Wondering what to expect on a Sunday morning at St. Stephens?
The first thing to know is that ALL are welcome and we take those words seriously and joyfully. Don't worry about what you're wearing. You'll see folks dressed up, and folks dressed down. Bring your questions. Bring yourself, just as you are.
When you come in the door, you'll be greeted by friendly people handing out bulletins and you may be offered a name tag. If you have nursery-aged children (0-4) they can be settled in to the nursery downstairs. If you have older children (K-6ish) they can head downstairs for Godly Play. Children in Godly Play will walk back up to the sanctuary with their Sunday School teacher usually during the passing of the peace. Of course, if you want your children to worship with you, they are always welcome in our services.
When you enter the sanctuary, find a seat wherever you are comfortable. Most people use this time to gather their thoughts and prepare for worship. Information about the order of service, and scripture reading will be in your bulletin. Most songs can be found in the blue hymnal in the seat pocket in front of you. We will also follow along in the red Book of Common Prayer for a good portion of the service.
Worship and Liturgy
The service will begin with a processional where those leading worship enter the sanctuary and walk to the front of the church. An opening hymn is sung, we will pray a collect and listen to scripture readings. We take the posture of sitting (being taught) during the reading of scripture. During the reading of The Gospel we stand together out of reverence for the words and teachings of Christ, and we turn our bodies to face the reader. A homily--a sermon--follows, and then we stand for the Nicene Creed to affirm our faith together. The prayers of the people are offered, giving us a chance to pray together for the needs within the church, within the community, and in the world at large.
During the passing of the peace, we have the chance to welcome one another by shaking hands (waves and fist bumps are also appropriate!), and passing on a message of God's Peace. During this time the children who were at Godly Play rejoin us, and then we have a time of sharing celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, thanksgivings) together.
An offering will be taken. Everyone is welcome to give as an expression of their lives being offered to God, but no one is pressured to do so. The elements of the Eucharist will also be taken forward at this time and these will be received and blessed by the priest. After the prayers of blessing, the bread will be broken and all will be invited to come forward to participate in The Eucharist. This is an expression of our unity with God and with one another as well as an opportunity to partake of that which will strengthen us spiritually. All are welcome, but no one is pressured to partake. Most people kneel at the alter, but some stand to receive the elements. A small piece of bread will be give to you (Gluten Free wafers are available upon request). Then a lay leader will offer a sip of wine from the chalice. If you wish to receive a blessing instead of communion, you may cross your arms over your chest. After receiving, we walk back to our seats.
To conclude the service, we pray for strength to go forth and serve and receive a blessing, before singing a closing hymn. Sometimes we even get a little wild with rhythm instruments!
During the service, people may make the sign of the cross, bow, or kneel. These are actions that allow us to express prayer and faith using our body as well as our minds and hearts. The rule of thumb here is, "Do what works for you," and what brings you closer to God and deeper into your the experience of worship. You'll see people doing different things throughout the service.
Food and Fellowship
After the service, head to the Fellowship Hall for coffee hour. Coffee and other refreshments will be provided, announcements shared, and we enjoy a time of getting to know one another in a casual, welcoming, atmosphere.