Christ Episcopal Church of Pottstown, PA          
First Time Guide
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Your First-Time Guide to

Visiting Christ Episcopal Church


    We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer this document as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its ways.

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    As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church be small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.


    On or near the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the "Light of the World'' (John 8:12). Often there are flowers, to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.


    As you face the front of the church, on the right is a lectern for reading Scripture and leading prayers; on the left is the pulpit for the proclamation of the Word in preaching.



    Episcopal worship is liturgical but also congregational. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer which enables the congregation to share fully in every service. We use the terms Eucharist and Mass interchangeably.


    In the Book of Common Prayer (aka Prayerbook or BCP) the larger print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to leaders and people for conduct of the service. You will also find a Hymnal. The hymns will be listed on a Hymn board above the lectern as well as in your bulletin. Some of the music (at the start of the book) is numbered with an “S”, e.g. S95. These are music settings for the “service music” for when we sing something that could also be said. An example, said or sung in almost every service is the Sanctus – “Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of Hosts…” A plain number indicates hymns used during the service.


    You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary---even among individual Episcopalians. The traditional rule has  been to stand to sing, sit to listen, kneel to pray. We stand to sing hymns (found in the Hymnal in the pews) and other songs (many of them from the Holy Bible) called canticles or chants and printed as part of the service.


    We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. Psalms are sung or said sitting. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We  kneel for the Confession and the Eucharistic Prayer.



    The principal Eucharist each Sunday is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion).


    RITE I: At the early Eucharist (usually 8am) we typically use Rite I. it is celebrated quite simply, without music. Weekday celebrations also are frequently without music, and sometimes without sermon. Rite I is a more traditional sounding language, harking back to the beginnings of the Prayerbook.


    RITE II: The later Eucharist is typically Rite II, with hymns and a full choir.  The difference is traditional language for Rite I and more current language for Rite II. The content is theologically identical.


    With few exceptions, in a Sunday Eucharist a sermon is required. While some parts of the service are always the same, others (called Propers) change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, three Bible selections are read, changing each Sunday over a three-year period. So do the Psalms. Certain of the prayers also change, in order to address the season or the event. Page numbers for parts printed in the Prayerbook are announced and given in the service leaflet. But do not be embarrassed to ask your neighbor for the page number.


    You will find the worship of the Episcopal Church beautiful in its ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.



    It is a custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. It is also a custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.


    Most Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service many people kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others may sit to listen to the organ postlude.


     It is also customary in Episcopal churches to socialize between services or after the late service. It is so common that Coffee Hour is jokingly referred to as the 8th Sacrament.



    To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments. Choir vestments usually consist of a gown, with a stole in the color of the season.


    Other leaders in the service wear an alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it priests and deacons wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders. Other leaders may wear a scapular, a length of cloth hanging down the front and back, over the shoulders.


    At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest typically wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a mitre.


    Most vestments, as well as altar coverings (which are also called vestments,) are made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white/gold for joyous times like Christmas and Easter, red for Pentecost (fire) and days marking periods of violence (Holy Week till Easter), violet for penitence, and green for all other times.



    The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Christmas season lasts twelve days, starting at the late service on Christmas Eve, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6).


    Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday and last for 40 days, not including Sundays. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. The feast days from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost change dates from year to year. The easiest way to find a given date is to look it up in the BCP.


    During these seasons of Christmas, Lent, and Easter the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year---the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays) ---the New Testament is read sequentially. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.



    There are usually ushers who will greet you, and may escort you to a pew. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service. Pews are usually unreserved.

    Following the service the Rector and Deacon(s) greet the people as they leave.



    When you visit an Episcopal church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way. You will worship God with us

    Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church or how one becomes an Episcopalian, the priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.



PO 252, 316 E. High St Pottstown, PA 19464   Phone: 610-323-2895     Powered by My Church Websites
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