Welcome to Christ Church
Welcome, and thank you for visiting our website. I hope the information will inspire you to visit our Church! If you do come, I think you will find a community filled with good and faithful, and welcoming people. I hope that you will know that you already belong to our community. Please introduce yourselves to me or one of the altar service members (the people in white robes).
The following is some information about our Church and its worship practices. This information is meant only to help you feel at “ease” during worship. Please don’t worry if you “don’t get it right” the first time or the fiftieth time you worship with us. We believe that your experience at worship should be uplifting, hopeful, and inspiring. So don’t worry about being perfect in worship instead enjoy the moment, breathe in God’s spirit, be nurtured and sustained in God’s love!
I know the first time you visit an Episcopal worship service, can be scary! Questions can flood the mind: “Why do we stand when we do? Why do we kneel when we do? And what are all these signs we’re making with our hands?” Following are brief answers to these critical questions.
Before we Episcopalians enter the pew of the Church, we bow to the altar. Generally speaking, we bow when we pass before the tabernacle or aumbry in which we reserve the sacrament — that is, the consecrated bread and wine representing the Body and Blood of Jesus. We also bow when entering or leaving our pews.
However, there’s another time you’ll notice the priests at the altar bowing. Why? The Bible tells us to! The second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is one of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture. In verses 9-11 of that chapter Paul writes:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
During the celebration of The Lord’s Supper, the priests bow when Jesus’ name is said as a sign of reverence.
We Episcopalians also cross ourselves from time to time during the service. The crossing is an ancient Christian gesture in which one touches his forehead, heart, left shoulder, and right shoulder.
My old mentor priest, years ago, taught me that the gesture means we are asking God to be “in our heads” (when we touch our foreheads), “in our hearts” (when we touch our hearts), “and in all of me” (when we touch our shoulders). Crossing oneself reminds us also of Jesus’ sacrifice and points to the power of God in the resurrection.
Some people, when making the sign of the cross, add a simple expression of faith in the Trinity (certainly an appropriate thing to do in our parish!): “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
When do we cross ourselves? Customs vary, but generally, Episcopalians cross themselves whenever the priest blesses them — for example, after the Confession of Sin during the Eucharist (cf., The Book of Common Prayer, p. 360).
On page 845 of The Book of Common Prayer (or BCP), you’ll find An Outline of the Faith that briefly summarizes the basic teachings of the Episcopal Church in simple question and answer form. In response to the question, “What is corporate worship?” we receive the answer: “In corporate worship we unite ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer, and to celebrate the sacraments.” (p. 857)
The first thing to note about our worship is that it is common and public, something we Christians share. We are guided in our worship by the Book of Common Prayer. (It’s called common because it’s meant to be used by a gathered congregation, though it is also used effectively alone to enhance our spiritual lives).
In corporate worship, we gather to hear God’s Word. On pages 323 and 355 (where our services begin) note that the first part of the service is called The Word of God. In this first part of the service, we hear readings from the Bible; two are required, and one must be from the Gospels.
The Gospel is read by most times by the Deacon (an ordained clergyperson who assists the priests at the altar. Our Deacon Anne processes with the Gospel Book and reads it in the nave (the place where the congregation sits). The Deacon will introduce the Gospel saying: “The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to (Gospel is being read).” As the Deacon says words some Episcopalians make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, on their lips, and over their hearts. This signifies that we hope God will be on our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.
The Lectionary determines the readings for Sunday Eucharist that you’ll find in the back of the Prayer Book (p. 889). Over three years, we Episcopalians in worship read almost every passage of the Bible. The Bible infuses every part of our service!
Following the reading of the Scriptures, a clergyperson usually preaches a sermon. The main task of the preacher is to help us understand God’s vision and hope for us as we deal with life today. If a priest is faithful to this challenge, he or she will help us ( the people of God) to think about how God can inform our lives and our actions.
Following the sermon, we recite the Nicene Creed. What is a creed? The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means, “I believe.” A creed is a statement of our fundamental beliefs about God. The Nicene Creed is the Creed of the universal Church and is used at the Eucharist.
The Creed follows the Prayers of the People and the Confession of Sin. We kneel or stand during the Confession. We stand or kneel to signify our sorrow for our sins and as a sign of respect before God.
We then pass the Peace.
Having heard the Word of God proclaimed, having stated our fundamental beliefs, and having confessed our sins to God, we are at peace with God and each other.
After the Passing of the Peace, we proceed immediately to the Holy Communion. The Holy Communion is also called The Lord’s Supper or the Holy Eucharist. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for giving thanks. Notice that the central part of the Holy Communion is called The Great Thanksgiving.
For Episcopalians, the Holy Eucharist is an important sacrament for our tradition. In response to the question, “What are the sacraments?” our Prayer Book tells us that “the sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” (BCP, p. 857) With Holy Baptism, the Holy Eucharist is one of the two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church.
What does communion mean?
Over the centuries many have argued over the meaning of the Eucharist. There is much controversy over what happens during the blessing of the bread and wine. Some believe that as the priest says the words and these ordinary things of bread and wine become transformed to be Christ’s body and blood. Others understand that the bread and wine, (even after the prayers of the priest) are symbols of Christ’s body and blood. We are all well aware that people have gone to war over such beliefs. And although these are important distinctions that bear much thought and conversation for most Episcopalians, such arguments are unnecessary. For the most part, we Episcopalians we believe that Jesus is truly present with us in a unique way in the Eucharistic meal. For us, it is a fellowship meal with Jesus and fellow disciples! It is a place we are given nourishment and strength to handle the specific and sometimes daunting challenges of life.
After the Eucharistic celebration, we say the post-communion prayer. In this prayer, we ask God to give us the strength to be followers of Jesus, helping the world to be better. The service will end of the service with a blessing from the priest and dismissal from the Deacon.
The above is only a brief description of our regular service. We will have Episcopal 101 courses offered throughout the year that will allow you to learn a great deal more about our Church and its mission.
Again please do join us on a Sunday or Saturday for service. Or send an email or drop by for a conversation.
With sincere blessings for you and your loved ones!
Fr. Sunil Chandy+