We are Episcopalians!
The identifying elements of the Episcopal Church can be broken down easily:
We are Christians: This may seem obvious but sometimes people assume that when one says the word “church”, they are talking about a Christian organization. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who was born and lived as a fully human and Divine being, was crucified, buried and was resurrected to return to His Father. Before Jesus returned to the Father, he imparted the Holy Spirit on us to serve as our Advocate and Guide in all matters of our lives. This is how we understand ourselves as Christians, believing in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a Triune God that is indivisible and indistinguishable. We celebrate the gift of God, His Son and the guidance of the Holy Spirit through our worship, prayer and apostolic action.
We are a liturgical Church:
- We follow a common order of worship: In our pews, you will find two books – A 1979 Book of Common Prayer and a 1982 Hymnal. These two books provide the structure or backbone for every worship service that we celebrate on Sundays and other days. We also utilize other music resources from time to time. The Book of Common Prayer is updated from time to time as is the Hymnal. The Book of Common Prayer is also a resource for individual prayers, daily prayers, determining Easter in any given year, historical documents related to the church, and a catechism which lays out a general guideline to our faith. The Hymnal is a compilation of hymns that are both newer and more traditional; the Hymnal also contains service music that we use to embellish parts of our service that can also be read. The Hymns that are sung on any given Sunday are chosen based on the scripture readings assigned for that day.The challenge for someone who is new to the Episcopal Church, especially those who have not been a part of a liturgical church in their past, is to get used to following along in the Prayer Book and Hymnal as well as understanding when we kneel and when we stand. When you join us for worship, please know that many of those sitting around you have been through a similar experience and they are happy to guide you through the service until you are comfortable. Furthermore, if you would like to learn more about the reasons why we worship the way we do or anything else, our rector/priest is happy to meet with you and help you build a greater understanding.
- We read a common set of scriptures that can be heard in every Episcopal Church on any given Sunday. We observe what is known as the Revised Common Lectionary which assigns scripture readings throughout the year. In essence, the majority of the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and parts of the Apocrypha will be read and heard over a period of three years. During each those three years, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are assigned to one of those years with the Gospel of John being interspersed during all three years. The lectionary allows us to focus on the specific setting and intention of each of the Gospel writers as well as being consistent from church to church around the country.
We have both Protestant and Catholic Roots:
Every Church has a history, some longer and others more brief. Our denomination was founded in the United States shortly after the American Revolution. Even though the Episcopal Church is tied to the American Revolution, our roots go back to the earliest Church where the first disciples were called and chosen to be ordained as priests; this is known as the Apostolic Succession. Without going into great detail, following the Apostolic Succession means that we can trace the ordination of our clergy to those earliest of days. As a result, we were first rooted in the Church in Rome. The Roman Church in England distanced herself from Rome over time and eventually broke direct ties with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1600’s to become known as the Church of England. This separation was in part political and in part theological in nature.
The Protestant Reformation had been unfolding close to or over 100 years by the time the separation became official; as a result, the Church of England saw validity in some (but not all) of the arguments derived by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation and blended those understandings into the founding of the Church of England. As British colonization occurred on the Eastern seaboard of America, the Church of England was present in the colonies as well. Before and during the American Revolution, a group of clergy and lay people also made a move to separate from the Church of England and thereby established the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Even though we have separated from the Church of England, the Episcopal Church is part of what is understood as the Worldwide Anglican Communion, a collection of churches who find their unity as a result of being rooted in the Church of England either through colonization or missionary efforts around the world. This brief history merely scratches the surface of our deep heritage and history.