The Short Story (just the highlights)
You’ll be warmly greeted when you enter St. Mary’s and you’ll see that some folks are in their Sunday Best and others are in jeans and flip flops. We will offer you a nametag but it’s totally okay if you’d rather not wear one. If you’re new to Episcopal worship, we’ll give you some pointers and help you find a seat.
Worship starts out with the Liturgy of the Word which means scripture, prayers and a sermon. Then the second half is Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. You’re welcome to participate in all of this. Music is diverse and our historic organ is played every week at the 10:30 am service.
We will sit, stand, and kneel at various times but do what helps you worship; there’s no wrong way to worship here. Children are SO welcome in worship so expect some kid noises and wiggles. If you’d like to check out our nursery for your little one, we have loving staff to watch babies through 36 months.
After church, we’ll meet you in the welcoming area to answer any questions. If you’d like to give us some contact info, we’ll have a nametag ready for you at our touchscreen kiosk the next time you come back. We’ll follow up with you but won’t stalk you – promise!
The Novel (for those who love details)
When you arrive at St. Mary’s, there are several parking spaces for guests to make finding a spot easy. Take advantage of this convenience. If the parking lot is full, there is also overflow parking in the wooded area.
When you enter the church, there will be folks opening the door for you and then our friendly greeters will help you with a nametag at the Welcome Desk. We wear nametags for everything so you won’t ever have to walk into a sea of anonymous people. If you’d rather not wear a nametag, that is totally okay.
Some people come in their Sunday Best to St. Mary’s and others wear jeans and flip-flops. At Christmas and Easter, folks generally dress up but we’re pretty much a “come as you are” sort of place.
We’ll likely ask you if you’re familiar with Episcopal worship so that we can give you some pointers if this is new for you. The Episcopal Church is a liturgical church so we use a prayer book for worship which is based on scripture and ancient texts of the early Christian church. The high point of the worship is Holy Communion, or the Lord’ Supper, as opposed to the sermon. Sermons are only about 10 minutes long.
If you have young children, there is a Children’s Nook in the “narthex,” or welcoming area/lobby, with quiet activities and a sensory basket full of tactile objects for children. Children are SO very welcome in worship at St. Mary’s, so expect some kid noises and wiggles.
If you have small children, we have a nursery for babies up to 36 months. One of our hosts can walk you over to the Holy Family Center where our nursery is located. Our nursery is staffed with loving and trained individuals who are consistently there so your child can get to know them. They will text you if they need you during worship so leave your phone on vibrate. However, ALL children are welcome in worship at St. Mary’s, so if you’re not comfortable with your child going to the nursery, that it totally fine.
You’ll receive an information card to complete which asks for some basic contact info. Don’t worry – we promise not to stalk you! If you’d rather not share any information, that is okay, too. The host who gives you the card will meet up with you after worship to collect the card and check in with you.
An usher will give you a “worship booklet” or bulletin. The worship bulletin will tell you what’s going to happen during the service and provides page numbers so you can follow along in the prayer book. Although we have a church app and use touchscreens kiosks for nametags, we’re pretty old school during worship so there aren’t any projection screens. Expect diverse music from ancient Latin chants and familiar old hymns to African spirituals and everything in between. The music changes with the seasons of the church year.
A host will help you find a seat and help you during worship if you’re new to the Episcopal Church. We pray with words and with our posture. Directions in the worship booklet will suggest that you stand, sit or kneel but these postures are only helpful if you are able. God welcomes your prayers no matter what your posture. We promise to help you so you can worship fully.
The first part of the service is scripture readings, prayers and the sermon. Before the prayers, the children (3rd grade and below) may leave to go to Children’s Chapel. They will return in time for Holy Communion. Then we hear about ways we can offer our lives to God through service. Then, the children return and the second part of the service begins with the altar being prepared for Holy Communion which is also called Holy Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper. It is the remembrance of the meal of bread and wine that Jesus shared with his disciples. Since the altar is God’s table and not ours, all are welcome to come forward when the usher tells you it is your turn. If it is not your custom to receive Communion, simply cross your arms across your chest at the altar and the priest will pray a blessing for you. You don’t need to be a member of St. Mary’s to partake in this sacrament.
You may receive the wine by drinking from the chalice (cup) or you may intinct, that is, carefully dip your bread into the wine. Please take care that your bread and not your fingers touch the wine. Parents, you may need to assist your children. Our bread contains wheat; gluten-free wafers (soy and water) and chalice are available at all services; please let the clergy know if you need a wafer.
After our final prayer, we sing our last hymn or song and we are “dismissed” into the world, or sent, to do God’s work. Our priests are there as you leave the sanctuary and like to say hello to everyone.
After the service, your host will meet you back in the narthex (welcome area/lobby) to answer any questions you may have. After the 10:30 am service, there is also a table with snacks and you are always welcome to stay and visit. It gets a little loud and animated after the 10:30 am service since this is our largest service but don’t worry – we’re here to help.
Our promise to you: whether you’re a cradle Episcopalian or new to the Christian faith, we promise to welcome you as if Christ just walked in our door. We welcome all people without exception.
If you would like more information before your visit, please contact Molly Carnes, Connections Missioner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-562-1660. She will answer any question you have about St. Mary’s.