GUIDE TO THE SERVICE
We believe that active participation in spoken and sung worship possesses the potential to nourish and transform individuals, equipping them to engage in God’s work of reconciliation in the world. This brief handout is a supplement to the worship bulletin, providing additional information about the service for those unfamiliar with the Episcopal Church or those wishing to know more about why we do what we do.
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (often referred to as the BCP)
Our service comes from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 (the red or black book in the pews) and other authorized texts. The Book of Common Prayer was first published in 1549 and has undergone numerous revisions and translations. It is used by Anglicans (including Episcopalians) around the globe.
Our music comes from The Hymnal, 1982 (the blue book in the pews) and other authorized sources. All of our music embraces our Anglican roots while actively promoting those composers often marginalized due to their gender expression or race. We believe the act of creating music is a sincere offering of devotion to honor and glorify God.
WORSHIP WITH YOUR WHOLE SELF
During the service, we worship with our whole selves, our bodies, our voices, and our silence. It is customary to stand, sit, and kneel during the service. As the presider invites you into these customary postures, please understand that you are invited to adopt any posture which is comfortable for you and that supports your ability to worship.
WE GATHER IN THE NAME OF GOD
The organist typically plays before the service. This is a time to say hello to each other or to sit silently, doing what your soul needs to prepare you for worship.
A person carrying a cross (crucifer) leads the procession. It is customary to stand for the hymn and bow as the cross passes by as a sign of respect. Lay altar servers follow the cross in procession, then the choir, then the ordained clergy. The clergy person presiding at the service will be last.
THE GREETING (OPENING ACCLAMATION)
The presider greets the congregation with “Blessed be God” or a similar phrase. This is similar to ancient Jewish prayers. Some people will make the sign of the cross along with the presider. The sign of the cross is often made by touching your forehead, sternum, left shoulder, right shoulder, and sternum again.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
A prayer from the 11th century that helps focus our intentions. It is an optional prayer and in certain seasons we don’t use it.
SONG OF PRAISE
As early as the 3rd century a song of praise was sung after the entrance. This hymn is either a Gloria (Glory to God), a Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy), a Trisagion (thrice holy), or some other song of praise. The Gloria is not used during the seasons of Advent and Lent.
A collect is a prayer that “collects” our thoughts and often announces a theme for the day. The collect of the day changes each week and is linked to the weekly lessons. Many of these prayers are ancient, while some are modern.
WE PROCLAIM AND RESPOND TO THE WORD OF GOD
Like many churches we use a three-year fixed cycle of readings called a lectionary. The first reading is usually from the Old Testament—a set of scriptures very similar to the Hebrew Bible. From them we learn how God is revealed in Judaism. A response, usually a Psalm, follows. This is either chanted or spoken. Then a reading from the New Testament, usually letters written during the earliest years of the church. Following the ancient Jewish custom, the lessons are read by a representative of the congregation, and the people respond to each reading by saying, “Thanks be to God.”
Proclamation of the Gospel is the high point of the first part of the service, and it is customary to stand. The Gospel is processed into the midst of the congregation with accompanying music. This signifies the Word—Christ—coming into our midst. The Gospel is always read by an ordained person. Prior to the Gospel, some people make a small sign of the cross with their right thumb on their forehead, lips, and chest as a way of physically saying, “Christ be in my mind, and on my lips, and in my heart.”
The homily breaks open the Word, similar to how the bread is broken open at Communion. The homily strives to help us apply scripture to our own times and our own community. Preaching was rare in the Middle Ages but became prominent following the Reformation. Homilies here are usually around 12 minutes in length.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Nicene Creed)
Customarily, we stand and proclaim the historic understanding of our faith. The version we use is a translation of the church’s statement of faith as adopted by the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon in the 4th and 5th centuries.
WE PRAY FOR THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
The practice of public prayer also has roots in Judaism. Prayers of the people have been included at this point of the service since at least the 2nd century. Each week a trained lay person writes the prayers. Another lay person reads them. Prayers are always offered for the universal church, its members and mission; the nation and all in authority; the welfare of the world; the concerns of the local community; all who suffer or are in any trouble; and the departed. Space is always made for you to add your own prayers either silently or aloud.
CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION
Public confession of sin arose during the Reformation. A moment of silence may precede the confession as a time to gather our thoughts about how we have fallen short of our baptismal promises. It is customary to kneel or stand for this. We say the confession in unison, then a priest absolves us and reassures us of God’s forgiveness. Some people make the sign of the cross during the absolution.
The exchange of the Peace is like a hinge, joining together the two parts of the service. The Peace is not just a greeting but an important symbol of God’s gift of peace and a response to Jesus’s command to be reconciled to each other before offering our gifts at the altar. A nod, a wave, a handshake, or, if both are comfortable, a hug are appropriate ways to share the peace. Greet people by saying “Peace be with you,” and respond by saying, “And also with you.”
