If you are an Episcopalian then you will immediately feel at home. If you are not an Episcopalian then we want to help you get comfortable with the worship service. We invite all Christians to participate fully in the service -- we do not require one to be (or to become) an Episcopalian to worship with us.
Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians will notice the similarity between our worship and that to which you're accustomed since our liturgies all come from a common source. Other Christians may be a bit confused at first so here are some things to help you orient yourself and join our worship.
Episcopalians use the Book of Common Prayer (or BCP) for our liturgy -- it's a blue book with a cross on the cover and you'll find one in the pew. You will be given a service bulletin when you enter the church. The bulletin contains the hymn numbers, the scripture readings and the order of worship with BCP page numbers. There are two other books in the pews: the 1982 Hymnal (it also has a blue cover) and Lift Every Voice and Sing (a hymnal with a multicolored cover).
As you take your seat before the service, you may notice worshipers praying quietly. The tradition of praying before the service is very common and we invite you to kneel on the kneeler or sit quietly in the pew according to your preference. During the service people sit, stand and kneel at various times. You may do as we do or you can just sit if you prefer. Generally we sit to listen and learn, kneel to pray and stand to praise or affirm.
The service will follow the liturgy of the BCP (Rite I or Rite II according to the schedule). The service bulletin has the page numbers for the parts of the service and it will assist you in finding the proper place in the BCP. It can be confusing at first, and we understand that because each of us had to learn how to follow the order of worship. After attending a few services it becomes second nature to follow the liturgy and participate in the service. Until you are comfortable, it may help to have someone familiar with the service sit with you to offer assistance, and we are happy to do so. If at any time you feel you've lost your place in the liturgy, nudge a neighbor and ask for guidance. We've all needed help with the liturgy at one time or another so don't hesitate to ask for assistance.
All baptized Christians are invited to receive Holy Communion when attending an Episcopal church. Come forward and kneel at the altar rail. The priest will distribute the bread to the communicants. A communicant may drink wine from the chalice (the common cup) or may dip the bread into the wine in the intinction cup. When you kneel at the altar rail, place one hand over the other to receive the bread in the palm of your hand. If you wish to drink from the common cup then lift the bread to your mouth and eat it. Gently hold the chalice by the base and guide it to your lips. If you prefer not to drink from the common cup (the chalice) then hold the bread in your hand. The eucharistic minister with the common cup will move past you. The minister with the intinction cup will come to you. Take your bread and dip it in the wine in the intinction cup and then consume the bread.
If you are unable to come to the communion rail, please notify an usher so that communion may be brought to you in the pew.
Those who are not baptized or who do not wish to receive communion are invited to come to the altar rail and kneel to receive a blessing. Cross your arms over your chest as a sign that you are covered by the cross of Christ and the priest will be glad to offer you a blessing.
Above all, remember that we are here to worship -- to praise and thank God. If you offer heartfelt praise and thanks to God then you've done what we all came to do regardless of whether or not you find the right page in the BCP. And we are glad that you joined with us to worship our Lord.
Almighty God, assist us to see your vision of the growth and vitality of St. Philip's. Help us to reach those who do not know your saving grace. Deepen our commitment; increase our faith and trust, that we may live as witnesses to you. May the Holy Spirit lead us to the service you would have us do, as servants of Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.