People throughout the world worship in many different ways. Individuals often come to prefer a particular style of worship that speaks to them. Regardless of how you might feel about the many religious traditions in the world each offers it's members a meaningful way to connect to god.
The style of worship here at St. Mary's is called anglo-catholic: “anglo” meaning that it developed in England, and “catholic” meaning that it embraces the heritage of the ancient Christian tradition. Although some anglo-catholic churches are very traditional, you'll find our worship is simplified and inclusive. We engage our spirits in worship by two means: by worshiping with the mind, as we hear, contemplate and proclaim God’s word; but also, worshiping with the wholeness of our body
One of the keys to our worship is the understanding that our liturgy functions on many levels of awareness. There is an intellectual component as we study the Scripture and contemplate our relationship with God. There is an emotional component as we express our love and our sorrow and all our other feelings which find a place in the liturgy. And, in the Eucharist, God also speaks to us in ways for which there are no words, to parts of our soul beyond the reach of our conscious mind.
Music is an important tool which assists our worship on all these levels. Speaking to our intellect, music effectively amplifies the words we sing, and the words we hear, words of Scripture and the deep and striking poetry of hymns and choral music. Emotionally, a poignant musical phrase, with or without words, might connect with our feelings, helping us express them more fully. And finally, forms of sacred music such as plain chant (unified recitation) are specially designed to reach past our conscious awareness by amplifying the rhythms of liturgy.
Sacred music is a spiritually-centered art form that is designed to fulfill specific functions in liturgy. Sacred music sounds different from popular music, and even from classical concert music, because it has an entirely different function. It is not primarily intended as entertainment. Sacred music is a form of prayer. The language of prayer is different from the language of entertainment. In every religion, it is known that music enables us to express that which is otherwise inexpressible. It enables us to touch the central depth of our humanness. It opens a door and enables us to know the presence of God.
When you sing a hymn, and when you listen to the choir sing, always pay attention to and contemplate the text, and allow God to use the music to speak to you. In its purest expression, church music can be wordless prayer. Keep your mind and your heart open for something you may not have heard before.
As Episcopalians, we have a musical heritage that is one of the world’s richest and most deeply spiritual. For 1500 years, Anglican church music has sought to tell the Christian faith in authenticity and truth. Our music is not a homogenous product, but an extremely diverse and multi-layered art form that celebrates and encompasses many different traditions. You might be interested, when singing hymns, to read the small print below each one and note the many and varied sources of the poetry and the music.
When the Anglican church was established in the 16th century, forms for worship were set out in a Book of Common Prayer to be used by all churches in England. The services in the Book of Common Prayer were essentially those that had historically been used in the church, but with an important change: they were now designed for greater understanding and participation by ordinary members of the congregation.
Today, the churches of the Anglican Communion reach around the world, but all share the heritage of the Book of Common Prayer. Although international provinces have their own prayer books, all seek to continue the ancient forms of worship handed down to us from the time of Christ, and the spirit and principles embodied in the first Prayer Book. As times change, the Prayer Book is updated so that ordinary members of congregations can continue to understand and participate in liturgy.
The forms of worship in the Prayer Book may seem unfamiliar, especially if your coming from an LDS or non-denominational background. The first time you encounter them you may feel a bit lost and confused; but you will find that our liturgy gives you an opportunity to connect with God and your neighbor in very special ways.
During our service, we use all the five senses in our worship: seeing color, light and movement; hearing music and silence and the rhythm of words; smelling the unique fragrances of the Church; touching through greetings , and tasting bread and wine.
Here at St. Mary's, our general custom is to sit to listen, to stand for prayer, and to kneel for confession. Standing is the ancient posture for prayer, and indicative that, as a result of God’s forgiveness, we need not cower but can stand before him without shame or fear.
There are also a number of personal actions you may notice from time to time among members of the congregation. They are used by those who find them helpful for engaging their hearts and minds in the meaning of the liturgy. They are optional, and not rules; they are intended as helps, to be used if you wish. It is a way of further engaging your mind and spirit in worship.
We may bow slightly in reverence to Our Lord, such as when the processional cross passes by, at the mention of the name of Jesus, or at the mention of the mystery of the Incarnation.
We may make the sign of the cross as a reminder of God’s saving grace, such as when a blessing is said, when we remember those who have died in Christ, at mention of the Trinity, and before receiving the consecrated bread and wine at Communion.
As a Christian community, we at St. Mary's find our center in the worship for which we gather each Sunday. Our service is called the "Eucharist", which is a Greek word meaning "Thanksgiving." During this time we believe Jesus to be truly present with us, as he assured us he would be, when we gather in his name. In our worship, we connect to God and to centuries of christian communities who have together partaken of Bread and wine. To read about the Eucharistic Service click here.
Each of us is on a journey, seeking the path to a sustaining relationship with God and with others. We at St. Mary's are like you, and have chosen to journey with one another here. At St. Mary's, we have become part of a living tradition which speaks to us, and challenges us to grow into a deeper faith.
Our services are open to all, and we will welcome you when you choose to join with us. In the meantime, if you would like information about participating in the life of the parish, or have questions or needs to which we may respond, please contact us.
In our worship each person has a role. The people in the congregation are no less participants in our worship than those sitting behind the altar.
We refer to our services as liturgy, which means the official corporate worship of the Church (corporate being what we do together as a body, as opposed to what we do as individuals). The word liturgy comes from the Greek meaning “a work done by the people.”
For our services, we provide a bulletin to assist you in using the Prayer Book (red) and the Hymnal (blue). The bulletin tells you all the page numbers and other directions you need. However, we recognize that our liturgy is complex, and can be somewhat confusing the first few times. Indeed, many of us remember when we were newcomers, and are sympathetic to your initial confusion. No one expects you to say every word of the service the first few times you try.
The first time or two, it is perfectly acceptable to simply let the sights and sounds of the liturgy wash over you, and worry less about page numbers than about opening your heart, and mind to the experience of worship. Then you can begin to learn to participate more actively in the service, using the Prayer Book, the Hymnal, and the leaflet. Don’t be shy about asking those around you for assistance; we are happy to help you.
Soon, you will find that much of the music and the words of the service will begin to print themselves upon your memory, and you will be able to follow the service with only occasional references to the books. Then you will be free to participate in a more relaxed way, because the liturgy will have become internalized. It will, indeed, be your own prayer, not prayers from a book. The books are tools to use toward an end — not an end in themselves.