FAQ (frequently asked questions)
Why do you say prayers out of a book?
We use written prayers for the same reason that most churches use hymnals or song-books in worship services. We use hymnals and song-books so that we can all sing together, in common, the same words, the same notes. If we didn’t have those hymnals and song-books each person would sing whatever words or music they felt like and services would be chaos. Hymns are nothing but prayers set to music. We use prayers that are written down for the same reason, so that we might offer the same prayer together as one body. Our services are taken from the Book of Common Prayer a common source of prayers for all Anglicans, and one that has been used by English speaking Christians for centuries. The prayers within it, like the great English hymns that we all love, have nurtured generations of Christians in their faith.
Why is your worship so elaborate?
Anglo-Catholics use all of our senses in our worship. Incense, bells,
candles, vestments, art, architecture, and music are used in worship to
help us offer our worship to God not just with our minds, but with our
whole bodies, including all of our senses. Engaging all of the senses
allows one to devote oneself to God with the whole self, not just with
the mind or words. As we worship God, and as we live in the world, we
are striving to bring our whole selves under the lordship of Jesus Christ,
What if I don’t know what’s going on?
The great Anglican writer C.S. Lewis said of worship that it’s like a dance: as long as you’re counting the steps, you’re not yet dancing, just learning to dance. In many ways our worship is like a dance, with steps and movements that you learn over time. While it might take a little while to learn those steps at first (just like learning a great dance), once you have learned them, you find yourself not thinking about them anymore, just worshipping God together in steps and movements that Christians have used for centuries. In each of our Sunday services we have special booklets that describe what is happening in the service, to help you to follow along. Or, if you’re new to this tradition, you might also try just coming to worship and letting the ancient liturgy of the church wash over you, as you take it all in.
Why is your worship so formal?
In our Eucharist we believe that we receive the true body and blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. For us then the Eucharist is more than a symbol, since we receive the thing that is symbolized: the body and blood of Christ. For this reason, the Eucharist requires the greatest solemnity, since we are coming face to face with our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. A helpful perspective is, "prepare for a wedding...prepare for the Great Wedding Feast of the Lamb."
Why do you use incense at some services?
The tradition of using incense in the liturgy goes back to ancient Hebrew worship, as recorded in the Psalms: “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as the incense” (Psalm 141:2). Incense is a symbol of our prayers ascending up to Heaven. In the Book of Revelation we find that the use of incense accompanies the worship of God in Heaven. In biblical times, incense was used as a freshener when guests arrived, and thus is perceived as a welcoming invitation to the Holy Spirit. Incense is used to cleanse and create a sacred space that also provides an atmosphere for meditation and prayer. Incense is used to set apart and sanctify places where God is going to be especially present. For this reason we incense the Altar at the beginning of Mass; we incense the gospel book since Christ is present in his Holy Gospel; we incense the Altar and gifts in preparation for Mass; and we incense the people who are about to receive Christ in the sacrament.
What’s with all of the fancy vestments?
Just like the worship of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, our worship is accompanied by certain sacred clothing called “vestments.” The vestments of the priest all derive from the clothing of a 1st century Roman, and have special symbolism attached to each piece. The vestments of the priest are visually appealing and based on the liturgical color of the day or season to help us reflect on the theme of the celebration at hand. Everyone who has a special part to play in our liturgy wears a certain kind of vestment, though, including the choir and acolytes. These vestments help us to remember that what we do during this time is important. The vestments also focus us away from our individual selves and on the role that we are playing as part of the worship of God.
Why do I see people bowing, genuflecting, and crossing themselves?
The Sign of the Cross and other ceremonials are outward signs of reverence, that
express a person’s particular devotion. No two people in our church do all of the same
gestures. They are not requirements of our liturgy or “tests” for membership. If you
would like to do these, then go right ahead, but no one is going to watch you in worship
to see what you do or don’t do. If you have questions, Fr. Woodall would be glad to
explain any of these customs to you.
Why are there bells rung at certain parts of your service?
The ringing of bells is a way of calling the congregation’s attention to something important that is happening in the liturgy. In the Eucharistic prayer that the priest prays over the bread and wine, immediately before he begins the words of consecration given by Jesus (“This is my body…This is my blood”) bells are rung to signal to the congregation that this most important part of the liturgy is coming. After the consecration of the bread and wine, bells are also rung as the priest reverences the sacrament and lifts it up for the people to see and venerate. Again, these bells are there to signal to the people the significance of what is happening.
Can I receive communion in your Church?
We believe that the sacramental elements are not just symbols of Christ’s body and
blood, but that they are what they symbolize and that by the words of Christ and the
action of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are made the Body and Blood of Christ, for
our physical and spiritual nourishment. We admit to communion in our Church
Christians who are: 1) baptized Christians who believe, with us, in this real presence
of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and 2) who are repentant of their sins and
spiritually prepared, and 3) who are communicants in good standing in their home
church if they are our worshipping guests.