We are glad you are here and we extend a cordial welcome as you worship with us. Here is a brief introduction to our church and its ways.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; ours is a contemporary cruciform (in the shape of a cross) church. Your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross as our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house this church is.
On the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12). Usually there are also flowers, to beautify God’s house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus, the exception is during the season of Lent when the altar is bare.
You will find the services of the Episcopal Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, with a mindful inclusion of the nature and needs of human beings and a focus on God.
The Act of Worship
Episcopal Church services have active congregational participation. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer, which is our book of worship and enables the congregation to share fully in every service. In the Book of Common Prayer, the large print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to ministers and people for conducting the service and is known as the rubrics.
The principal Sunday service is Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). Holy Eucharist is our sharing of Christ with one another with bread (or wafers) and wine. During worship, we read the scriptures and preach the sermon before celebrating Holy Eucharist. We proclaim God’s word within the midst of the congregation.
You may wonder when to sit, stand or kneel. Practices vary—even among individual Episcopalians. The general rule is to stand to sing—hymns (found in the blue Hymnal in the pews) and other songs, canticles or chants that are printed as part of the service leaflet. We stand to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel. Psalms are sung or said sitting or standing. We sit during readings from the Old and New Testaments , the sermon, and 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. In all cases we respect those who can not stand or kneel due to disabilities and you should do what is best for you.
The Regular Services
At St. Hilda – St. Patrick we celebrate the Eucharist at 9:30 AM each Sunday. We celebrate with lots of music and a choir most of the year. We also enjoy festive worship on all other Christian feast days such as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, and All Saints. We also celebrate Holy Eucharist each Wednesday at 12:30 PM. This service is more informal with a spoken service and a scriptural conversation.
Other regular services that are celebrated in Episcopal churches are Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline. These services consist of psalms, Bible readings, and prayers; and may include a sermon. They may be with or without music and they usually do not include Eucharist.
While some parts of the services are always the same, others change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, two or three Bible selections are read. These change each Sunday as do the psalms in accordance with the Lectionary. Some of our prayers also change each week to reflect the nature of the season and to provide variety. Page numbers for parts of the service are usually announced or given in the service leaflet. But do not be embarrassed to ask your neighbor for help.
Before and After
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one’s pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. You may also notice people bowing to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.
Most Episcopalians 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 while others may sit to listen to the musical postlude.
Coming and Going
If there are ushers they will greet you, and may escort you to a pew. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service and about our church. Pews are unreserved in Episcopal churches, please feel free to take any seat. Following the service the Priest and other ministers will greet the people as they leave. Please let them know if you are a visitor or you have any questions or spiritual needs.
What Clergy and Lay Ministers 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. The clergy and the ministers at the altar normally wear an alb. The alb is a white tunic that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric in accordance with the liturgical season. Deacons wear the stole over their left shoulder diagonally across their body, priests and bishops stoles are worn around their neck. The choir usually wears a white alb and green outer vestment known as a scapular.
At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment without sleeves that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. The deacon’s corresponding vestment has sleeves and is called a dalmatic. Bishops also 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 liturgical seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white (feast days), red (celebrations), violet or purple (Lent and Advent), blue (Advent) and green (Ordinary Time).
The Church Year
The Episcopal 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 begins on December 25 and lasts twelve days until the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Lent is the forty days of preparation for Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost and is followed by Ordinary Time.
Please Do Not be Embarrassed
When you visit us you are our respected and welcome guest. Although we like to recognize our visitors if this makes you uncomfortable please do not feel you have to identify yourself. Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church or how one becomes an Episcopalian, the priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.