Since the time of the Apostles, Christian people have gathered together for worship, remembering Christ in the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine. This act of worship has many names: the Lord's Supper; the Holy Communion; the liturgy (that is, 'the action of the people'); the Mass(which comes from the Latin word meaning to send, a word that occurs in the final part of the service as the people are sent out). Each of these names reminds us of a particular aspect of the service's significance. In the Episcopal Church, the name we use most often is the Eucharist, from the Greek word for 'thanksgiving', and this whole act of worship resonates with our thanks to God for all that he has done for us.
THE SERVICE HAS A NUMBER OF PARTS
We gather in the Lord's Name, with hymns and songs of praise. In prayer we commend our worship to God.
We proclaim and respond to the Word of God with readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistle, and Gospel declaring the mighty acts of God. The Homily or Sermon calls us to incarnate them in our own words and deeds. We affirm our Faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.
We Pray for the World and the Church, and then call to mind our sins, ask God's forgiveness and hear the declaration of absolution.
We exchange the Peace, which is not primarily a show of human friendship, but an affirmation of our common identity as the Body of Christ, and an expression of our determination to live in accordance with Christ's command to be reconciled to God and one another.
We share the Gifts of God in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The offering of bread and wine symbolize the offering of our lives to God's service. In the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and the wine may be to us the Body and Blood of Christ, to nourish and strengthen us as we go forth to embody the love of Christ in the world.
LITURGY - THE ACTION OF THE PEOPLE
Every member of the church has a proper function in the Eucharist. Priests and lay ministers, acolytes, readers, chalice bearers, choir and musicians all play in the prayer and praise that we present together. Members of the congregation participate most obviously in the prayers that all say together, and in the hymns. But we all participate in every aspect of the service, even when we are quiet and still: we worship as we stand or kneel;we worship as we hear the readings and sermon;we worship as we listen to the prayers that others lead, and make them our own. This service is not something that is 'performed' by robed professionals in front of an audience. It is a celebration on the part of the whole worshiping community. We bring to this service the experiences, concerns and hopes that are uniquely our own. In company with our fellow Christians we pray for God's strength and guidance, and in Communion receive the assurance of his love. At the close of the service we offer ourselves in readiness to serve God in the world, in whatever distinctive way God calls each and every one of us.
A FEW PRACTICAL MATTERS
We realize that the Liturgy can be daunting for someone experiencing it for the first time and we want to do all we can to help make you a part of it. Service bulletins and announcements will indicate page numbers. The red book in the pew is the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The blue book is the Hymnal, which contains both the service music (written with an S in the bulletin and found in the front portion of the Hymnal) and the hymns of the day (which have a number without a letter). We encourage you to join in the hymns and prayers and to sit, stand or kneel with the rest of the congregation as you feel comfortable. All baptized Christians are welcome to receive Communion. Simply follow the directions of the ushers and come forward to kneel or stand at the altar rail. If you do not wish to receive Communion, you are invited to come forward to receive a blessing. What is an Episcopalian? A person who belongs to the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church (TEC) is the body of the Anglican Communion that exists in the United States, Haiti, Honduras, and 7 other countries around the world. Originating from the Church of England, The Episcopal Church was formed shortly after the Revolutionary War so that the monarch of England would hold no authority in the church. It is a sister church of the Church of England and uses the name "Episcopal" to indicate that it has bishops (episcopal comes from the Latin word for bishop) who can link their authority back in time to the Apostles (this is called the Apostolic Succession). Because of this, it is called both "catholic" (though not Roman Catholic) and 'protestant".
What Do Episcopalians Share in Common?
Worship that brings you in, instead of putting you on the sidelines as a spectator. A Theology that demands our intelligence rather than ignoring it. A Willingness not only to tolerate but also to celebrate differences. A Heritage that takes the Bible seriously, but is not enslaved to literalism. A strong sense of Community in which our consensus is in Christ, not to conformity of opinion. A devotion to the sacraments which evoke awe and mystery instead of factual explanation. A sense of ministry that is rightfully the obligation and privilege of every baptized person. An insistence upon morality (which is good and lifegiving) and not moralism (salvation by code and not by Christ). The tradition of Apostolic faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Apostolic order given to the church by him.