Worship lies at the heart of the Christian life. It is in worship that we express our theology and define our identity. It is through encountering God within worship that we are formed and transformed as the people of God. One of the glories of the Episcopal Church is its liturgical worship. Liturgy refers to the patterns, forms, words, and actions through which public worship is conducted.
At Saint Paul's we are a Protestant Christian Church with Catholic traditions. The way we worship may appear "Catholic," but the foundation of our worship is distinctly Protestant. The pillars of the Episcopal Church are Scripture, Reason, and Tradition.
Coming to Church
We are keenly aware that visiting Saint Paul's, or any church for the first time can be an intimidating experience, especially if you have never visited a church before or, it has been a while. Yes, Christians often and regularly go to church but, this by no means that The Church is only full of Christians. Rather, The Church is full of people, even Christians, that feel compelled to explore, understand, and comprehend that which is bigger, broader, and deeper than themselves. We encourage you to come, question, and learn that God loves you and so do we.
Time to Worship
By far, the most significant activity of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church is the weekly Sunday morning worship of the Triune God. Our Sunday service times are listed to the right and above. You are encouraged to arrive early, get settled in, and prepare yourself for worship. In fact, music for the 10:30 am service begins promptly at 10:15 am just for this purpose. We often live fast-paced busy lives and never allow ourselves the opportunity to process all that we take in through our senses. But, upon entering the Sanctuary of Saint Paul's, you will be engaged, for approximately the next 90 minutes, in the worship of the Almighty God of the universe, the Holy Spirit present in your heart and mind, and Jesus Christ, the author, and finisher of your salvation. May you be encouraged to immerse yourself into this experience again, next Sunday.
What to Wear
Some come to worship in casual attire, while others choose to wear their “Sunday best.” Wear what makes you comfortable; what will help you (and your children) be encouraged to enter the House of God; honor Him, and come into His Presence with thanksgiving.
Entering the Church
When you enter an Episcopal Church building, you get the sense that this space is special. It is not an auditorium, nor a theater. The church building has a feel and structure all its own. This is deliberate, it is sacred--set apart for a Divine Purpose. While worship can take place anywhere, setting aside a sacred space helps us to focus on the purpose and distinction of our gathering. Symbols surround you. You may hear music as you enter the building or notice candles being lit. All this is to prepare us for worship. We leave business and conversation outside and enter the sacred space in body and in mind.
As the choir and worship leaders enter the church in procession, the congregation sings a hymn. The procession sets the stage by drawing our attention together to the celebration of worship. As you sing, note carefully the words of the hymns. The hymns point to the messages of the Scripture Lessons that will be read, particularly the Gospel Lesson. Much of what we understand and believe about God enters our minds almost unconsciously from the repetition of the words of such hymns.
What’s With the Clothes?
Worship leaders in the Episcopal Church wear vestments. The particular style of some vestments has its roots in the Church of England. Others recall particular Scripture images. White robes symbolize the dress assigned to the redeemed in Revelation. Priests wear a stole, symbolizing the yoke of Christ. At communion the celebrant wears a large garment called a chasable, recalling the seamless robe Scripture records Jesus wearing.
The various colors of vestments mark the liturgical year, the Church’s way of sanctifying time as the place of God’s revelation. Candles and other symbols found in Saint Paul's recall the description of heavenly worship found in the Book of Revelation. To learn more about the symbols found in Saint Paul's, take a tour (online soon).
Act I: The Liturgy of the Word
The service begins with praise to God. You may sing the Gloria or the Kyrie, both ancient hymns of praise. Our praise of God sets us to the primary task of worship: reminding ourselves of who we are, who God is, and recognizing our chief end: To glorify God and serve Him forever. Knowing who God is as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and knowing ourselves as the recipients of grace and love is the driving force of our worship of God. Moreover, through worship, we can become empowered to live as God desires. Additionally, we will have the faith to realize all we are meant to be in and through God.
Standing, Sitting, Kneeling
Following the ups and downs of the service can be confusing. In general, we stand to praise and pray, sit to listen, kneel to pray and confess. Follow the lead of those around you, or do what is comfortable for you. It is important to remember that the people in the pews are not the audience for a show performed by the worship leaders up front. All are participants and are, therefore, called congregants; the audience is God. Standing, sitting, and kneeling, and even singing, are all ways that we can use our bodies in prayer and worship to Him as part of all that we have and all that we are.
