What to Expect

 

When you arrive at St. John’s for one of our Sunday worship services (8 or 10 am), you’ll be greeted by an usher. If you have children (aged birth through sixth grade), they are welcome to stay with you during the service or, if you prefer, an usher can show you where the nursery and kids’ classes are. We have Spiritual Formation (Sunday School) classes for all ages that begin at 9am.

You’ll be given a bulletin that leads you through the service, including directions such as when to stand or sit, or how to receive communion, or where to turn to in the Book of Common Prayer. Worship in the Episcopal Church is based on the liturgy, a form of worship that thoughtfully and beautifully articulates the breadth, depth, and mystery of the Christian faith; it uses words and silence, symbols and metaphors, and even the movement of our own bodies. If you are new to liturgical worship, don’t worry about “doing it right” on your first visit; Jesus won’t be offended if you miss a line, and neither will we. You might in fact prefer to set the bulletin and Prayer Book aside and relax, simply being attentive to what’s going on around you.

Both the 8 and 10 o’clock services follow the same liturgy, but there is no singing at eight. At ten, we have music and singing most of which comes from the Episcopal hymnal, accompanied by the organ or piano.

The celebrant (the priest who leads the worship service), begins the service with announcements which include a welcome to visitors. Don’t worry, you won’t be asked to stand up and identify yourselves. In the middle of the service we “share the peace”, which means you’ll be greeted with a handshake and some expression such as “Peace be with you.” At that point it’s more than sufficient simply to smile and say “Peace.”

Official polity of the Episcopal Church states that communion is open to baptized Christians of any denomination. However, many prominent voices in the Episcopal church argue passionately for “open table” – that anyone who is taking steps to meet God at communion should never be turned away. Choose what is best for you and come with an open heart, ready to receive God’s love and grace. Instructions for receiving are in the bulletin, but it’s easiest just to follow the person before you and copy what they do. You can also come forward to receive only a blessing or choose to remain in the pew. Again, nobody will look askance at however you choose to participate.

After the service we gather together for coffee. (After the 8am service we meet in the Upstairs Lounge. After 10am we meet downstairs in the Parish Hall.) You’re welcome to stick around so we can start to get to know each other or to duck out and head straight home! If you’d like a priest to contact you later in the week, you can introduce yourself to them right after church, or to fill out a guest card found in the pew pocket in front of you, then drop it in the offering plate or hand it to a priest after church.

Like any church, the Episcopal Church has its distinct culture and form of worship. If you’re new to liturgy, it might take you about three weeks before you start to get the rhythm of it and fall charm to its particular heritage and beauty.