Many people feel nervous when they go to a new church for the first time.
These questions here might be helpful, especially if you are not familiar with Episcopal/Anglican worship.
Is Episcopal Church a Bible-based church?
Yes, we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. It is central to our faith and worship. Readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles form an important part of our worship every Sunday.
The Book of Common Prayer does not take the place of the Bible, but it make sure that our worship is Biblical. The vast majority of the prayer book is actually comprised of selections from the Bible, arranged so that we are sure to read important portions of scripture during the course of the year. The prayer book also contains the text of prayers that guide us as a congregation in thanksgiving, confession, worship, and praise to God. The prayer book simply helps us worship in a meaningful and orderly way and to avoid accidental repeats.
Note that the word “Common” doesn’t mean “ordinary”, but “shared”. The Book of Common Prayer guides us when we pray together as a body.
What does Episcopal means?
Episcopal means we are a church ran by bishops.
All Episcopal Churches in America are a part of the Anglican tradition, a continuation of the oldest Christian form of worship in the English-speaking world. It does not mean that we are stuck in the past, but a way of saying that we are loyal to the Christian faith as it was originally given, and with the same level of commitment required to follow.
What is worship like?
We follow a liturgy – an orderly series of prayers, Bible readings, hymns, and responsive readings. The priest or deacon delivers a sermon and usually ends with Holy Communion. We believe that Christ is present with us in a special way as we partake of the bread and wine which, are physical symbols of his body and blood.
People of all ages take active roles during worship. You can read lessons (Old Testament, Psalm, and Epistle), lead prayers, assist priest at the altar, and much more. Ask your priest if you want to help.
You come as you are… Don’t worry about what to wear.
What’s up with Kneeling, Bowing, and Crossing?
Standing, sitting, kneeling – The old rule in the Episcopal Church used to be stand to sing, sit to listen, and kneel to pray. However, a long time ago, back in the Middle Ages people used to stand to pray, often raising their arms to heaven (as the priest does at the Altar). Because of this, now Episcopal Book of Common Prayer generally lists standing before kneeling when giving the options for prayer.
Bowing, (genuflecting) – This is a gesture of respect traditionally given to the cross, especially at the beginning or ending of a service, and to the Altar, when entering or leaving the church or moving towards or past the Altar.
Crossing – You will also notice that some people cross themselves at certain times during worship. This is one of the most ancient practices of the church and it explains the importance of the cross to Christians. It serves as a reminder that only through the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross do we appear justified or “made right” in God’s eyes.
Mini-Crossing – You might have seen people do this at the start of the Gospel. The meaning for this:
* We cross our forehead so that the Word of God may be in our thoughts and purify our minds.
* We cross our lips so that our speech may be holy and incline us to share the Gospel with others.
* And we cross our hearts to invite God to strengthen our love for Him and others.
I’m used to a “pastor” or “minister”; why do you have a “Father” or “Mother”?
Our priest is not a mediator or “go between,” between God and Man, only Christ does that. Rather, the Anglican priest is the “presbyter” or teacher/elder of the church, sometimes called a rector. He or she is affectionately referred to as “Father” or “Mother” because we look to them for spiritual counsel and advice in the same way a child looks to his natural parent for counsel and advice. In turn, they care as a father or mother would, demonstrating God’s love for us.
Who can take Communion?
You do not need to be member of Episcopal Church. Communion is freely offered to all those baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from any branch of Christ’s church.
How do we take Communion?
We take Communion as Jesus and his disciples did at the Last Supper, by sharing a common cup. After the priest consecrates (sets apart) the bread and wine, we come to the table, where we first receive the bread with cupped hands. We are free to either eat the bread and sip from the cup or hold the bread and then dip the bread into the wine.
If you have any more question, don’t be afraid to ask.