What is Worship Like?
Our Worship services follow the Episcopal liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer and music from the 1982 Hymnal, and Lift Every Voice and Sing II. Sunday worship includes Bible readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and prayers appointed for the day. From time-to-time materials from other sources are included.
Special services occur throughout the year, as part of the liturgical calendar. Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are particularly festive celebrations that include their own unique rituals and customs.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church is small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is. On 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. On one side at the front of the church, is a lectern, pulpit, or stand, for the proclamation of the Word; here the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached.
The Act of Worship
Our Sunday services make use of bulletins which include all of the words of the service as well as the hymns and anthems. You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary - even among individual Episcopalians. The general rule is to stand to sing hymns and other songs. We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. Psalms may be sung or said sitting or standing. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as children or as an act of humility before God.
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. Many Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. Often a voluntary piece of music will be played to aid in contemplation before service begins. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others sometimes sit to listen to the organ postlude.
Vestments (Liturgical Clothing) and Paraments (Altar Clothes)
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments. Choir and acolyte vestments usually consist of an undergown called a cassock (usually black or red) and a white, gathered overgown called a surplice. The clergy may also wear a cassock and surplice. Another familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it (or over the surplice) ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelops the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a mitre. Vestment colors change with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are green, white, red, violet, and blue.
The Church Year
The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. During these times the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year - the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays) - the New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds roughly in theme with one of the New Testament readings.