If you attend several worship services at either of our churches, you'll begin to be aware of a pattern to the order of worship. Each Sunday the details change — scripture readings, hymns, music, prayers, and sermon—but the pattern of the service is the same. What you are experiencing is the "liturgical" character of our worship. Our services, or liturgies, follow set forms, found in the Book of Common Prayer (or BCP, as it might be listed in the bulletin). The prayer book is called "common" because through it we have worship in common—this is part of the basis of "community" as well. The prayer book unites us with all the other churches in the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Communion worldwide. And it gives words and actions to each of us as members of this broad community.
Our liturgies guide us through and help us act out a story. For instance, at every Eucharist, the Gospel story of Jesus at his last supper with his disciples is retold, and the people eat a morsel of bread and drink a sip of wine because Jesus told us to do this in remembrance of him.
The liturgy is the work of all the people. In fact, the word "liturgy" comes from two Greek words meaning "peoples' work." The whole community (here and elsewhere) unites in worship through the liturgy.
Because the liturgy draws us into the story through the use of all our senses, services are beautiful, dignified, and yet invariably human. Do not be afraid of "making a mistake;" God is most forgiving, and it may be that no one else will notice! A service leaflet helps you find pages in the prayer book. The prayer book provides the words you will need, and the small print (rubrics) gives instructions about standing and kneeling. You will see some people standing, some sitting, and some kneeling during prayer. All of these choices are correct and welcome. Do not feel that you must participate in every action of the worship. Watch and listen with attention as if you are at a drama until you feel comfortable taking part.
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