If you haven’t been to an Anglican Church service before, you can think of this page as your “First-Time Guide to Visiting an Anglican Church.” We’re so glad that you’re here! Please know that you will be a welcome and respected guest. We won’t single you out in any way, and we won’t ask you to stand up or come forward. You will simply worship God with us.
When you enter our church, you will notice an atmosphere of reverence. Our church is built in the shape of a cross in the ‘carpenter gothic style.’ The focus point is the altar, a meeting place with God, which is surrounded by stained-glass windows of prominent figures in the Christian tradition.
On and near the altar you will see candles to remind us that Christ is the ‘light of the world.’ We often have flowers to beautify God’s house and to remind us of the resurrection of Jesus.
Some people bow at the altar or toward the Eucharist elements of bread and wine as an act of reverence for Christ when they enter or leave the church. This is a personal choice. Some of our members will visit with each other before the service begins, while others use this time for personal meditation and devotions. You are welcome to kneel in the pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship if you wish.
Our service will last about an hour. It is easy to follow and is printed in the bulletin, except for a few hymns, which will be shown on the PowerPoint or you can read the music in the blue Books of Common Praise in each pew.
Our service is rooted in the practices of the Early Church while open to contemporary expression and thought. In our worship, you will find traditional and contemporary songs, readings from both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the New Testaments, a sermon in which the "sense of the ancient story" interacts with our modern life and knowledge, prayers, and the sacrament of Eucharist (Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper), offered to all.
You may wonder when to sit, stand or kneel. You will see that practises vary among our members. Please do what feels comfortable to you. Most people stand to sing, to listen to the Gospel, and to say our affirmation of faith, the confession, and doxolgy. We sit during readings from the Bible and the sermon. We stand, sit, or kneel for prayer, depending on each person’s individual preference. You may also see some people bowing or making the sign of the cross at certain times, but these too are a personal choice.
You will find our service beautiful in its ordered dignity, God-centred, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of people.
We usually begin our gathering with a few announcements. The begin the service with a land acknowledgement and some moments of quiet reflection to become aware of God's presence within us and all around. Everyone, as able, stands up to join in the procession and opening song. You can find the hymns in the blue hymnal "Common Praise,” which is abbreviated as CP, and found in the pews.
The priest, and a server, (and sometimes the children join in) who will be carrying a beautiful cross, will walk in from the back of the church and take their places while this song is being sung. This procession reminds us of our call to follow Christ with every step that we take.
We will all join in a prayer called a Collect, which is meant to gather all of the hopes and prayers of the people, as well as the focus of that Sunday's worship, into one succinct prayer. The Collect will be printed in the bulletin and on the PowerPoint, and you are invited to read the bold print out loud with us. After praying the Collect, we will join in a Song of Praise. Each piece of the Anglican worship service is prayerful, beautiful, and symbolic of our spiritual journey in some way.
The service continues with readings from the Bible. We sit to listen to the first readings, but when the Gospel is read, all who are able will stand and turn to face the Bible and the one reading the Gospel. The readings are followed by a sermon. At St. Thomas, the sermon usually lasts about ten minutes.
After the sermon, we spend a minute in silence for prayer and reflection. Then we are invited to stand to recite a ‘creed’ together. The creed is a short statement summarizing what the church has believed. The creeds have been handed down to us through the centuries.
You will then be invited to stand, sit or kneel, depending on your preference, as a member of the congregation leads us in “The Prayers of the People.” This is a time when we bring our needs to God. Each Sunday, we pray for the church, the world, the sick and suffering, as well as other matters, depending on what is happening in the world and in our lives.
Most weeks, the priest then leads us in a short “confession and absolution.” We will read a short prayer together, where we acknowledge our own brokenness and our failings before God. Following that, the priest assures us of God’s forgiveness. The Anglican Church doesn’t dwell on guilt or sin, but we do acknowledge it as part of the human condition.
This section of the service ends with the “Passing of the Peace" where we share God’s peace with one another. Some people shake hands or wave to one another, and some say, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or more simply, “Peace.” You are welcome to simply nod and smile at the people around you.
The final section of the service begins with a hymn, called the “Offertory Hymn”. Offering plates are passed around to collect money to help the church and those in the community and the world. You are welcome to contribute, but don’t feel obligated. We take the offering as part of our worship to remind ourselves that we are giving back in thankfulness for all the blessings that we have been given. We bring these gifts to God, along with the gift our of hearts, our lives, and our daily efforts to follow Christ. We then join in a prayer over all of these offered gifts.
Next, the priest will lead us in a prayer to prepare us to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion, called “The Lord’s Supper” in some churches. During this prayer, we praise God and give thanks for everything our Creator has given us. We enter into this sacred ritual of the Church through the spoken and sung liturgy in the Presence of God. After we sing the Lord’s Prayer together, everyone is invited to come forward to receive the bread (a symbol of the body of Christ given in love) and wine (a symbol of the blood of Christ poured out with love). You may hold out two hands for a piece of bread, one hand for a communion wafer, or ask for a gluten free wafer. You may drink from the cup of wine, or touch the chalice as a symbol of receiving. You may stand or kneel to receive these elements, whichever is most comfortable for you. If it is difficult to come to the altar rails, the priest will come to you if you would like that. You can signify this desire by raising your hand at the end.
All are invited to join us for communion. You are equally welcome to come forward for a blessing. If you want the priest to bless you, cross your arms over your chest when they approach you. You may also choose to stay in your seat during this part of the service – it’s up to you!
The sides-persons will invite your row to come to the front of the church and either kneel or stand at the altar rail. You will be given the bread and wine. Most people say, “Amen,” before eating the bread, wafer, or sipping the wine, but you may also remain silent if you wish. If you don’t wish to receive communion, simply cross your arms over your chest when the priest approaches, and he will give you a blessing instead. Once you have received communion, you may return to your seat by going back up the side aisles.
After communion, there will be some closing prayers, and a final hymn. During this hymn, the priest, the deacon, and the server will walk to the back of the church. The recessional reminds us to follow Christ as we leave the church to serve Him in the world next week.
When the last hymn is finished, the priest will dismiss us with a final encouraging word. You are invited to remain in the pews for a few minutes in silent reflection and prayer. Then we all leave!
The priest, deacon, server and choir members usually wear ‘vestments’ to signify their special ministries and to add to the beauty and festivity of the service. Our choir vestments consist of a blue gown, while our priest and deacons wear albs. The alb is a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over this, they wear a stole, which is a narrow band of coloured fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders.
At the Eucharist, the priest will put a chasuble over the alb and stole. This is a circular garment that envelopes the body.
Stoles and chasubles, as well as altar coverings, are usually made of rich fabrics. Their colour changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colours are green, violet, white, and red.
The Anglican Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. Our church year starts during the season of Advent, when we prepare for Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent marks the beginning of the Easter season, which lasts for 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, the New Testament is usually read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings. The church year ends by celebrating the reign of Christ on the last Sunday before Advent.