WE MAKE EUCHARIST
After the presider says a line of scripture, the choir typically sings an anthem. During the anthem the ushers will pass offering plates around the congregation. Please give as generously as you are able, by either putting cash or checks into the plates or by donating online (a QR code is in the bulletin). Many people make an annual financial pledge—a sign of commitment to God and to the church—in proportion to their income and ability. Pledging allows the Vestry (the governing body) to set realistic budgets. Also during the offertory the altar ministers begin to prepare the altar for Eucharist. As the gifts of bread, wine, and alms (offering plates) are brought forward, we stand and sing a hymn. The gifts are placed on the altar to be blessed for Communion. Water is customarily added to the wine; this is because Jewish table wine was always watered before use. Christians sometimes see this mixing of water and wine as a symbol of the union of God and humankind in Jesus.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER—THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
Eucharist is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving.” The words and actions at the altar unfold according to a four-fold pattern established by Jesus as he fed the multitudes and again at the Last Supper. When Jesus fed people, he took bread and wine, gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave them to the people. These four actions—take, bless, break, give—are accompanied by the words of the Eucharistic prayer. The presider prays on behalf of the congregation, but everyone participates. There are many different Eucharistic prayers used in Episcopal churches, some ancient, many modern. The specific prayer used will be listed in the bulletin.
SURSUM CORDA (Lift up your hearts)
The prayer always begins with the Sursum Corda—Latin for “lift up your hearts.” This is an ancient Jewish dialogue prayer that Jesus and his followers may have prayed and was used in the very earliest Christian communities. This is followed by an extended thanksgiving for the work of God in creation and throughout history.
The Sanctus, or Holy, Holy, Holy, that we sing is another ancient song of praise and thanksgiving found in both scripture and Jewish worship. In this hymn we join with angels and archangels, reminding us that communion in the body of Christ knows no boundaries of time or space.
The prayer of consecration contains three essential parts: the words of institution said by Jesus at the Last Supper (“this is my body/blood”); the anamnesis (Greek for “memorial”), which commemorates the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; and the epiclesis (Greek for “invocation”), the petition that invites the Holy Spirit to permeate the elements. Some people make the sign of the cross during the epiclesis. The Eucharistic Prayer is a corporate prayer, and it is the entire prayer prayed by the whole community that consecrates the elements. This is confirmed by everyone saying “Amen” (“so be it”) at the end of the prayer. All are invited to join the presider in a solemn bow as a sign that Christ is fully present.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have versions of the Lord’s Prayer. We use the version of the Lord’s Prayer that was crafted by the International Consultation on English Texts in 1975. The doxology (“For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever”) is included by most Protestant denominations.
The presider breaks the consecrated bread in silence and begins to prepare to distribute Communion. After a fraction anthem is sung or said, the presider invites everyone to share Communion. The altar party receives first, then the choir, then the congregation.
WE SHARE THE GIFTS OF GOD
HOW TO RECEIVE
Follow the directions of the ushers. Both standing and kneeling to receive Communion have long historical precedents, and both are appropriate. To receive the bread, place your hands together, palms up, with one hand on top of the other. The person distributing the bread will say, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” Please consume the bread as soon as you receive it. Individuals at higher risk for infection are encouraged to receive the bread only. If you wish to receive the cup, please help guide the chalice to your lips. If you do not wish to receive the cup, cross your arms over your chest or simply touch the base of the chalice while the chalice bearer says the words of administration (“The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation”). Saying “Amen” afterwards acknowledges your reception of the Sacrament. Remember: Christ is fully present in ALL elements of the Sacrament. To receive a blessing instead of Communion, simply cross your arms across your chest as the priest approaches. If you need Communion brought to you in the pew, please notify the ushers. Anyone who does not receive the Sacrament today is invited to say the prayer of spiritual communion found in the bulletin.
Prayers for healing are offered at the Langdon Chapel either before or after receiving Communion. Healing ministers keep a strict rule of confidentiality but share only what you are comfortable sharing with them. The minister may lay hands on your head, shoulders, or neck and offer a prayer for God’s presence and healing. The minister may also mark the sign of the cross on your forehead.
After everyone has received Communion, the remaining elements are consumed so that no part of the consecrated bread and wine remains. A small amount is typically set aside to take to people who are unable to be at church for health reasons. The post-Communion prayer expresses our gratitude for the sustenance and blessing we have received and directs us to our service to God in our daily lives in the world. It is customary to stand for this.
As our attention turns from the altar to our work in the world, information is shared about our ministries and our common life. More information is found in the Parish Notes and on our website.
While Word and Sacrament are the primary blessings we receive, since the 4th century it has been customary for the presider to pray a sending blessing on the congregation. In Lent, this becomes a solemn prayer over the people. Many people make the sign of the cross during this.
Following the cross, liturgical leaders (altar party, choir, and clergy) process out of the nave and gather at the baptismal font.
The dismissal is where the term “the Mass” comes from. In Latin, the dismissal is “Ite missa est,” or “It is the dismissal.” People hearing this every week came to describe the whole service as a “missa” or Mass. The dismissal is a powerful reminder that the purpose of our liturgy is to be sent out. Instructed by the scripture and fed by Communion, we are sent forth as ministers of Christ, living out what we have just celebrated—God’s real and active presence in our lives and the world.
Following the service, please introduce yourself to a welcome minister (wearing nametags) or any of the clergy. Fill out a welcome card. Grab a cup of coffee or some snacks at social hour, and let us know what you think of the service and what brought you to All Saints this morning. Your presence is a blessing; may you feel God’s blessing through worship at All Saints.