The Episcopal Church is a “liturgical” denomination within Protestant Christianity. The term liturgical means that the congregation follows a pattern of worship and “common prayer” that changes very little from week to week, thus providing a rhythm that becomes comforting and familiar to worshipers. Our principal Sunday service is known as “Holy Eucharist,” which other Christian faith traditions might call Holy Communion or, simply, Mass. It normally lasts about an hour.
When you arrive, you will be handed a “bulletin” that provides an outline of the service, including a listing of the Scripture to be read and page references for all of the prayers and hymns (songs) that will be used on that particular day. Each “pew,” or row of seats, has copies of all of the books worshipers will need to participate in the service. The Book of Common Prayer (usually red) contains all of the different worship services used by the Episcopal Church. The bulletin will tell you the page the service starts on, and you can follow along from there. It’s not hard. When it’s time to sing a hymn, the bulletin will provide you with an “H” number in The Hymnal (usually a blue book). Don’t worry! Episcopalians are friendly people! If you get mixed up about what’s where, just ask one of your neighbors in the pew. They’ll help! And if you don’t know whether to stand, kneel or sit, just watch the people around you and do what they do. There are times during the service when some people are kneeling while others stand. You can do whichever makes you most comfortable.
All baptized Christians are invited to receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist at the altar rail at the appropriate time during the service. If you’d prefer to just receive a blessing from the priest, simply cross your arms (X) over your chest.
If you’d like to know more about the liturgy, or what to expect when you visit an Episcopal Church, please click here.