Outline of the Faith (Catechism) can be confusing for many people.
For the Deaf who use ASL as their primary language, many words in the catechism has no clear meaning. For this reason, we are working to translate the catechism to help the Deaf better.
Singing Songs in Sign Language
Signing is one of many forms of worship that provide profound meanings. The flowing movements of the signs along with the music can be a beautiful way to enhance the worship experience, even if there is no Deaf person present. You don’t need to understand sign language to appreciate the beauty of a signed hymns that is done well.
Many people practice and then perform signed worship songs either as individuals or as groups. This can be a great blessing to the members of the congregation. Songs can be signed in ASL or English with the same basic result. It is easier for new signers to sign in English because it doesn’t require learning a new language, it just requires learning the signs.
If you are already learning ASL, putting a song into ASL is a great way to practice finding the appropriate sentence structure. Since a song is almost always frozen text, you can take as much time as necessary to come up with the best possible ASL and practice it until it comes naturally.
For some reason, many Deaf people tend to prefer that “frozen text” is signed more in English than in ASL. When hearing people sing or recite something together such as The Lord’s Prayer, or the Pledge of Allegiance, they tend not to pay attention to the words as they recite – together in unity. For that same reason, Deaf people often want that same togetherness that comes from signing the same words at the same time, rather than focus on getting the meaning of the song through an ASL interpretation of it.
The best way to find how to sign a specific song, use your favorite video search engine and use the keyword “sign language and title of hymn/song” or “ASL and title of hymn/song”. You will find many ways of signing the hymn you want – there is no right or wrong video, for all are expressed in different, yet meaningful ways.
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 questions, don’t be afraid to ask.