What to Expect
When you visit an Episcopal Church, or any church at all, the first time may feel a little strange and intimidating. We want you to be able to relax and feel welcome and able to participate as you choose.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions at St. Simon's and a guide to what you might expect coming to a worship service at an Episcopal Church.
Where do I park?
There is ample parking available outside the church, and the sidewalk leads to the main entrance (red doors). Greeters are on hand to welcome you and help you get situated when you arrive.
What happens in a service?
The service lasts about an hour. All services include Scripture readings, a sermon (about 5 to 15 minutes), and Holy Communion (also known as Holy Eucharist). Services include music.
What happens after a Sunday service?
We welcome you to come to the common room (to the left of the main doors leading outside) for coffee and a delicious brunch, home-cooked each week. We also hold Adult Education discussion groups.
What do I wear?
You may wear whatever you want. Some people wear dresses or suits and ties, but many more are business casual, and still others wear jeans and t-shirts. Come as you are!
Will I be asked to give money?
We pass an offering plate during our services for our members and regular attendees to place their offerings. If you are a visitor or guest, please do not feel obligated to give.
What do my kids do?
Children are welcomed and loved at St. Simon’s, especially during our worship services. We do not currently have nursery or Sunday school staff, but there is space to take a break (there are coloring materials for children to enjoy and a nursery) if the need arises.
Please contact us with your questions. We would love to hear from you.
Episcopal Worship Service
The following information is shared to help you know what to expect from an Episcopal service and to support any accessibility needs. Every church is a little different, but this reflects what happens at St. Simon's. We hope you will feel comfortable enough to try it out!
We recommend arriving a few minutes before the service so you can get settled. Ushers or greeters will give you a bulletin/service leaflet/program when you arrive, which will guide you through the service.
You can sit anywhere you would like, we have no "assigned" seats.
A few minutes before the service there will be some instrumental music called the Prelude. It is meant to help us gather ourselves and prepare for the service.
We use the Book of Common Prayer. We sing using Hymnal 1982 and/or Lift Every Voice and Sing for most services.
Once we are ready to start the service, a bell rings and we sing a song together while standing if able. There will be a procession of liturgical ministers (people who have specific jobs to do during the service). Usually the procession is led by the cross and you may see people bowing to the cross as it passes as a gesture of respect.
The priest and the assembly (everyone else) say the Opening Acclamation, which is a formal greeting. The priest will announce the page where the service starts in the red prayer book.
Then there may be a short piece of music praising God or asking for God’s mercy.
The priest will say a prayer called a collect, which is meant to collect us and our thoughts together, as the concluding piece of our gathering.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
We all sit down to hear sacred stories or readings.
Usually there is a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament); a psalm, which we reach together; a reading from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) and a reading from the Gospels. These readings are part of a set “lectionary” which assigns readings for every Sunday on a three year cycle.
Because the Gospel -- the stories of Jesus’ life and death -- are central to our faith, that reading gets “special treatment.” The Gospel book is brought into the middle of the assembly and read by the priest. Everyone stands for this reading and turns and faces the Gospel Book.
Following the Gospel a sermon is preached. The sermon is meant to take what we have heard in the readings and connect that learning with our current lives.
After the sermon, the next several pieces of the service provide a way for us to respond to what we have heard. Because we are actively responding, we stand up at this point (or stay seated as comfortable for you). We say the Creed, an ancient statement of faith used by most Christian churches which binds us together with Christians of all generations.
We pray the Prayers of the People. These prayers are a series of petitions led by a member of the assembly with a response by the entire assembly at the end of each one. The petitions include prayers for the Church, the world, the nation, those who are sick and those who have died. The priest concludes these prayers with a collect, once again “collecting” our prayers.
After the prayers, during most of the year, we say the Confession. The confession is an opportunity to confess together the ways we have not loved God or others. At the conclusion of the confession, the priest says the absolution, words reminding us that God forgives our sins.
The priest then bids “The Peace” to enact our need to be in relationship with one another before we go to communion. We do that by saying “Peace be with you” to one another. People may shake hands or embrace each other. You can greet the people around you and you can leave your seat to exchange the Peace with more people.
The Peace is followed by announcements. This is not a formal part of the ritual but is a chance to let people know what is going on in the community and how to get involved.
THE LITURGY OF THE TABLE
A collection of money is taken while we sing a hymn together. Our offerings symbolize both bringing ourselves to worship and our support of the life of the community. You are welcome to contribute any amount of money or to put in nothing at all.
The bread and wine we will use for communion and the money that has been collected are brought to the Altar Table and the liturgical ministers set the Table for Communion.
The priest prays an extended prayer and praises God for God’s action in our lives. This section can be specific to the season we are in. This selection concludes with the Sanctus “Holy, holy, holy”, a response sung by the entire assembly.
The prayer continues with a retelling of the story of the Last Supper and the priest asking the Holy Spirit to come into the bread and wine and into us. At the end of the prayer, we all say Amen to assent to the prayer.
Everyone then prays the Lord’s Prayer.
Then the priest breaks a piece of the bread, symbolizing Christ’s body being broken for us.
Once the bread and wine are ready, the priest invites people to the meal.
People generally come forward and stand or kneel around the altar to receive communion. This is a good time to watch what others are doing and follow their example. People will line up to approach the altar according to where they are seated.
The official policy of the Episcopal Church is that all baptized people may receive communion. At St. Simon's we, along with other congregations, invite anyone who is seeking God to receive.
If you don’t want to receive communion that is totally fine. You can remain in your seat, or you can also come forward and cross your arms over your chest. The priest will offer you a blessing instead of communion.
If you do want to receive, hold out your hands and the priest will put a wafer in your hand. Then the wine chalice will be brought to you (and it is wine!).
You can eat the wafer when it is put in your hand and then take a sip of wine from the cup. It is okay and actually helpful for you to touch the cup and help guide it to your mouth.
If you don’t want to drink from the cup you can also pick up the wafer in your palms, dip the wafer into the wine, and then place it in your mouth.
It is also totally fine to receive only the bread or only the wine; either is considered a full receiving of communion. There are many reasons people might want to receive only one so don’t feel self-conscious about that.
Once you have received, simply return to your seat. Often music is sung during or near the end of communion.
Following communion, many parishioners choose to return to the altar area for a blessing or anointing. The priest places his hands on each person's head and speaks a short prayer of blessing.
After everyone has received communion, we say a prayer. The priest then asks God to bless us.
Another song is sung by everyone as the liturgical ministers process out.
At the end we are dismissed by the priest and sent out into the world.
Often there is an instrumental postlude played. It is fine to leave your seat at this point or you may want to remain and listen to the music.
Once the service is concluded, people can visit with one another.
People leaving customarily greet the priest at the door and we welcome you to introduce yourself as a newcomer.