First Time Visitor
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU VISIT US
First Time Visitor
First and most important: You will be welcome. We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer this document as a brief introduction to Saint Stephen Anglican Church and our way of doing things.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Anglican churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church be small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. Our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.
On and near the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the Light of the World. Sometimes there are flowers, to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus. On the left side at the front of the church, there will be a pulpit, for the proclamation of the Word; here the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached.
The Act of Worship
Anglican church services are congregational. On the entry table, you will find a Liturgy Booklet with the liturgy for the day. Please take one to guide you in our worship. This enables the congregation to share fully in every service. The congregational responses with be in bold italics.
You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary even among individual Anglican churches. The general rule is to stand to sing. Hymns and other songs (many of them from the Holy Bible) called canticles or chants are printed as part of the service. We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. Psalms are sung or said sitting or standing. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as children or as an act of humility before God. The best way is simply to do what everyone around you does.
The Regular Service
The principal service is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). While some parts of the services are always the same, others change. At the Holy Eucharist, three Bible selections are read, plus a Psalm is either read responsively or sung. These change each Sunday. Certain of the prayers also change, in order to fit the season and the specific theme of the day.
You will find the services of the Anglican Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
Before and After
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.
Most Anglicans do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others retire to the Fellowship Hall to visit.
Coming and Going
Pews are not reserved in Anglican churches. You may sit wherever you wish. Following the service, the pastor greets the people as they leave.
What Clergy Wear
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers customarily wear vestments. Acolyte (altar server) vestments usually consist of an under-gown called a cassock (usually black) and a white, gathered over-gown called a surplice. Some clergy may also wear cassock and surplice.
Another familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it, ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders.
At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a miter.
Stoles, chasubles, and dalmatics, as well as altar coverings, are usually made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white, red, violet, blue, and green.
The Church Year
The Anglican Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. The Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost.
During these times the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season and the day. During the rest of the year - the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays) - the New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.
You Will Not be Embarrassed
When you visit Saint Stephen Anglican Church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way, nor asked to stand before the congregation, nor to come forward. You will worship God with us.
Should you wish to know more about Saint Stephen Anglican Church or the Anglican tradition, the priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest a way to membership if you are so inclined.