What to Expect in Liturgical Worship at Grace
Episcopalians worship in many different styles, ranging from very formal, with 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.
Worship in the Episcopal Church is liturgical. The congregation follows service forms and prayers that don’t change greatly from week to week. This 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 and kneeling, as well as sung or spoken responses, that may provide a challenge for the first-time visitor. Please feel free to do only what is comfortable for you — we were all new once!
Part 1: The Service of the Word
Our organist begins the service with a prelude. After a pause, he starts our first hymn while we all stand and turn to face the rear of the church where the cross and ministers are standing.
The Crucifer (bearer of the cross) leads the Acolytes and Priest(s) up to the front of the church. Many people bow as the cross passes, affirming our allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Any children ages 4-9 may follow the second cross, made from rough dogwood, to participate in Children's Chapel. They go to the neighboring Grace House to have their own age-appropriate Service of the Word. They will return for the second half of our service.
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, one from the Psalms, one from the Epistles, and always a reading from the Gospels. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation.
Sermon / Homily
Our priest will give a 10-15 minute homily on the Gospel or other passage of the day which they have prepared during the week for us.
After the sermon, the congregation recites the Nicene Creed together. Written in the 4th Century, through the words of this Creed we are connected to our historic faith community.
Prayers of the People
Next, the congregation prays together—for the Church, the world, and those in need. We pray for the sick and for those who have died, and thank God for all the good things in our lives.
Confession and Absolution
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.
The Passing of the Peace
The congregation then greet one another, usually with a handshake and a message of “Peace” or “Peace be with you.” The children should return to their seats around this time, often bringing activity bags with them from beside the door.
Part 2: The Service of the Table
The Eucharist or "Great Thanksgiving"
In the Episcopal Church, the entire service is referred to as the Holy Eucharist. The actual taking of bread and wine is the central focus of the service.
The priest stands at the altar, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, and begins the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. The bread is broken and offered to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.”
Our Table is Open
All are welcome to receive communion. As Jesus freely offered the bread and wine to everyone who would receive it, we also serve you regardless of your age, tradition or beliefs. All who desire to follow Jesus are welcome.
To receive communion, follow others to the altar and kneel or stand in an open spot at the communion rail. A minister with bread will come around first. Simply hold your open hands out in front of you, one on top of the other. The minister will place a small wafer in your hand and say, “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven.”
You may eat the bread then or hold it until the wine comes. A minister with a chalice of wine will stop in front of you and say, “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” You may either drink directly from the chalice or, if you saved your bread, simply dip it into the wine and consume both together. When you have received both bread and wine, you can stand and return to your seat.
If you or your children would prefer to receive a blessing instead of the sacrament, instead of holding your hands out to receive the bread, simply cross your arms over your chest. The priest will take it from there.
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.
Throughout the year we change colors of various elements such as the altar covering, robes, and online media. If you are wondering what the colors mean, please take a look at the diagram below.