About Episcopal Worship
Features of Episcopal Worship
The Episcopal Church is a liturgical church, which means we follow an order of service. A full text bulletin is provided for most services at St.Andrew’s. The bulletin serves as a “program” with notes which assists worshipers in fully participating. The bulletin is created using The Book of Common Prayer.
Worship is participatory
In most Episcopal congregations, Holy Communion, also called the Holy Eucharist, is the primary weekly worship service and gathering of the community.
The order of service for Holy Eucharist usually comes from The Book of Common Prayer.
This Prayer Book was written so that all of God’s people might join in the acts of corporate (that is, community) worship. All are invited to lift up their hearts and voices to God, joining in saying the responses and the creed and singing hymns and other service music heartily. Worshipers say “amen” at the end of prayers, making them their own.
Worship is biblical
Episcopal worship is grounded in the Bible. Most worship services include at least a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a reading from the New Testament. The Episcopal Church uses a schedule for these readings, so that over the course of a three-year period, most of the Bible will be read aloud during worship services. (Visit our Liturgical Calendar and Lectionary page). Many of the prayers and other elements of services also come from the Bible, as does most of the content in The Book of Common Prayer.
In most Episcopal churches, the Gospel reading is presented in the middle of the church—a physical manifestation of the idea of the word of God being brought to the people. Often worshipers will turn toward the priest or deacon as he or she reads the Gospel.
Worship is focused on the altar unlike some churches in which the pulpit is the focus of attention. The Episcopal Church places the altar in the central position. This is because, as the place where Holy Communion is celebrated, it is a symbol of the presence of the living God. This reminds us that we do not come to church primarily to hear scripture or a sermon, to listen to the choir sing or to be entertained, but to encounter Christ.
These things—and all we do in church—are means to make ourselves present to God.
Worship is relevant
Although some of the practices in Episcopal worship hail from ancient times, one goal of Episcopal worship is to find the point of intersection between the story of a particular church, the story of the people worshiping, and God’s story of God’s presence in the world – past, present and future. Because of this, current events in the world and in the communities where we gather to worship are relevant. The question that is often asked is, “What is God saying to this gathered community at this particular time in history?” Prayers, readings and music in worship often emphasize this question.