Your First Visit
1. Welcome! Most of us have been visitors at unfamiliar churches, so we get how uncomfortable it can be. That's especially true if you're visiting a church with different rituals and customs than you're used to - or if you've never been to church before! Here are a few answers we hope will help you feel more at home here and make your worship more meaningful.
2. What is the Episcopal Church? If you've never been to an Episcopal Church before, it may seem a little strange. Our services look a lot like Roman Catholic masses but have a distinctly different feel. We actually say that we are both catholic and protestant. That's because while the Episcopal Church is a child of the Protestant Reformation (through our roots in the Church of England), we have always maintained the ancient liturgies and the orders (bishops, priests and deacons).
3. How should I dress? There's no dress code; we get the full range from suits to jeans and t-shirts. Some of us even wear funny robes. Whatever you wear, you will be welcomed as a brother or sister in Christ.
4. Do I bring the kids? Absolutely! No matter what their age, we love kids in church. For pre-school through high school ages, there is Sunday School during the first half of the service (they will rejoin their families in church for the second half of the service). Sunday school is found in the parish house next door (by the parking lot). Your children are always welcome, whether it's for one Sunday or the whole year. Some kids are shy at first and prefer to sit with their parents. That's fine, too. What about very young children? Bring them! We have a nursery, but some infants and small children prefer to stay with their families in unfamiliar situations. We love the sound of children in church, so please don't worry that they might make too much noise. As one friend of the church said, "If there's no infants crying, the church is dying."
5. What kind of worship? Our church celebrates the Holy Eucharist at both its 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Sunday services. Each service contains prayers, scripture readings, a sermon and Holy Communion (bread and wine - more on that later). At 10:00 AM, the service is in contemporary language, and we have music. At 8:00 AM, the service uses traditional language (thee's and thou's) and has no music.
6. How do I participate? When you arrive, you can pick up a bulletin in the foyer (Narthex in church speak). It will guide you through the entire service. If you prefer to just sit there and soak it all up, that's fine. However, if you want to participate fully and are a little confused by it all, just ask anyone around you. They know it's confusing and are more than happy to help out.
We are a church of books, and you'll find three different books in your seat (pew in church speak). In our worship, we use the Book of Common Prayer to pray. The 8:00 AM service begins on page 323 while the 10:00 AM service begins on page 355. We use two hymnals, the Hymnal 1982, and Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS).
If you're tech savvy, there is another way to participate. You can download a PDF of the entire service onto your portable device here. That way, you can have everything - hymns, scripture, prayers, all in one place without having to juggle books.
THE PEACE: You may not be familiar with the Passing of the Peace, but somewhere in the middle of the service, the celebrant says, "The Peace of the Lord be always with you." And the congregation responds with: "And also with you." Then chaos breaks out as pretty much everyone gets out to pass the peace with others. Mostly, we shake hands or hug. You don't have to move but don't be surprised if several people offer you a hand and peace.
THE OFFERING: We live in a physical world with physical needs, and in our society, money is the accepted medium for meeting those needs. There is a collection each Sunday during which those who choose can place their offering in a collection plate as it passes. This money is used for many things from paying salaries to paying maintenance costs on the buildings, but it is primarily there to further our ministry of making Christ's love known in the world through words and actions. Please do not feel pressured into giving if you are not ready to do so. There is never an "admission fee" to the church.
7. Do I stand, sit, or kneel? It can be a little confusing at first. Just watch what other people are doing. Our service will become familiar quickly.
Some general guidelines:
- We stand when we sing.
- We sit during readings (except we stand for the Gospel lesson) and the sermon.
- We stand during affirmations of faith.
- We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God.
8. How do I receive communion? Please know that you are welcome to receive Holy Communion regardless of your denomination. Here, people typically kneel at the altar rail and hold out their hands to receive the bread (also known as the host). Some stand, some open their mouths for the priest to place the host on their tongues. It's all good. We'll figure it out together.
Please note that we use wine in our communion and drink from a common cup. If you can't drink wine, please know that you don't have to receive both the bread and the wine. In fact, many people don't. If you prefer not to receive the wine, you can simply return to your seat after receiving the bread.
If you would prefer not to receive communion but would like a blessing, you can come to the altar rail and cross your arms over your chest.
9. Are you going to make me stand up and be welcomed in the middle of the service or ask me to join the choir on my first visit? No. We are honored that you are visiting us. The last thing that we want to do is embarrass you. We will welcome you, either before the service or when we greet one another during the Peace. You are invited to join us for coffee next door afterwards, if you want. You wonít be pressured in any way.
10. How long does the service last? Usually, the 8:00 a.m. service lasts between 45 and 50 minutes while the 10:00 a.m. lasts a little over an hour.
11. After the service: Join us following the 10:00 a.m. service for coffee hour. It's just next door in the parish hall, and anyone from the congregation will be more than happy to show you around. If that's uncomfortable for you, please feel free to hang around to chat with the clergy for a few minutes. We'll stick by the door just in case. The 8:00 a.m. service has no formal coffee hour, but the folks do love to gather at the nearby coffee shop (Cranberry's) to chat.
Oh, and if you would sign our guest book, we'd appreciate it! We won't send you anything unless you request it, but we do like to know you've visited us.
12. After you go home: Please feel free to contact the clergy at any time after you've visited us. You may have questions that strike only after you get home. Doesn't matter when they come to you, we are happy to hear them!