What to Expect When You Visit Us
What We Do
We're really glad you're thinking of visiting us. When you join us you can expect the Mass to last about an hour. We'll sing hymns, hear the Scriptures read, listen to a 15-20 minute sermon, and celebrate the Eucharist together. If you're interested in listening to previous sermons, you can click here. We also gather after Mass for some fellowship with coffee and light refreshments. You are welcome and encouraged to join us. You can get to know us better in a less formal setting.
The earliest gatherings of Christians involved eating a common meal together. Christians gathered with the belief that Jesus was present at their gathering, especially at the "breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:35) that Jesus commanded be done in his memory. Over time, Christians formalized their meal celebrations, learning what worked and what best expressed their understanding of what was happening when they took, blessed, broke, and distributed the bread and wine. We continue that tradition, and that means our worship service will always follow the same basic format.
Mass will often begin with a brief ceremony called the Asperges. It's Latin for "sprinkling." The priest will chant a few verses from Psalm 51 while he sprinkles holy water on himself and the congregation. This reminds us of our baptism. This sprinkling "cleanses" us and prepares us to celebrate the Mystery of the Eucharist.
We then sing a hymn as the priest processes to the altar. Singing hymns happens frequently in the service, five times in fact. This practice developed to give the congregation something to do while the priest was getting something ready or saying prayers that only involved the ministers of the Mass. We use the 1940 Hymnal, and we enjoy singing. St. Augustine said that "singing is praying twice," but feel free to just listen if you're not comfortable singing along.
After the processional hymn, we say prayers and sing the Gloria. These invite God's presence among us and rejoice in the confidence that God does what God promises. Confident that God is with us, we then pray the prayer of the day, called a Collect. In the early Church the presiding celebrant said prayers as he was able. Some of those prayers were then written down and collected. As the liturgical calendar of the Church developed those collected prayers were assigned to days of the year or new prayers were written specifically for the celebration of certain feasts. After the Collect, we listen to the Word of God in the words of human beings. A reading from a letter or Epistle is read and then the Gospel. These are readings assigned to each Sunday and can be found in the Book of Common Prayer.
After the reading of the Gospel, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is recited. This is an ancient expression of orthodox Christian faith mostly composed in 325 A.D. at the first ecumenical council convened in Nicaea by the Roman emperor Constantine. It was finished and affirmed at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. Together the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church form and inform our faith. After the Creed, we sing a short hymn, and the priest delivers a sermon.
The sermon concludes the Liturgy of the Word, and we then prepare for the celebration of the Mystery of the Eucharist. We sing an offertory hymn as the gifts of bread, wine, and alms are collected and brought before God at the altar. The Offertory expresses our understanding that everything comes from God and everything is destined for God who will be "all in all " (1 Cor 15:28). The Eucharist is a special kind of gift because it involves God's own self-offering of Godself through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The importance of this special gift is expressed in the prayers that are said by the priest in preparation for the distribution of Holy Communion. We offer God's own self-offering to God and receive God under the veil of ordinary bread and wine. We believe in the Real Presence, which means that we believe that we really do receive Jesus when we eat and drink the bread and wine at Mass. The Eucharist is also an expression of the Mystery of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. It is for this reason that we invite all baptized Christians who are of good conscience to partake in communion. If you don't want to receive the Eucharist, you can still come up, cross your arms over your chest, and receive a blessing from the priest.
Following Holy Communion, we sing a communion hymn, say some prayers expressing our thanks for God's good gift (Eucharist means good gift or thanksgiving) of Godself for us, and the priest sends us back to the world with a blessing. We then sing a recessional hymn before departing.