About Our Worship
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor.
- Psalm 29:2
Worship is the heart of St. Alban’s Church. We gather each week to pray and to be nourished by God’s Word and Sacraments in community. Through prayer, praise, scripture, sacrament, and song we find our inspiration for an ever-deepening relationship with God and the motivation to go out into the world to serve others.
WORSHIP IN THE ANGLICAN TRADITION
As Episcopalians, all of our services stem from The Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The BCP version currently used in the Episcopal Church was first published in 1979, but it is based on prior books dating back all the way to 1549, when the Church of England was in its infancy. Our Anglican heritage means that our traditions and worship style have been influenced by both the Roman Catholic tradition and the Protestant Reformation.
Episcopal worship may seem confusing at first, but with a little time, it becomes both familiar and deeply meaningful. Typically, we stand to sing, sit to listen, and stand or kneel to pray, as you are able. Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the principle service on Sundays. Your service bulletin will help you follow along, and if you get lost, feel free to ask someone nearby for guidance.
A service of Holy Eucharist has two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table. We begin by praising God through song and prayer. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation. We follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which means we ascribe to a set schedule of biblical passages to read in worship, which cover the vast majority of the bible over the course of its three-year cycle. Normally, there is a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm (which might be recited together or chanted), a reading from the New Testament Epistles, and a reading from one of the four Gospels. The Gospel is read from the middle of the congregation to emphasize the importance of the Gospel message. Because the Gospel contains the good news of Jesus Christ, we stand as we are able while it is read. After the gospel, a sermon is offered, usually by one of our clergy, to reflect on the scripture passages and proclaim the good news of God’s love and grace for all people. Following the sermon, we all stand as we are able to recite the Nicene Creed, an affirmation of the historic teachings of the Church, and then we enter a time of prayer for God’s creation and people. Most Sundays, this is followed by a prayer of Confession and Absolution, in which the priest assures us of God’s forgiveness and mercy. Then, we greet one another with a message of Peace.
Following the Peace, announcements are made and then we move into the Liturgy of the Table. The priest stands at the altar (table), which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, raises his or her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be With You.” Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the priest tells the story of our faith, from the beginning of Creation, through the choosing of Israel to be God’s people, through our continual turning away from God, and God’s calling us to return. Finally, the priest tells the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, and about the night before his death, when he shared a final meal with his friends. The priest blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the priest breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.” The congregation then shares the consecrated bread and the wine. At the end of the Eucharist, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving, and then is dismissed to continue the life of service to God and to the World.
In the Episcopal Church, it is the norm that those who receive Holy Communion have been baptized in any Christian tradition. All baptized Christians—regardless of age or denomination—are invited to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take Baptism seriously. Visitors who are not receiving the bread and wine are invited to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the priest, indicated by crossing one’s arms over one’s chest.
CHILDREN IN WORSHIP
Children are always welcome in worship at St. Alban's! Being in church services is an essential way that children are formed in the Christian faith. While we offer a nursery for children age three and under, we are also very happy to have all little ones in church.
To the parents of young kids: Please don't stay away from worship because you are worried about your kid's behavior in church! God put the wiggle in children and would not want us to stifle it! So relax, and know that you and your family deeply enrich our parish. Try sitting up front - kids are often much more engaged in the liturgy when they can see and hear what's going on. Kids learn how to worship by watching you, so make sure you participate fully - sing the hymns, pray the prayers, and help your children follow along in the bulletin, prayer book, and hymnal. Of course, if your child gets overwhelmed and needs to take a break, that's understandable. But always remember that your children are members of the Body of Christ and this community just as much as anyone else and they need to be in worship regularly in order to have the best chance of a lifelong faith.
To the adults in the congregation: Whenever you see a family with kids in church, rejoice! Please do everything you can to help them feel at home. Give parents an encouraging smile. Remember how much effort it took this family to get ready and get out the door to come to church. During every Baptism, we all promise to do everything we can to support each child in their life in Christ (Book of Common Prayer, page 303). Patiently and cheerfully worshiping alongside children is one way to live into the commitments we have made during Baptisms.
Special liturgies take place on Ash Wednesday and throughout Holy Week each year. Festival Eucharists are celebrated on Christmas Eve, Easter, All Saints’ Sunday in November, and the Feast Day of St. Alban, our patron, in June. Festival Eucharists often use incense, an ancient custom. Frankincense, the resin of certain trees, was among the gifts brought by the Magi to the young child Christ (Matthew 2:11) and is meant to make the worship of God an experience that utilizes all five senses. The incense used on occasion at St. Alban’s is pure and hypoallergenic.