What to Expect

Visiting a new church can be intimidating: What should I wear? Where do I park? Where do my kids go?

We understand the many thoughts that can come from visiting a new church, so we want you to feel completely comfortable when you visit. Below are some frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to contact us or talk with an usher or greeter when you visit.

What should I wear to an Episcopal Service?

What you wear is entirely up to you.  Some people like to dress up to go to church, and this is more tradition than necessity.  You will see people in dresses and suits, and you will see people in shorts and jeans. The important thing is your presence… NOT the kind of clothes you are wearing!

This topic is discussed in James 2:2 . . . “For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Here at Chapel we hope you come as you are, and we hope you’ll feel comfortable, and at home.

Do I have to pay anything to go to church?

There is no fee to attend church, but an Offertory is taken as part of the service.  This passing of the plate and our annual giving are what keep the church alive.  The money goes towards outreach, maintaining the building, paying our clergy and staff, and stocking administrative and liturgical supplies.

How do Episcopalians worship?

If you are familiar with Roman Catholic or Lutheran services, you will find Episcopal services remarkably similar.  Our main service, or rite, is the Service of Holy Eucharist, which is also known as Communion, or The Lord’s Supper.  This is analogous to the Roman Catholic Mass and even referred to as “Mass” by some Episcopalians.  The first part of the liturgy, The Liturgy of the Word, consists of prayers, scripture readings and a sermon or homily. This is followed by an Affirmation of Faith, usually The Nicene Creed, the Prayers of the People, Confession of Sin, Absolution, and the Exchange of Peace.  The second part of the liturgy, The Liturgy of the Table, begins with the offerings of the congregation, then proceeds with the Eucharistic Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, Consecration of the Elements (bread and wine), Communion, the Post-Communion Prayer, Blessing and Dismissal.  Two Eucharistic Rites are commonly used by Chapel of Our Saviour: Rite II which uses contemporary language and the more traditional Rite I, which is a little more formal and uses Elizabethan English.  Depending on the season of the year, we also may offer a Celtic Rite, a Scottish Rite, or some other similar Rite from a different part of the Anglican Communion.

I’m planning on visiting an Episcopal Church. May I take communion?

Of course! The official policy of The Episcopal Church is that all baptized Christians may receive communion. At Chapel of Our Saviour, we welcome all who join us at the table of our Lord, and a baptismal certificate is never required.

I am unable to walk to the Altar to receive communion.  Can I still receive communion?

Of course you can!  Simply tell the usher or someone near you who is going to the Altar to have the Clergy bring communion to you.

At what age may a child take communion?

A child may take communion at any age.  We do not believe that a certain understanding is necessary for the sacrament to be valid.  The decision of when to take communion is left up to the child and her parents.  A good rule of thumb is similar to that of infants and table food, when the child begins reaching for the sacrament, it’s probably time.

I have already been baptized in another church.  If I become an Episcopalian, do I need to be re-baptized?

No. “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”  Once you have been baptized with water, in the name of the Trinity, you have been received by adoption into the family of Christand it need not be repeated.  This is true even if you were a tiny baby when you were baptized.  If you wish to make a public, adult affirmation of faith, you may choose to be confirmed, if appropriate.  And you always have the option of publicly reaffirming your baptismal vows, even after confirmation, if you feel so moved, but this is not in any way required.

How do I join The Episcopal Church?

If you are coming from a church in the Apostolic Succession, i.e., Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, and have already been confirmed, you would be received by the bishop in a ceremony that normally takes place during the bishop’s visit to our church.

If you are coming from a different tradition, confirmation is appropriate. We hold inquirer’s courses or the catechumenate for people interested in confirmation, prior to the bishop’s visitation.  Talk to one of our clergy if you are interested.  Confirmation or reception is NOT necessary before you can take communion, or participate in the life of the church.

What does “Episcopal” mean?

“Episcopos” is the Greek word for “bishop.”  Thus “Episcopal” means “governed by bishops.”  The Episcopal Church maintains the three-fold order of ministry as handed down by the Apostles — deacons, priests and bishops — in direct descent, via the laying on of hands, from the original Apostles.  “Episcopal” is an adjective: “I belong to the Episcopal Church.”  The noun is “Episcopalian”: “I am an Episcopalian.”

