Bread and WIne

What We Believe

We of the Episcopal faith believe the Bible, both Old and New Testament to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is the source of our belief and moral standards. As God's Word to us, the Bible is the lens through which we view and evaluate all other claims to truth. The use of the Bible is a prominent part of our worship. Eighty percent of the Book of Common Prayer is taken directly from the Bible. Each Sunday, readings and preaching from the Bible help us apply its teachings to our everyday lives.

A Catholic Church, Reformed - We believe that we are both "catholic" and "Protestant." Some people apply the word "catholic" to one branch of the Christian church only, namely the Roman Catholic Church. This can be confusing. The word "catholic" by definition means comprehensive, undivided or universal. We say we are a"catholic" church because we share the beliefs of the early, undivided Catholic Church. We maintain the traditions of the church through the use of the ancient rituals and sacraments of the Church and today the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are our statements of faith. We also believe we are "Protestant" or "reformed." Our distinction from the Roman Catholic Church was hammered out in the Protestant Reformation in England during the sixteenth century. The word "Protestant" means "to witness for." Protestants believe that our lives are saved by God's grace and not by our works. Church members,women and men, have a strong voice in church life and leadership. We encourage each member to arrive at a reasoned faith using the Scripture and traditions of the Church to inform their search.

A Liturgical Church - The Book of Common Prayer is the prayer book of the Episcopal Church and contains the format for how we conduct our worship services. Worship in the Episcopal Church ranges from the very plain to the very splendid. Episcopalians worship the Lord in private and in community. The congregation actively participates in worship by reading Scripture and saying prayers together. We stand to praise the Lord, we stand or kneel for prayer, and we sit for instruction. The rich seasons of the Church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost), sacred music (centuries old and modern) are integral parts of our church life. The liturgy reminds us of our love for God and reinforces us in carrying that message throughout the week.

A Relational Church - We believe God's love and grace are the rightful possession of all people. We believe that God best expressed His love and grace by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us in flesh and bone (the Incarnation). Therefore Episcopalians believe that God's love and grace are best expressed through Christ's Body, the Church. Thus we welcome everyone from the youngest to the oldest and invite them to be a part of our larger worshipping community.

A Sacramental Church - We believe in the two "great" sacraments -- Holy Baptism administered once to each person either in their infancy or later in life, and the Holy Eucharist (Communion). We believe these two sacraments are essential to the life of every true Christian. Other sacraments of our Church are Confession, Ordination, Anointing (administration to the sick), confirmation, and Matrimony.

What to expect when you visit The Episcopal Church.

You Will Be Welcome
We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us. We offer this document as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its ways.
The Place of Worship As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church is small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the edifice is. On the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12). There are flowers at the altar to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus. On one side at the front of the church, there is a lectern, for the proclamation of the Word. Here the Scriptures are read.

The Act of Worship - Episcopal church services are congregational. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer, the use of which enables the congregation to share fully in every service. You may wonder when to stand or kneel. The general rule is to stand to sing---hymns (found in the Hymnal in the pews) and other songs (many of them from the Holy Bible) called canticles or chants and printed as part of the service. We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. We sit to listen during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament, the sermon, and other presentations.

The Regular Services -
The principal service of the Episcopal Church is the Holy Eucharist . These services consist of psalms, Bible readings, prayers; a sermon and the Eucharistic service. Another service is Morning Prayers. Bible readings and certain prayers change weekly, in order to provide variety.
You will find the services of the Episcopal Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.

Before and After Services -
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.

The Church Year
The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar.

The Season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30.
Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6).
Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the Feast of Pentecost.
During these times the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year---the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays)---the New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.

Our Welcome Guest
When you visit an Episcopal church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. . We invite you to worship God with us. Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church or how one becomes an Episcopalian, the pastor will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.

