It is always important to remember that the Episcopal Church is composed of people from a great variety of religious customs and traditions. Many have come to the Episcopal Church from the Catholic tradition while others come from a more evangelical and Protestant tradition. We are many strands of a single rope.
On entering the Church:
Many people before entering the pew either bow or genuflect to the Altar. Such devotional acts, while a part of our heritage, are optional, and each person should decide as an individual whether or not to incorporate these personal devotional acts into his or her prayer and worship life.
After entering the pew, consider kneeling and offering a prayer, thanking God for His love and for the freedom to worship Him according to our individual choice, for the mission of the Church throughout the world, for our parish and those who share worship with us, for our families, for the bishops and priests, for the service that is to follow, and for ourselves. It is an act that reminds us that we are in God's presence and in His holy house. In this period before the service begins, we have an opportunity to prepare ourselves and our lives as an offering in this service.
The Prayer Book services are services of both common and private prayer, written so that everyone can join in the acts of corporate worship. Every worshipper should lift his or her heart and voice and share in the responses, the Creed, the hymns, and the "amens." By saying "amen" (which means "so be it"), you are affirming that the prayer is yours.
Rules for Posture During the Service:
Visitors and newcomers often remark that we are always getting up and down. Actually, the principal is a very simple one. We kneel for prayer (prayers, the confession and absolution, and the blessing), stand for praise (hymns, psalms, canticles, the creeds, presentation of our offerings, and as a special mark of respect for the holy Gospel in Holy Communion), and sit for instruction (the lessons, sermon, epistle and announcements).
Some additional customs you will note that are optional personal acts of devotion:
· Bowing the head toward the altar or genuflecting when entering or leaving the church
· Bowing the head when the processional cross passes
· Bowing the head at the name of Jesus Christ, especially in the creeds or at any ascription to the Trinity.
On Leaving the Church:
The service ends with the blessing. This is usually followed by a recessional hymn during which the choir and the clergy exit. After the recessional hymn, the acolytes will extinguish the candles. It is not necessary to remain kneeling while the candles are being extinguished, although many people choose to do so. You may offer a prayer that we be enabled to carry out in our daily lives what we have professed in the service. After the service you may meet and greet fellow worshippers, both friends and strangers. (You may also greet fellow worshipers during the service at the passing of the peace.)
At Baptisms and Weddings:
The congregation has an important part in these services, because they are acting as witnesses to what is taking place. As the Church, they accept the newly baptized child or adult into the congregation of Christ's flock and witness a couple's wedding vows. At many weddings, the marriage is followed by Holy Communion, called a Nuptial Eucharist.
The congregation should participate by sharing the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and all "amens." All active communicants should consider burial from the church. The Burial Office is often followed by Holy Communion. This is called a "Requiem Eucharist."
Our white albs or surplices reveal that it is always a joyful thing to come into the house of the Lord and that we enter prayerfully and humbly. The stole worn around the neck of the clergy in Holy Communion is in the color of the season or is in an all-season tapestry. The black stole sometimes worn in morning and evening prayer services is a preaching stole.
Seasons of the Church:
Colors of the Church Seasons:
Each Church season has its own color.
White or Gold:
Nov. 30: St. Andrew the Apostle