A Word of Welcome from Father Hoover
Welcome to St. John’s Episcopal Church!
I would like to extend our warmest welcome to you, and provide you with some basic information about our worship service, so that you will feel at home while visiting our church.
Worship in the Episcopal Church is called “liturgical,” meaning that the congregation follows certain service forms and prayers from a standardized source.
In the Episcopal Church, this standardized source is called the Book of Common Prayer, and it has a rich history deeply steeped in English Christianity. This liturgical continuity from week to week gives our worship experience a rhythm that becomes both comforting and familiar to worshipers.
In the pews you will find a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, and using this Prayer Book will help you and the congregation to share fully in every service. The large print in the Prayer Book is the actual service, and the smaller print gives directions to ministers and people for the order of the service.
You will also find a Hymnal in the pews, and the hymns used for the service are posted on the wall to the left of the Altar at the front of the church.
The Liturgy of the Word
We usually begin by praising God through song and prayer, and then listen to readings, or Lessons, from the Holy Scriptures. Typically we will have one from the Hebrew Scriptures, a Psalm (which is usually sung or said by the congregation), something from the Epistles, and a reading from the Gospels.
Next, a homily (or short sermon) is preached on the appointed readings. This homily is not so much the minister preaching at the congregation, but rather a breaking open of the Scriptures, so that the readings may be more meaningful and spiritually nourishing to the congregation.
Then the congregation recites together the Nicene Creed. This ancient creed was written in the Fourth Century, and it has been the Church’s statement of what we believe ever since that time.
Following the Creed, the congregation prays together for the Church, the World, and those in need. The presiding minister then concludes with a prayer that “collects” the petitions of the congregation into a shared offering of praise and intercession.
The congregation then usually (depending on the liturgical season) confesses their sins before God and in community with one another. This confession is a communal statement of what we have done and what we have left undone. The minister (usually called the presider or celebrant) then pronounces absolution, in which he or she assures the congregation that God is always ready and willing to forgive our sins and shortcomings.
Next, the congregation greets one another with a sign of peace. This is usually done with a friendly handshake, and a statement of God’s peace. For instance, one might say, “Peace be with you,” and the other may respond, “And also with you.”
The Liturgy of the Table
Next, the minister stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread, and begins the Eucharistic Prayer. In this prayer, the minister tells the story of our faith. Then, the minister tells the story of the coming of Christ, and about the night before his death, on which he instituted the Eucharistic meal that we are now in the process of celebrating (Holy Communion).
The minister blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation prays the Lord’s Prayer together. After this, the minister breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation.
The ushers will then invite the congregation to come forward, row by row, to share the consecrated bread and the wine. All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion, regardless of age or denomination. Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome (but not required) to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the minister. To indicate that you would like to receive a blessing, simply cross your arms over your chest.
At the end of our celebration of Holy Communion, the congregation prays together in thanksgiving, and then goes out into the world to continue the life of prayer and service to God and the world. After the service, we usually gather for coffee, fellowships, and Christian education. We would love to have you join us!
Remember, when you visit our church, you will be our welcome and respected guest. You will not be “singled out” in an embarrassing way, or asked to stand before the congregation, make a confession of faith, or describe your faith history in front of others. Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church, a priest, deacon, or lay minister will be happy to answer your questions.
Again, welcome! If I can be of further assistance to you, please let me know.
Father Greg Hoover