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:
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or Christmas Day (December 25)
The First Sunday after Christmas
The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ (January 1)
The Second Sunday after Christmas
The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (January 6)
The First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Second through the Eighth Sundays after the Epiphany
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
The First Day of Lent, or Ash Wednesday
The First through the Fifth Sundays in Lent
The Sunday of the Passion, or Palm Sunday
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Holy Week
Maundy Thursday, or the Last Supper
The Sunday of the Resurrection, or Easter Day
Monday through Saturday in Easter Week
The Second through the Sixth Sundays in Easter
Ascension Day, when Christ ascended into Heaven
The Seventh Sunday of Easter
The Day of Pentecost, or Whitsunday. The Birthday of the Christian Church, when the Holy Spirit entered the disciples.
The First Sunday after Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday
The Second through the Twenty-Seventh Sundays after Pentecost
The Last Sunday after Pentecost, or the Sunday before Advent
Colors of the Church Seasons:
Each Church season has its own color.
White or Gold:
Used for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Transfiguration, Weddings, Baptisms and Burials. These colors symbolize joy.
Used during Pentecost and on martyred saints' days. Red is also used for confirmations and ordinations. It symbolizes the power and fire of the Holy Spirit as well as the blood of martyrs.
Used during Advent and Lent as well as on Ember Days (a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday following the First Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday, September 14th, or December 13th, and set apart for prayer and fasting), and Rogation Days (the three days before Ascension Day, when prayers are offered for the harvest). Purple is a penitential color as well as a sign of Christ's royalty.
Used during the seasons of Epiphany and Pentecost. It is a universal color and symbolizes creation, nature, and hope.
Used only on Good Friday. It denotes grief.
Nov. 30: St. Andrew the Apostle
Dec. 21: St. Thomas the Apostle
Dec. 25: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Dec. 26: St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
Dec. 27: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
Dec. 28: The Holy Innocents
Jan. 1: The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Jan. 6: The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Jan. 18: The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle
Jan. 25: The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
Feb. 2: The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple
Feb. 24: St. Matthias the Apostle
Mar. 19: St. Joseph
Mar. 25: The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Apr. 25: St. Mark the Evangelist
May 1: St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
May 31: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 11: St. Barnabas the Apostle
June 24: The Nativity of St. John the Baptist
June 29: St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles
July 4: Independence Day
July 22: St. Mary Magdalene
July 25: St. James the Apostle
Aug. 6: The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Aug: 15: St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of Jesus
Aug. 24: St. Bartholomew the Apostle
Sept. 14: Holy Cross Day
Sept. 21: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Sept. 29: St. Michael and All Angels
Oct. 18: St. Luke the Evangelist
Oct. 23: St. James of Jerusalem, the Brother of Jesus, and Martyr
Oct. 28: St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles
Nov. 1: All Saints