help.  Many of us came from other denominations or no church at all, too, so we know how strange it seems at first.  But almost all of us stayed, in part because of the liturgy.  We hope you'll feel the same way.

The Holy Eucharist
While there is diversity of worship styles in the Episcopal Church, the Holy Eucharist always has the same components and the same shape:

Part 1: The Liturgy of the Word
We begin by Gathering to praise God through song and prayer. 

Then we Hear and Respond to God's Word, by listening to as many as four readings from the Bible: usually one from the Hebrew Scriptures, a Psalm, a reading from the Letters, and always a reading from the Gospels. The Psalm is sometimes recited by a lay leader with the congregation, taking turns after each verse or half-verse, and sometimes the Psalm is sung by all to a familiar tune.  The Hebrew Scripture and Epistle (Letter) readings are read by people from the congregation.  The deacon or priest reads the Gospel.  Before and after each reading, certain phrases are said, which are listed in the bulletin. To help us respond to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the lessons, a sermon comes next. Sermons are designed to help break open the Word in ways that are meaningful today.  Usually, the priest preaches, but we do invite other voices and perspectives, from the congregation and beyond.  Sermons at Grace are short - usually 10-15 minutes - and are focused on applying the Bible's teaching to daily life. We then recite the Nicene Creed, written in the Fourth Century as the Church’s statement of who Jesus is and how we follow him.  Episcopalians and Anglicans all around the world recite the same creed, in many languages and culturally appropriate form.

Next, we Pray 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 priest concludes with a prayer that gathers the petitions into a communal offering of intercession. Typically , we formally confess our sins before God and one another at this point. This is a statement of what we have done and what we have left undone, followed by a pronouncement of absolution by the priest.  In pronouncing absolution, the priest assures us that God is always ready to forgive our sins. (At certain times of the year, we may omit the confession or have it in a different place.)

We then Greet One Another with a Sign of Peace.  What this means at Grace is that everyone gets up and walks around to shake hands with and greet everyone else, saying "Peace be with you."  When it is mutually agreeable to both people, hugs are exchanged, too. 

Part 2: The Liturgy of the Table
Next, a hymn is sung while Offerings are collected. This part of the service symbolizes the way that we come to Communion by offering all that we are and all that we have to God, just as Christ gave himself for us. Financial offerings are given by the congregation to support the work of the church. If you're visiting, please do not feel that you need to contribute financially! Your presence is your offering, and we are glad to have you as our guest.  After the offerings have been collected, the ushers take them to the priest, who blesses them while the congregation sings a short hymn of praise and thanksgiving.

Then, we Make the Eucharist, which in the Episcopal Church is always a festive community event. The priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, raises her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be with you.”  Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the priest tells the story of our faith, from the beginning of Creation, through the sometimes stormy relationship between God and God's people as told in the Hebrew Scriptures, through our continual turning away from God, and to God’s calling us to return. Finally, the priest 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.  Don't worry - it doesn't take as long as it might sound! This part of the service is only about 5 minutes long.

The priest blesses the bread and wine, and we recite the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the priest breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as "the gifts of God for the People of God.”

The Episcopal Church welcomes all baptized persons to come forward to receive the consecrated bread and wine.of Holy Communion.  If you prefer not to partake of the bread and wine, you may still come forward in the line for a blessing with your arms folded, crossing your chest.  The priest and lay ministers distribute the bread and wine, saying short prayers as they do so.  The priest and lay minister then bring the bread and wine to those who are not able to come forward to receive them. The bread is given first., and to receive it, put your right hand over your left in a cup shape and lift up your hands to the priest.  Most people say "amen" after receiving the bread.  The wine comes next.  Some people chose to drink from the cup, and others prefer to have the person carrying the chalice dip their bread into the cup.   (If you prefer to drink from the cup, you should eat the bread before taking a drink of the wine.)  Most people say "amen" after receiving the wine.  We do use real wine. After everyone has received the bread and wine, we say a short prayer of thanksgiving.

At the end of the Eucharist, we are Sent into the World to continue the life of service to God and to the World.  We sing a closing hymn as the priest and lay ministers walk out in procession.




(Adapted from  The Episcopal Church website.)