What is The Episcopal Church?

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  It came into existence as an independent denomination after the American Revolution.  Today it has between two and three million members in the United States, Mexico, and Central America.

Although the church subscribes to the historic Creeds (the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed), considers the Bible to be divinely inspired, and holds the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper to be the central act of Christian worship, the Episcopal Church grants great latitude in interpretation of doctrine.  The church tends to stress less the confession of particular belief than the use of the Book of Common Prayer in public worship.  This book, first published in the sixteenth century, even in its revisions, stands today as a major source of unity for Anglicans around the world.

How is the church governed?

In an established, self-sustaining congregation, called a parish, day-to-day matters are handled by a panel of elected lay people called a “vestry.”  The rector or head priest, handles spiritual and worship-related matters, and usually serves in an advisory capacity on church committees.  Depending on the size of the congregation, the rector may have one or several ordained assistants.  Often there will be other lay or ordained people in charge of specific areas, such as a music director, who coordinates worship music for the congregation, or a “sexton” who handles physical maintenance of the church building and grounds.  Churches that are not self-sustaining are called “missions.”  Often they are newly formed congregations, or congregations with a very small membership.  These churches are administered by the bishop’s office.  The head priest of a mission is called a “vicar” because he or she serves as the bishop’s representative.  All individual congregations are part of a larger geographical area called a “diocese,” which is lead by a bishop.

What is the Anglican Communion?

The Anglican Communion is an inheritor of 2000 years of catholic and apostolic tradition dating from Christ himself, rooted in the Church of England.  When the Church of England spread throughout the British Empire, sister churches sprang up.  These churches, while autonomous in their governance, are bound together by tradition, Scripture, and the inheritance they have received from the Church of England.  These churches together make up the Anglican Communion, a body headed spiritually by the Archbishop of Canterbury and having some 80 million members, making it the second largest Christian body in the Western world.

How did The Episcopal Church get started?

Since the establishment of the first English colony at Jamestown, the Anglican Church has been present here in North America.  Following the American Revolution, some reorganization was necessary for those Anglicans who chose to remain in the new country.   The Church of England is a state church which recognizes the monarch as her secular head and this was obviously, not a popular idea in post-Revolutionary America!  Thus the “Protestant” Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. was born.  Eventually the word “protestant” was dropped from the official name of the church, as many consider themselves to be American Catholic or English Catholic.

So is The Episcopal Church Protestant or Catholic?

The answer is complicated; Both, Neither and Either.  Anglicanism is often referred to as a “bridge tradition.”  When the Church of England separated itself from Rome, it did not consider itself to be a “Protestant” tradition.  Rather, it saw itself returning to the original organization of the church, with local/national congregations organized under the rule of their own bishops.  As the church evolved in England, certain elements of the Reformation, such as worship in the vernacular, an emphasis on Scriptural authority, and a broader view of what happens during the consecration of the Eucharist became a part of its tradition.  In an attempt to reconcile the views of the Reformers with the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Anglican tradition became a home for both.  Thus you will find very traditional “high church” or “Anglo-Catholic” parishes and very reformed “low church” or Evangelical parishes throughout the Anglican Communion.  Most parishes probably fall in the middle of the two extremes.  We pride ourselves on being the via media or the “middle way.”

Isn’t the Archbishop of Canterbury the Anglican Pope?

No, he’s not.  We don’t have a pope.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Church of England, and is considered “first among equals” by the rest of the Anglican Communion.  He is highly respected, but he does not have the same authority over the churches of the Anglican Communion that the Pope has over the Roman Catholic Church.

What is the significance of the Episcopal shield?

This symbol, which you will see at virtually every Episcopal Church and web site, is the official logo of TEC, and depicts our history.  It is red, white and blue…the colors of both the U.S. and England.  The red Cross of St. George on a white field is symbolic of the Church of England.  The blue field in the upper left corner is the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.  It features a Cross of St. Andrew, in recognition of the fact that the first American bishop was consecrated in Scotland.  This cross is made up of nine crosslets, which represent the nine dioceses that met in Philadelphia in 1789 to form the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.