We offer this page as a “What to Expect” when you join us on a Sunday Morning for worship. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as you prepare to join us on a typical Sunday morning.
When you enter the church a sidesperson will greet you and give you a bulletin which contains the order of service. (This is your basic program or frame for the service.) Please let the sidesperson know if you’re new to the Anglican Church, or a visitor to St. John’s, or if you have any questions.
Prior to the service beginning, it is customary to take some time in prayer in one’s pew for personal preparation for worship. For many, it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.
Many Anglicans do not talk in church before the service, however, at St. John’s you will find that there is often a great deal of laughter and conversation before the service begins. It is indeed a very friendly atmosphere.
In the pews you will find 3 books. The green book (most frequently referred to as either “the green book” or “the B.A.S”) is the Book of Alternative Services, containing the words for the service. The modern rite of the Holy Eucharist (communion), beginning on page 185, is the service we generally use each Sunday. Your pew bulletin will give you the page numbers for the various prayers and the text for the psalm.
Common Praise (the bright blue book in your pew) is the hymn book that we most frequently use in our Sunday worship. You will find the hymn numbers either in the bulletin or up on the hymn board at the front of the church. Our other two sources of hymns are either the dark blue book in your pew called “Gather” or other more contemporary hymns that will be handed out with your bulletin.
When do I Sit, or Stand or Kneel?
If you’re not familiar with Anglican customs, you may wonder when to sit, or stand or kneel. Frankly, practices vary, even among individual Anglicans. Most frequently, at St. John’s, when there is direction given as to body postures through the service, the direction will be qualified with “as you are able” (ie. “Please stand, as you are able.” Generally speaking though, we stand to sing, we stand to affirm our faith as we say or sing the creed, and we stand to hear the gospel read. Throughout the various prayers, you will find that some sit, some stand, and some people prefer to kneel. Although some folks may prefer the uniformity of the entire congregation kneeling or standing or sitting to pray all at the same time, nonetheless, even when we pray together – it is both corporate and intensely personal, and our body postures for prayer reflect that. So sit or stand or kneel to pray, as you feel called to do.
So… On to the Service…..
Before the Service
As parishioners enter the church, the musician plays a prelude…. a hymn or medley of sorts which will help to set the tone for the service. Immediately before the processional hymn (opening hymn) the rector will informally welcome the congregation and make announcement concerning parish activities and events.
THE GATHERING OF THE COMMUNITY
Processional Hymn: We normally begin our service with an opening hymn. The hymn number is noted on the hymn board at the front of the church or in the bulletin. The procession symbolizes the gathering of God’s people to worship.
Opening Greeting (BAS p185): This greeting reminds us why we are gathered to worship.
Act of Praise: A hymn of praise is then offered. This may be the Gloria or another hymn of praises, but during Lent and Advent the more solemn Kyrie (Lord have mercy) or Trisagion(Holy God, Holy and mighty, Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us) may be used.
Collect of the Day: The priest then concludes the Gathering by leading a prayer that summarizes the spiritual themes for the day.
THE PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD:
Scripture Lessons: The Anglican church uses a lectionary that assigns the readings for each Sunday. In the course of a three year cycle, we read through most of the biblical text. Usually there are three readings: from the Old Testament, from the New Testament letters, and from the Gospels. Reading scripture during the service is based on ancient forms of Jewish worship. After each reading we allow a period of silence to respond inwardly to the words in thought and prayer.
Old Testament Reading
What we call “Old Testament” is in fact the Hebrew Scriptures referring to God’s first promise to Israel through Abraham. Jesus and his disciples would have heard and studied these writings. The New Testament refers to the New Covenant or promise made by God to humanity through Jesus. . You will note that there is a response from the people after each reading – “Thanks be to God”.
Psalms are ancient Hebrew hymns Christians and Jews have sung for thousands of years.
New Testament (Epistle)
These reading are mostly from letters (or Epistles) written by Paul and other evangelists offering comfort or instruction to the newly formed Christian churches. Many of their issues are familiar to us today.
“Gradual”, from the Latin word “step”, is attached to the name of this hymn since it was sung as the reader walked down the steps to where the lesson would be read.
Gospel (from old English words “God Spell” meaning “good news”)
Because the Gospels provide our best picture of Jesus, we honour the Gospel reading with a procession from the altar with the bible and we stand (as we are able) as we attend to their truth. A special set of responses occurs before and after the Gospel. During the reading of the Gospel, it is customary for all members of the congregation to face the reader, even if this means turning sideways or backwards in the pew.
