To the Anglican tradition, two things are even more important than what we say. They are how we worship and how we solve problems. In fact, for much of our history how we worship is precisely how we have worked on our problems. It is also how we learn to better relate to each other and to take responsibility for the world around us.
We leave neither our minds, nor our hearts, nor our bodies at the church door.
For Episcopalians, being at worship brings us alive. For us, it is also a sensory experience; a very revealing side of who we are. We participate in creative, energizing worship that:
- engages all the senses
- provides rhythm and balance through the church year
- is formed by ancient rites that include communal prayers, music, responses and actions
- prepares us to be Christ’s hands in the world.
The worship patterns of the Book of Common Prayer (B.C.P.), and the biblical tradition it illuminates, express all that we hold dear. It reminds us of how the many different values we cherish are connected with one another. While no two Episcopal churches are exactly alike, they all follow a general worship pattern with Jesus Christ as the center of worship. Through worship, Episcopalians:
- affirm our faith
- pray together
- reconcile together
- share peace and thanksgiving together
- gain strength and renewal through Eucharist
- prepare ourselves to minister to the world.
We share hope in God’s incredibly extensive grace to forgive all repentant people.
If you are looking for a church where Jesus is central,
A church that is not afraid to ask difficult questions,
Of Him and of itself,
Then you are in the right place. ¹
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer outlines our worship. It also “is a commentary on the creeds, but is not meant to be a complete statement of belief and practices, rather it is a point of departure…” (B.C.P., p. 844). As a lay minister in the Episcopal church put it, “We find our unity in shared worship, not enforced agreement.” ²
The two creeds used by the Episcopal Church:
- The Apostle’s Creed is an ancient creed of Baptism. It is used in the Church’s daily worship to recall our Baptismal
- The Nicene Creed is the creed of the universal Church and is used at Eucharist.
Additionally, the Baptismal Covenant is used at baptisms, Easter and other special occasions. It is a shorter question and answer version of the Apostle’s Creed with five additional questions describing how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith.
Episcopalians try to love with the heart of Christ, think with the mind of Christ, and act as if we were the body of Christ.
Worship is liturgical, literally meaning the work of the people.
Our central rite (Sunday worship service) is the Service of the Holy Eucharist – Communion or The Lord’s Supper – analogous to the Roman Catholic Mass and referred to as Mass by some Episcopalians. We are a liturgical church, which means we all participate in Sunday worship.
How Does One Participate?
Sometimes people kneel, sometimes they sit and sometimes they stand. Sometimes communities sing, sometimes they speak responses. Some responses are some word, Amen or Alleluia – and others are longer. While each Episcopal church follows the central rite there are many variations. Most Episcopal communities provide bulletins to help one follow the service. Participate as you feel comfortable – chances are if you look around, you’ll notice that not everyone participates the same, but we are participating as a community. For many the familiar rhythm enables a profound spiritual experience with God.
If you’re curious to learn more about what happens during an Episcopal service, here’s a blog post describing each stage in detail.
The Episcopal Church has two main sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist (communion). Other sacraments include Confirmation, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders (Ordination), and Anointing of the Sick (Unction).
Episcopalians see Eucharist as the Lord’s Table, and sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.
¹ Dennis Maynard quote used with permission – “Those Episkopols” by Dennis R. Maynard at Episkopols.com. Not to be copied or duplicated in any form without written permission of the author.
² Lou Poulain, “101 Reasons to be Episcopalian“