Liturgy

The Seasons of the Church

The major liturgical Seasons of the Christian Church begin in early December and are:  Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ordinary Time, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost.  The link provided describes the annual, cyclical context for these seasons and how they influence our worship and prayer.

Weekly Liturgy

Sunday is traditionally when Episcopalians gather for worship. The principal weekly worship service is the Holy Eucharist, also known as: the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, or Mass. In most Episcopal churches, worship is accompanied by the singing of hymns, and in some churches, much of the service is sung.  For example, at St. John's, music is an integral part of our 10AM service.

We hope you will feel comfortable with our liturgy.  All persons are invited to make their communion with us.  You may kneel or stand throughout the service -whichever is your personal preference.  This is also true at the altar rail.  The Episcopal church offers communion in "two kinds", both the consecrated bread and wine.  If you prefer to receive only the bread or only the wine, please know that you have made a full communion.  Children are always welcome in the church throughout the service (7:45AM through 11:45AM Sunday mornings), however there is a nursery available downstairs across from the atrium for those who would like to use it.

All are Welcome

All baptized Christians—no matter age or denomination—are welcome to “receive communion.” Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take our baptism so seriously.

Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the presider.

At the end of the Eucharist, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving, and then is dismissed to continue the life of service to God and to the World.

 

Worship Styles

Episcopalians worship in many different styles, ranging from very formal, ancient, and multi-sensory rites with lots of singing, music, fancy clothes (called vestments), and incense, to informal services with contemporary music. Yet all worship in the Episcopal Church is based in the Book of Common Prayer, which gives worship a familiar feel, no matter where you go.  Attached below is a brief summary entitled "Some Widely Held Rituals and Traditions of the Episcopal Church" prepared by the Evangelism Task Force of St. John's by the Campus Episcopal Church and Student Center in Ames in 2006

 

Liturgy

Worship in the Episcopal Church is said to be “liturgical,” meaning that the congregation follows service forms and prays from texts that don’t change greatly from week to week during a season of the year. This sameness from week to week gives worship a rhythm that becomes comforting and familiar to the worshipers.

For the first-time visitor, liturgy may be exhilarating… or confusing. Services may involve standing, sitting, kneeling, sung or spoken responses, and other participatory elements that may provide a challenge for the first-time visitor. However, liturgical worship can be compared with a dance: once you learn the steps, you come to appreciate the rhythm, and it becomes satisfying to dance, again and again, as the music changes.

 

Liturgy of the Word

We begin by praising God through song and prayer, and then listen to as many as four readings from the Bible. Usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the Epistles, and (always) a reading from the Gospels. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation.

Next, a sermon interpreting the readings appointed for the day is preached.
The congregation then recites the Nicene Creed, written in the Fourth Century and the Church’s statement of what we believe ever since.

Next, the congregation prays together—for the Church, the World, and those in need. We pray for the sick, thank God for all the good things in our lives, and finally, we pray for the dead. The presider (e.g. priest, bishop, lay minister) concludes with a prayer that gathers the petitions into a communal offering of intercession.

In certain seasons of the Church year, the congregation formally confesses their sins before God and one another. This is a corporate statement of what we have done and what we have left undone, followed by a pronouncement of absolution. In pronouncing absolution, the presider assures the congregation that God is always ready to forgive our sins.

 

Holy Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Table

In spite of the diversity of worship styles in the Episcopal Church, Holy Eucharist always has the same components and the same shape.  

The priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, raises his or her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be With You.” Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the presider tells the story of our faith, 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 presider 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 presider blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the presider breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.”

The congregation then shares the consecrated 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

 

The excerpts are reproduced from the website of the National Episcopal Church.