The Episcopal Church is a liturgical church. We follow an ancient pattern of worship that calls us together as a community to pray, to hear Holy Scripture, to confess, and to share in Communion, the feast of the Lord’s supper. In worship, we are united, acknowledging the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer and to celebrate God’s presence among us.
All are welcome to participate in our worship because it is in worship that we live out our life as a Christian family together. Scripture is the foundation of our worship. The service follows an order found in the Book of Common Prayer, two-thirds of which is scriptural. Every worship service includes the reading of Holy Scripture from the Old and New Testaments. Many of our prayers and hymns are filled with Scripture.
Our principle Sunday service is the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist, we participate in the sacrament commanded by Christ, for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again. The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament in that it is an outward and visible sign of Christ’s grace and love. The Holy Eucharist is a communal liturgy, everyone is called to participate in worship. Each person is an important part of the worship experience.
During worship, you will notice people standing, kneeling, and sitting during the service. We stand to sing, to hear the Gospel, and to affirm our faith. We kneel to pray. We remain seated to hear our story with God as told in Scripture, to hear the sermon, and during announcements.
You will also notice some people bowing their heads at times during the service. We bow our heads to show reverence to God. Often you will see people bow as the Cross processes by them and at the name of Jesus Christ. Bowing is a way to show reverence to what the cross means to us and to the love and grace that Jesus Christ brought to the world. You may also see people cross themselves during the service. This is a form of prayer that is done without words.
You will notice that those who are serving in worship are wearing strange clothing. These robes are called Vestments. Vestments are clothing that are set aside for worship. Vestments focus our attention on the act of worship and not on the individuals leading worship. Vestments have been worn in worship since as early as the 4th century. They are a tradition that the Church has retained to remind us of the sacramental nature of worship.
We use all of our senses in worship as we offer our whole selves to God. We use our hearing to hear Scripture. We see the beauty of our church. We feel the wood of the pews and Altar rail. We may smell the fragrant offering of incense. We taste the bread and wine that is Christ’s body and blood. Worship in the Episcopal Church is a whole-body experience that calls us closer to God.
If you are new to liturgical worship, at first worship may seem unusual and hard to follow. This is normal. Just know that if you have questions, just ask. We will be honored to help you. Over time as you grow in your journey with Christ in the church, worship will become familiar and comforting to you.