SERMON: Following the readings the priest (or other preacher) seeks to proclaim God’s love reflected in these texts, applying them as much as possible to current issues in the church and the World.
Prayers and Intercessions
THE CREED: After the sermon, we stand and recite or sing the Creed (Nicene or Apostles’), a credal statement that summarizes the basic beliefs of the Christian faith, that was formulated early in the Church’s history. “Credo” literally means to “place your heart”. As followers of Jesus, we place our very hearts and lives in commitment to the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE: Prayer is an essential part of the Christian’s life. Our liturgy frames our prayer by reminding us of dimensions of our existence. In our prayers,either aloud or in the silence of our hearts, we often name members of our parish who are ill, as well as parishioners who have recently died.
CONFESSION OF SIN: Having heard the Word of God, affirmed our faith using the Creed and offered prayers for our various needs and concerns, we take a moment to prepare ourselves for Communion through confession. After the invitation to “confess our sins, confident in God’s forgiveness “, a moment of silence is offered to gather our thoughts about how we understand sin in our lives and take stock of that for which we are truly sorry and hope to correct or make amends. Confession has two main parts: identifying the sin and the intention to address it. While we recite the words together in a general form, it is intended that in our hearts, we reveal the particular intentions to God.
The priest then stands and offers absolution (forgiveness) for our sins through Jesus Christ. The priest reminds us of the words of scripture that assures us of God’s love for all His creatures.
THE PEACE: Following the Confession, we stand forgiven and offer a sign of peace to our neighbour. This is in line with the scriptural admonition that if you have a grievance with your brother or sister go and settle it before you offer your gift at the Altar. This is much more than “saying hello to your neighbour”, but rather is a symbol of regard for each person.
After the announcements a hymn is sung as we bring forth the bread and the wine for our Holy Communion. Alms plates are passed among the people gathered for worship. This offering supports the mission and ministry of our parish and beyond. Our stewardship of God’s many gifts to us is expressed in our gifts to the ministry of the Church. The tithe is the standard of giving for the Christian.
SURSUM CORDA: Holy Communion begins with the salutation between the Celebrant and the People, with the priest exhorting the people to “lift up your hearts”. This invitation asks people to place their hearts and minds on the Kingdom of Heaven where indeed God reigns.
SANCTUS AND BENEDICTUS: This text comes from Isaiah as the prophet finds himself in the presence of God and “cries holy unto the Lord”. It is a deep expression of praise that speaks to the majesty of God. This text has traditionally been set to music by some of the great composers of the church and in most of our liturgies, we sing the Sanctus and Benedictus.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER: Using ancient texts that recount the mighty acts of
THE LORD’S PRAYER: When Jesus taught his disciples this prayer it was a summary of all prayers. Placed in our liturgy at this place it again becomes the summation of our prayers to God in blessing the Bread and Wine.
FRACTION: The Eucharistic Prayer is followed by the breaking of bread (the Fraction), a Fraction Sentence. Then the priest invites the people to come and share in Holy Communion.
AGNUS DEI: During or immediately following the fraction (above) we pray to Christ as the perfect sacrificial offering who atones for the sin of the world [“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)], asking for his mercy and his peace.
Receiving the SacramentWe practice “Open Communion” in the Anglican Church. If you are a baptized Christian, you are welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament with us. Communion is first brought down into the community for those who find it difficult to climb the stairs to come to the altar. Then the rest of the community is invited to come to the altar rail to receive the sacrament. Opportunity is given to receive both the bread and the wine. To receive, simply place your overlapped hands in front of the minister.
After receiving the sacrament people return to their pews for a time of quiet contemplation. During this period our musician will play a reflective piece. Our post-communion prayer follows and reminds us of the spiritual graces we have received.
THE BLESSING: The traditional blessing by the priest is given, followed by the Recessional Hymn in which the ministers proceed to the back of the church. This is symbolic of our leaving worship to go into the world for service.
THE DISMISSAL: The layreader pronounces the dismissal, entreating us to go into the world to love and serve the Lord.
AFTER THE SERVICE: At the end of the service the musician plays a postlude, and people may enjoy it as they sit in the pews, or they may greet the parish priest and proceed to the parish hall for a cup of coffee, tea or juice and a chance to chat. Please join us.
Text adapted from: St. James’ Anglican Church, Manotick.