When you visit an Anglican church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way, nor asked to stand before the congregation nor to come forward. You will worship God with us. Should you wish to know more about the Anglican Church or how one becomes an Anglican, the priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Anglican 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 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. On one side at the front of the church, there may be a lectern-pulpit, or stand, for the proclamation of the Word; here the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached. In many churches, however, the lectern is separate from the pulpit and stands on the opposite side of the church.
The Act of Worship
Anglican church services are congregational. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services. This enables the congregation to share fully in every service. In the Book of Common Prayer, the large print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to ministers and people for conduct of the service. You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary---even among individual Anglicans. The general rule is to stand to sing hymns and other songs 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 by the choir. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as children or as an act of humility before God.
The Regular Services
At St George's, our principal Sunday service is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). There are weekday services of Holy Eucharist offered in the Lady Chapel. Occasionally the morning service is Morning Prayer of which the parallel evening service is Evening Prayer or, in our case, Evensong which is sung regularly. These services consist of psalms, readings from the Bible, and prayers with a significant musically component. While some parts of the services are always the same, others change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, there are three readings from the Bible. These change each Sunday. So do the psalms. Certain of the prayers also change, in order to provide variety. You will find the services of the Anglican Church beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centred, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
Before and After
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ. Most Anglicans do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others sometimes sit to listen to the organ postlude.
Coming and Going
Greeters will meet you as you enter the Cathedral. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service. Following the service the clergy greet the people as they leave.
What Clergy Wear
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers customarily wear vestments. Choir vestments consist of an undergown called a cassock and a white, gathered overgown called a surplice. The clergy may also wear cassock and surplice. Another familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it (or over the surplice) ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of coloured fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders. At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. The deacon's corresponding vestment has sleeves and is called a dalmatic. Bishops sometimes wear a special headcovering called a mitre. Stoles, chasubles, and dalmatics, as well as altar coverings, are usually made of rich fabrics. Their colour changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colours are white, red, violet, and green.
The Church Year
The Anglican Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. During these times 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 from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.