WHAT TO EXPECT
What to Expect When You Visit Holy Apostles and the Mediator
Sunday is traditionally the day when Episcopalians gather to worship. In most churches, the principal worship service is known as the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, or The Mass. Worship is accompanied by the singing of hymns, and during “High Mass”, much of the service is also sung.
There are many different styles in which Episcopalians worship, from very formal, almost Catholic styles that have lots of singing, music, fancy clothes (called vestments), and incense, to very informal spoken styles that have less music. Yet all worship in the Episcopal Church is based in the Book of Common Prayer, which gives it a familiar feel to Episcopalians, no matter where they go. Worship in the Episcopal Church is said to be “liturgical,” which means that the congregation follows the same service and prays from texts that don’t change very much from week to week during a season of the year. The sameness from week to week gives the worship a rhythm that becomes comforting and familiar to the worshipers.
The Liturgy involves switching between two or more books and the bulletin. There may be a variety of standing, sitting, kneeling, bowing, and sung or spoken responses. Although there are many different worship styles in the Episcopal Church, no matter where you go, the Holy Eucharist always has the same basic elements.
We begin with the praise of God through singing and prayers, and then listen to several readings from the Bible. Usually, there’s one from the Old Testament, a psalm (spoken or sung), and one from the New Testament, but there is always a reading from one of the Gospels.
Then the priest gives a sermon based on the readings. After the sermon, the congregation recites the Nicene Creed, which was written in the Fourth Century and has been the Church’s statement of what we believe ever since.
Next, the congregation prays together—for the Church, the community, the Nation, the World, and for those in need. We pray for the sick, we thank God for all the good things of our lives, and finally, we pray for the dead. Then usually, the congregation confesses its sins, reciting “The Confession” found in our book of common prayer. After the confession, the priest pronounces absolution and forgiveness of our sins. In doing so, the priest assures the congregation that God is always ready to forgive our sins.
The congregation then greets one another with the “Right Hand of Fellowship” also known as the “Peace”. Your pew neighbor will turn to you and say “The peace of the Lord be with you” while a handshake is exchanged. Your response is “And also with you”. Announcements are made immediately following the Peace.
After a selection from the choir or a hymn sung by the congregation and the offering is collected, we move into the second half of our service known as The Holy Communion. The priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or thin wafers. Then he or she raises his or her hands and greets the congregation again: “The Lord be With You”. Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the priest tells the story of Christianity, from the beginning of Creation, through the choosing of Israel to be God’s people, through our continual turning away from God and God’s calling us to return. Finally, the priest tells the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, and about the night before his death, on which he instituted the Eucharistic meal (communion)as a continual remembrance of him. The priest blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the priest breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.” The congregation then shares the bread and the wine. Sometimes the people all come forward to receive the bread and wine; sometimes they pass the elements around in other ways.
All baptized Christians—no matter what age, and no matter of what denomination—are welcome to “receive communion,” that is, eat the bread and drink the wine, regardless of which Church they were baptized. Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive the blessing of the priest.
After Communion, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving and sings the closing hymn. Then we sing our own congregational anthem, and then we’re dismissed to continue the life of service to God, the community, and the World.
After service we fellowship together in the parish hall. We catch up with old friends and make new ones. At H.A.M, we feed the body as well as the mind and spirit. On any given Sunday, our refreshments range from a light snack to a full course meal. It is our hope that worshiping with us one Sunday would inspire you to join us for a lifetime of service in Christ.