“Wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.”
Portions of the following were adapted from an article originally written by Martha Ainsworth as a guide for visitors to St. John’s in the Village, an Episcopal parish in New York City
Participating in Worship at Grace
It is a central tenet of our worship that there are no spectators; all are participants. Different people have different roles, but all roles are equally important. The people in the congregation are no less participants in our worship than those with different functions who sit in the front.
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 worshipers with a worship program. The worship program contains all needed text used from the Book of Common Prayer 1982, hymnal page numbers and other directions as needed. We do recognize that, for those not familiar with it’s structure, the liturgy can seem complex and somewhat confusing at first. Indeed, many of us remember when we were newcomers and are sympathetic to a visitor’s 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, mind and senses to the presence of God. Then you can begin to learn to participate more actively in the service. 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 greater ease. Then you will be free to participate in a more relaxed way, because the liturgy will have become internalized. It will, indeed, become your own prayer.
Young people in Worship
John Westerhoff, a leading Christian educator, believes that young people are necessary in worship. Westerhoff believes that faith is “caught” not “taught” and what better way for children and youth to know what faith is all about than to be a full part of a community.
When a child is baptized in our community, the adults of the congregation promise to actively support the parents nurturing their child’s faith. As a church family we nurture the faith of our young people and in return we are nurtured. Our youths offer us the gift of trust and a fresh point of view; adults can share the gift of acceptance, experience and the wisdom of the church through the ages.
There are many options (Sunday School, Acolyting, reading, music, etc.) at Grace for our young people to participate to the extent that they are able and comfortable.
Our Worship Style
A word or two about the particular style of worship in this church. Christians throughout the world worship in many different ways. Individuals often come to prefer a particular style of worship that speaks to them in a significant way.
The style of worship here at Grace is called anglo-catholic: “anglo” meaning that it developed in England, and “catholic” meaning that it embraces the heritage of the ancient catholic tradition. Although some anglo-catholic parishes are very traditional, you will find our worship is simplified and inclusive. Not only do we use modern language, and more streamlined ceremonial actions, but roles of leadership in worship are shared among male and female, women, men and young people, clergy and lay persons.
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 — and this is the hallmark of anglo-catholic worship. We believe that the human body is a good thing. God declared the human body holy by coming to earth and having one himself. So in our worship, we use our bodies as well as our minds. Instead of just sitting, we move about. We use all our five senses in our worship: seeing color, light and movement; hearing music and silence and the rhythm of words; smelling the unique fragrance of incense; touching by clasping a hand or embracing at the Peace, touching holy water, or in the laying on of hands; tasting bread and the wine.
As you worship, continually offer to God not just an intellectual corner of your mind, but the wholeness of your being: your mind, and your spirit, and your body.