On a typical Sunday, you will hear 4 portions of Scripture: an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. Where do these pieces come from? The Episcopal Church follows a 3-year cycle; which means that all Episcopal churches are reading the same lessons on a given Sunday. Following the lectionary in a 3-year cycle, most parts of the four Gospels will be read, as well as large portions of the rest of the New Testament. On a particular Sunday, you will probably discern a common theme stretching through the Old Testament, Psalm, and Gospel readings. The Collect, read by the Priest, brings together the common thread of the Scripture Lessons. The other New Testament reading follows its own cycle and may not relate easily to the other readings. Using a lectionary ensures that we will hear all of the messages of Scripture, not just those which make us comfortable or are easily understood. Additionally, the hymns reflect and reiterate the themes of the Scripture Lessons. Finally, all are strongly encouraged to read the Scripture individually through personal devotions with God.
Words, Words, Words
The first part of the service helps us think. We hear and participate in praise. We hear the Scripture and a sermon applying the story to our lives. We offer the “Prayers of the People,” raising to God the concerns of our lives, our community, and the world. We confess our sins, recognizing that we do not always live up to the true identity we have been given in Christ and reminded of throughout the service. Finally, we hear the absolution or reassurance of forgiveness. Thus, in the knowledge that we are reconciled to God, we exchange the Peace with one another, reassuring each other of our place in this community and in God’s Kingdom. All this is a preparation. We are now ready to turn to the second part of our service.
Act II: Holy Eucharist
Eucharist, another title for Holy Communion, means thanksgiving. Ultimately thanksgiving is all that we can give in response to God’s gifts of life and redemption. Yet as we offer thanks, we also receive the inspiration and strength we need to live as God’s people. This interchange of offering and receiving lies at the heart of Holy Communion.
Some might call this part “taking up the collection,” but there’s more going on here. As the choir makes a musical offering, representatives of the congregation bring forward the bread and wine to be used in communion. As we offer the bread and wine for the sacrament, we are also offering ourselves to be inspired and used for God’s purposes. We are preparing ourselves to receive Christ’s presence and inspiration. What better symbol of offering ourselves than to give from our wallets? Thus we offer our treasure at this time.
The Great Thanksgiving
The prayer begins with a dialogue between the presiding priest and the congregation. This conversation, now of course in English, is the very same dialogue used by Christians to begin the Eucharist in the first centuries of the Church. It calls all of us to join in praise and thanksgiving. The prayer offered by the celebrant recalls the particular occasion being celebrated. All this culminates in the song called the Sanctus (Latin for holy), which is the song the prophet Isaiah heard sung in heavenly worship. Thus we unite with all of creation, seen and unseen, in praise of God.
As the celebrant continues, you hear the story of salvation: our creation, fall and redemption through Jesus. Each week the same story: again and again we remind ourselves who we are, why we give thanks, and what we are becoming. We recall the promises made in the Gospel, of what we receive through faith for our living. With each hearing, the story becomes more a part of us; the source of our strength and inspiration.
While the celebrant speaks alone, he or she speaks on behalf of the gathered community. Amen, the congregation responds. So be it. I mean that, too. The Eucharist is “a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.” That doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice until we realize all that it invites us to give up. To be people of thanksgiving: not of desire and demand, not of despair and helplessness – this is what we assent to with our Amen.
Take and Eat
The congregation comes forward to receive communion. All baptized persons are welcome to receive, regardless of age or church background, because through baptism we have become members of the Body of Christ. As we receive communion, in some way we receive the presence and inspiration of Christ. He is here. We receive bread and wine, but so much more. We receive the grace of forgiveness and eternal life. We receive the Holy Spirit for strength and inspiration. We receive the renewal of faith and energy to go on in the Christian life.
Yes, in the Episcopal Church wine is really used. We do so, following the example of Jesus. The wine remains a powerful symbol, both life-giving and dangerous, not unlike the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we celebrate. Not all members choose to receive the wine, while others dip the bread into the wine rather than drink. In all these ways, we receive Christ into our lives.
God be with you 'till we meet again
A short concluding prayer, a final blessing, a hymn, and the congregation is sent forth. Renewed by a deeper understanding of our call to be God’s people, inspired and strengthened through receiving the sacrament, we are ready to take on the world. As the liturgy says: Let us go forth to love and serve the Lord!
Where to go from here
Of course, we encourage you to join us in our Parish Hall for coffee, refreshments, and fellowship with others. But, each and every one of us are called, by God, to build our own personal relationship with Him through the regular study of The Scriptures and prayer. There are aspects of the Christian faith that we can and should participate in 'corporately,' but there are other aspects that one can only explore one-on-one in an individual relationship with God. Our hope and prayer is that Saint Paul's is instrumental in the journey of your faith. May you know the hope that only God can give.
Sunday 8:30 and 10:30 AM
Holy Eucharist - Rite II
2nd Sunday of the Month:
Holy Eucharist - Rite I
8:30 is a spoken service;
10:30 includes Music.
Worship for both services available on Zoom: Contact us for Zoom credentials.