It can sometimes feel intimidating to enter a church where you have never worshiped. At first you might feel lost or self-conscious when everybody but you seems to know what they are doing and you are not sure whether to sit or stand. At St. John's, we are relatively informal in our approach to worship, and be assured nobody will be singled out or made to feel uncomfortable. You are our respected and welcome guest.
Please don't hesitate to ask our greeters if you have any questions. If you need help following along in the Prayer Book or Hymnals during the service, please ask someone sitting close to you for assistance. Many of our parishioners have come to the Episcopal Church from other denominations and they will be more than willing to lend a hand.
The additional sections on this page provide information on various areas of our worship and The Church.
The Regular Services
The Episcopal Church is a sacramental community. Every Sunday we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (Communion) the remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection made concrete in the bread and wine. As you participate in the Eucharist over time the logic of this service will grow clearer. We begin by listening to scripture and reflecting on its meaning for life. Then we move through prayer, confession and forgiveness as we become the family of God gathered around the table of God, living ever so briefly the life of heaven before we return again to the world, hopefully transformed and renewed to live life differently.
All are Welcome
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 with the congregation, regardless of which Church they were baptized in. 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 still welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive the blessing of the priest. Crossing your arms will indicate your desire to receive a blessing.
People of the Book
Our worship is drawn from the Book of Common Prayer. Sometimes, people wonder at the wisdom of this approach it seems like rote repetition to them or that our prayer lacks sincerity. Yet the reality is that it is very freeing and authentic. Although we are thoroughly familiar with the words, we are freed spiritually to go where the words take us. And because these prayers have been shared from generation to generation, we are a part of a great cloud of witnesses in the faith we share with one another and our children.
The Prayer Book is filled with scripture, filled with story, God's story and our story, and so like icons and sacraments, our Book of Common Prayer is a window into another world, God's world, through which we see our own world and lives differently.
We understand that using the Book of Common Prayer takes a little getting used to but once the Prayer Book becomes familiar it is a wonderful gift to share in our communion and to treasure at times of solitude
The Act of Worship
Episcopal worship services are congregational meaning we all participate in the worship. In some denominations it seems as if the minister is the actor, the director is God, and the people are the audience. In the Episcopal Church, the people are the actors, the minister is the director and God is the audience. Our worship is a service of praise and thanksgiving to God, for God, and with God.
At the door the greeters will offer you a service bulletin. The bulletin is helpful in following the flow of the service by identifying page numbers for prayers and hymns to be sung. In addition there are activity bags for our younger guests to help them pass the time quietly.
In the pews, you will find the red Book of Common Prayer which helps the congregation to share fully in every service. In addition, you will also find in the pews a copy of the blue Episcopal Hymnal, and a supplemental music book.
You may wonder when to stand, sit or kneel. The general rule is to stand to sing. We stand, also, to say our affirmation of the faith (the Creed) and for the reading of the Gospel. We sit during readings from the Hebrew scriptures, New Testament letters, and the sermon, the announcements and the choir anthems. We generally kneel or stand during prayers to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as his children, or as an act of humility before God. Please, however, be comfortable! Your safety and comfort are far more important than the calisthenics.
The Church Year
In the Episcopal Church, we observe the traditional Christian calendar which moves us through the life of Christ in the course of a year.
The first season is Advent, during which we prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas.
The second season is Christmas which truly is the twelve days!
January 6 begins the season of Epiphany where the light of Christ breaks out into the world.
Lent, the forty days of penitential preparation before Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time of reflection and penitence. Finding the date for Ash Wednesday can be interesting as it is based on Easter which is based on the Pascal moon. A liturgical calendar can be very handy!
Holy Week is the week prior to Easter. The most deeply spiritual services of the year take place during this week in which we commemorate the last days of the life of Christ culminating in his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
During the Easter season, we focus particularly on the experiences of the risen Christ in the early Church.
Pentecost begins 50 days after Easter and continues until the end of the church year. Pentecost is when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent into the world and for us is a season of spiritual growth and ministry.