What do Episcopalians do on a Sunday morning?
We celebrate God's overwhelming love for us. We believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us the lengths to which God has gone to bring us back into relationship with him. The great theologian Karl Barth, when asked what he knew that was most important, replied, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Simple faith from a great man.
The primary form of worship on a Sunday morning in the Episcopal Church is the celebration of the Eucharist, which is also called Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper. In the Eucharist, we believe, we receive the grace-bestowing body and blood of Christ. Indeed, "eucharist" means thanksgiving! In fact, it is difficult for us to imagine more intimate, life-giving words than "the body of Christ, the bread of heaven," which the priest speaks to the recipient of communion.
Of course, the Eucharist is set in a larger liturgy which includes Scripture reading, a sermon, hymns or contemporary songs, and a ceremonially rich worship that adds beauty to our expressions of praise for what God has done for us.
Why is it important to worship in a community? Can't a person simply love God as an individual outside the church?
Indeed, loving God is important as an individual but we believe that God has also called us to be in relationship with each other in congregations.
Music in Christian community, for example, speaks to us as few experiences can. L.E. Landon once observed, "We love music for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, and the tender feelings that it can summon at a touch."
We celebrate as a community, musically and liturgically, because Jesus called us into community. We know this is the case since Jesus called a group of disciples, and before he died he told them to go out and make other disciples in every land on earth. In a word, we are living out nothing less than the commands of Jesus, the Son of God, to live in relationship in community.
How important is Scripture in the Episcopal Church?
Beyond all measure! Scripture is read in four lessons at each service, it comprises the basic texts of how we worship, and it shapes the creeds we confess.
Holy Scripture, also called the Bible, is the story of God's relationship with his people. The Bible is divided into two main sections, called the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures) is the remembered account of God's covenant with the nation of Israel. Prominent themes include the giving of the Law of Moses and the promise of a Messiah.
The New Testament is the account of God's full disclosure in Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians confess is the promised Messiah.
The New Testament includes the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as a number of letters stemming from St. Paul, the greatest of the early Christian missionaries. .
It is typical for the reading of the gospel in Episcopal worship to take place in the middle of the congregation, complete with processional and reverencing of the "gospel book."
Both Testaments represent the inspired record of God's gracious dealing with people over a two-thousand-year period. That's why the reading of Scripture is so prominent in Episcopal worship.