What Happens in Church?
Some services (like our Family Service) are very informal and relaxed, with modern music and language.
Other services (such as Morning and Evening Prayer - called 'Services of the Word') derive from the daily cycle of worship in monasteries. Whether these use the sublime poetry of the Book of Common Prayer or the dignified, accessible language of Common Worship, these services are richly satisfying, containing these elements:
- saying sorry, promising to try to do better, and asking for forgiveness
- thanking God
- Bible readings
- declaring what we believe
- asking God to help those who are suffering or in need
- asking for blessing, grace, and peace.
Usually, hymns are sung (in Glapthorn, we use Hymns Ancient and Modern and Junior Praise).
There will probably be a sermon (a talk, often explaining a reading from the Bible and its relevance to us today).
The core of many Anglican services is Holy Communion (also known as The Lord's Supper or The Eucharist). This is a ceremony derived from the supper which Jesus had with his followers on the night before his arrest and execution. Its meaning still sharply divides Christians (some believing that it is a commemoration; others believing that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ; others can be found somewhere along a continuum between those positions)
Holy Communion involves the giving out of bread and wine over which special prayers have been said. In some parishes ordinary bread is used; others (as Glapthorn) use special wafers. Gluten-free bread/wafers will be available (just ask). Normally, the 'communicants' walk up to the rail in front of the altar and kneel (though you can stand), receiving the bread from the priest. The chalice, the ceremonial cup (often silver) containing the wine, is usually taken round by an assistant (and is carefully wiped after each 'communicant' has had a sip).
Usually, those who receive communion have been baptised and confirmed. It doesn't have to be an Anglican baptism/confirmation; any branch of the Christian Church will do. Just ask if you are unsure.
There will normally be a collection. Contrary to popular belief, the church is not rich. In Glapthorn, we have to raise everything we spend. We have the sole responsibility for the maintenance of a large mediaeval building. We also have to pay money to the diocese, most of which goes on clergy salaries and pensions. No one will pay attention to how much you're putting in, and you don't have to make a contribution at all. If you are a UK taxpayer, it increases the value of your gift to us if you use the yellow envelope which will be in front of you (we can reclaim the tax).
Ministers usually wear robes when taking services. A priest's robes are based roughly on the garments worn by Roman officials in the early days of the Church. Readers, who are not 'ordained', wear a blue stole and do not have 'dog collars'.
If you come to a service in Glapthorn, you will be welcomed at the door (where there is a wheelchair ramp for ease of access) by a member of the congregation (in true Anglican tradition, there is a rota!) who will give you any book or service sheet you will need and explain the service. He or she will, of course, be pleased to answer any questions. If you have any special needs, or would prefer to take communion in your seat (there is a small step up to the chancel where the bread and wine is received), just say. Sit where you like and take as much or as little part in the service as feels comfortable to you.