You are welcome here.
We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer these notes as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its ways.
The place of worship.
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. It is the usual custom for Episcopalians to be quiet in the church building. We do not single newcomers out at this time as we do not wish to interupt the meditations of others. You will be cordially welcomed and greeted after the service. Please join us for coffee hour following the worship service, this is a time intended to enable visitors and newcomers to meet members of the congregation and for the parishioners to get to know each other better. The celebrant will be at the front door of the church as you leave the service. He will be only too glad to have a chat or to arrange for a later call.
Once inside, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross suspended above it. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.
On altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the "Light of the world". Often there are flowers, to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.
The act of worship
Episcopal church services are congregational. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer. In it, the large print is the actual service. The smaller italic print gives directions to ministers and people for conducting the service.
You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary---even among individual Episcopalians.
The general rule is to stand to sing the hymns . We also stand to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as children or as an act of humility before God.
The Regular Services
The principal service is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). At St. John's, the service is celebrated at 11:30 A.M. Sunday mornings. We also have a mid-week service on Thursday evenings. All baptized persons are invited to receive communion in the Episcopal church.
You will find the services of the Episcopal Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
Before and After Services
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.
As mentioned above most Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving.
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments.
Another familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it (or over the surplice) ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders.
At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. The deacon's corresponding vestment has sleeves and is called a dalmatic. Bishops sometimes wear a special headcovering called a mitre.
Stoles, chasubles, and dalmatics, as well as altar coverings, are usually made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white, red, violet, green, and rose.
The Church Year
The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas or the coming of Christ, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6).
Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost.
During these times the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year---the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays)---the New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.
Coming and Going
You need not be embarrased as a first time visitor to an Episcopal Church. Any of our parishioners are happy guide you through our worship service. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service as well. Pews are usually unreserved in our church.
Following the service the pastor greets the people as they leave.
You Will Not Be Embarrassed
When you visit an Episcopal church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way, nor asked to stand before the congregation nor to come forward. You will worship God with us, as one of us.
Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church or how one becomes an Episcopalian, we will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.
Our Links Page can take you to a wealth of information about the Episcopal Church.