We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us at St John's, and offer this page as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its worship.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of quiet reverence. Episcopal Churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church be small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar and to the cross. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.
On or near the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the "light of the world" (John 8:12). Often there are flowers, to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.
Episcopal church services are liturgical; that is, they follow a set pattern. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer, the use of which enables the congregation to share fully in every service.
You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary - even among individual Episcopalians. The general rule is to stand to sing hymns (found in the Hymnal in the pews) and other songs (many of them from the Holy Bible) called canticles or chants and printed as part of the service. We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. Psalms are sung or said sitting or standing. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon and choir anthems. We stand or kneel for prayer to show or gratefulness to God for accepting us as his children or as an act of humility before him.
The Principal Service
The principal service in the Episcopal Church is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper). In some Episcopal churches it is celebrated quite simply, without music, early on Sunday morning. Weekday celebrations also are frequently without music, and without sermon. Other churches add music. Other times, partiularly on special occasions, the services can be more elaborate.
Another service is Morning Prayer. The parallel evening service is Evening Prayer. These services consist of psalms, Bible readings and prayers; and may include a sermon. They may be with or without music. Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion)
In the Episcopal Church, all baptized Christians are welcome to come to the altar for communion.
Before and After Services
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ. Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others sometimes sit to listen to the organ postlude.
Please come and worship with us! If you have questions and wish to know more about us, we will gladly help you out in any way we can.