Q. Is there a right or wrong way to worship in the Episcopal Church?

A.  Regardless of what anyone else is doing, don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.  If you need help, just ask the person next to you.  We are a loving and caring parish and everyone is eager to help you.

Q. What are the books on the back of each pew?

A. The small red book if the Book of Common Prayer.  The entire service as well as other material in contained in it. The larger black/blue book is the 192 Hymnal.  The songs we sing are listed in the bulletin given to you by the ushers.  The page numbers are also displayed on the boards at the front of the sanctuary on either side of the altar.

Q. Why is everyone so quiet after they enter the church?

A.  Episcopalians take time before the service to speak with God and prepare for communion.

Q.  What is in the bulletin?

A.  The bulletin is a guide for the services.  It includes the page numbers in the Book of Common Prayer for following the service word for word, and page numbers of the hymns.  It also includes who is serving each  Sunday, announcements of upcoming events, and other items of interest.

Q.  Why are there so many things displayed inside the church?

A.  The Episcopal worship uses all of the senses:  sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.  It also gives God many ways to reach us.

Q.  What is the significance of bowing and kneeling before entering the pew and during the service?

A.  What you are seeing is “reverencing” and people have different ways of doing it.  Some people will bow in the direction of the altar, some will “genuflect” (touch their knee to the floor), while others reverence in silence or without any gesture as they enter the pew.  Bowing is a sign of reverence.  It is also usually done when approaching the altar. Parishioners in the pews often bow when the cross passes by them as it is taken down the center aisle during the procession or recession. Some people bow whenever the words “Jesus Christ” are said during the liturgy, and when Christ’s incarnation is described in the Nicene Creed.  In this act, they remember Christ’s humility. Do whatever makes you comfortable and helps you to worship.

Q. Why do some people touch themselves on the forehead and shoulders?

A.  This is, again, a personal worship style and is called making the sign of the cross.  Some people do it out of habit while others do it because it reminds them of the price Jesus paid to enable us to respond to God’s love and mercy.  Others do it because it is their way of “taking up their own cross” and following Jesus.  You will see them doing this at times during the service, too.  You do not have to cross yourself just because others do.

Q.  Why do some people make the sign of the cross on the forehead, lips, and heart at the beginning of the reading of the Gospel?

A.  This symbolizes embracing the message of the Gospel with our minds, proclaiming it with our lips, and believing it deeply in our heart.

Q.  Things look very Roman Catholic.  Is Christ Church a Catholic church?

A.  Yes and no.  Although the ancient Church from which the Episcopal Church sprang was Roman Catholic, the present day Episcopal Church has practices and beliefs that are distinctly different from those of the Roman Catholic Church.  The important thing to remember, though, is our worship of God. For more information: http://anglicansonline.org/resources/essays/whalon/AngRC-diffEng.html

Q. Do I have to stand up and introduce myself during the service?

A.  No, we want you to be comfortable and relaxed during the service but we would really like you to sign our guest book and fill out one of the “Welcome” cards in front of you and place it in the offering plate.

Q.  Who are the individuals in the vestments?

A.  You will see acolytes and Lay Eucharistic Ministers wearing white and carrying a cross and sometimes candles.  The choir wears black vestments with a white surplice over them.  The clergy vestments are the most festive and sometimes very elaborate.  The colors of the stoles reflect the color of the season and the church calendar.

Q.  Who may take Communion?

A.  All baptized persons are welcome to participate in communion.  Communion is received at the altar.  Ushers will dismiss pews so when they get to your pew, it’s your turn to go. You may kneel or stand to receive communion.  Just put your right hand, palm up, in our left hand and the priest will put a wafer in your hand, saying either, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in everlasting life” or “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven.”  Simply raise your hands to your mouth and eat the wafer.  The wine comes next.  We use real wine and a common cup.  When the Chalice Bearer comes to you, help guide the cup to your lips and take a sip.  If you do not wish to consume wine, just cross your arms over your chest as the Chalice Bearer approaches you.  If you want wine, but don’t want to drink from the common cup, leave the bread in your palm and the Chalice Bearer will dip the wafer in the wine and put it in your mouth.  As the Chalice Bearer gives you wine, he or she will say, “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”  If you have a child whom you do not wish to take communion, just have your child cross his or her arms across his or her chest.  The priest will say a blessing (which is true for adults too).  But baptized children are welcome to receive the sacrament.  If you are unable to physically get to the altar, communion will be administered to you by the priest and Chalice Bearer once people at the altar have been served.   An usher will come and stand by your pew to indicate you need communion brought to you in your pew.

Q.  Why all the symbolism?

A.  In the very earliest churches, most people could neither read nor write.  As a result, it became necessary to invent ways to teach people about religious matters and let them know what was going on, especially since all services and prayers were in Latin.  Many of these traditions still exist, like the different vestment colors to denote various seasons of the church year, stained glass windows to tell Biblical stories,  Sanctus Bells to symbolize the most solemn moments of the Holy Communion, and incense to indicate prayers.  These subtle reminders enhance the beauty of our tradition and enrich our worship service today.