History, Traditions, Beliefs and Organization

History -
The Anglican tradition emerged in the 16th Century, during a turbulent period of reform in the church. Anglican reformers chose a “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and the various forms of Protestantism, which developed in Europe at that time. There were two main stages in the spread of Anglicanism -- the first in the 17th Century, during the colonialization in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The second stage began in the 18th Century, when missionaries traveled to Asia, Africa and South America to spread the Gospel and to establish churches.

Approach to Faith -
The Episcopal Church strives to offer a moderate and inclusive approach to faith. While the church presents clear, biblically-based teaching and guidance on most subjects, we also understand that there are some issues in life that can be experienced and interpreted in different ways by different people. We encourage respectful listening, dialogue rather than debate, and “unity in diversity” among our members as we seek to live faithful and fruitful lives.

Episcopalians make extensive use of ritual, color and symbols to bring our worship alive. Central to our life in faith are the symbolic acts or rituals known as the Sacraments. Described as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”, theSacramental acts draw us into God’s presence and allow us to fully experience the grace of God in our lives. The Sacraments celebrated in the Episcopal Church are Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Confession, and Anointing With Oil.

What Episcopalians Believe
Although our members come from many different races and cultures and speak many different languages, we are unified by our belief in the transforming love and power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We believe that God offers unconditional love and eternal life to those who place their trust and faith in him and who strive to follow Christ's teachings of compassion, justice, mercy, respect, and love towards others. Central to our life in faith is the concept of "stewardship" -- the belief that all things in creation (including our own talents, skills, and financial resources) come from God. We believe that God has entrusted these gifts to us to be used wisely and responsibly for the good of all people.

The Episcopal Church consists of lay persons, deacons, priests and bishops. We consider all baptized Christians to be “ministers” as they share their gifts and talents. However, some members of the church feel called to be ordained as deacons, priests or bishops. In the Episcopal Church in the United States, both women and men are eligible for ordination. Deacons serve as a bridge between church and community.

Colors of Church Seasons
Green – Color of growth and is used during the seasons of Pentecost and Epiphany.
White – Color for occasions of joy and festivity such as Christmas, Easter, Trinity, nonmartyred saints, weddings and baptisms. At funerals it reminds us of the hope of Christ’s resurrection.
Red – Color symbolic of the tongues of fire which settled on the apostles at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit and is used at all feasts of the Holy Spirit such as Pentecost, ordinations and confirmations. It is also used on the days of martyred saints and reminds us of the blood they shed.
Purple – Color of penitence. It is used during Lent and, by some churches, used during advent.
Royal Blue – Color in Advent to remind us of our Lord’s promised return to reign with power and glory. A lighter blue is also the color associated with Mary and prepares us for the celebration of Christmas.
Black – Color once used for burials and is seldom seen in modern liturgy. Black or red are the traditional colors of Good Friday, and most Churches today choose red.

Elements of the Services -

Collect for the Day – This brief prayer collects our intentions for this particular day and summarizes the teachings of the season or day. These are found on pages 211 – 261 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Scriptures – These instruct us in Christian living and beliefs.
Prayers of the People – Here we prayfor the specific needs in the church, nation and world to avoid being too narrow in our self-centeredness. We are reminded in worship that we are a part of a greater fellowship, the Church, the Body of Christ, on whose heart lie the cares and concerns in the world.
The Confession of Sin – An opportunity to let go of our sins before we approach the alter. In ancient times, Confession and Absolution was not included because the Eucharist was understood to be a thanksgiving for our redemption from sin.
The Peace – This is a very ancient tradition and provides a natural flow to the Offertory. It symbolizes our intent to forgive as we have been forgiven, to live in peace and harmony with all persons, and it is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church.
HolyCommunion –Holy Communion (taking of the Holy Eucharist) is the great Action which Christ Himself ordained. This is our act of obedience to His Command to “Do this.” The worshiper should consciously offer himself to God throughout this part.
The Dismissal – Following the recessional hymn, we leave our worship to carry on our Lord’s work and mission in the world with a word of encouragement.

-Excerpts Reprinted by permission from St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Cheyanne, Wyoming, with our sincere appreciation.


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