A First Visit to St Joseph’s
What’s it like to come to St Joseph’s the first time? If you actually find the church (it’s in a cul-de-sac off an easy-to-miss road), you’re in for a treat. St Joseph’s is a pretty limestone church with a matching old cottage that’s been renovated into a parish hall. If you come shortly before one of the Sunday Masses you’ll no doubt find a couple of folks standing outside under the covered drive trading stories or opinions. Some will introduce themselves and everybody always has a few friendly words for visitors but if you attend the 10.30 Eucharist, somebody will point you out to Larry. He’s our head usher and has a lot of practice making people feel at home by the time they get settled into a pew. You won’t be left in the pew without a bulletin for the day and shown the location of the Prayer Books and Hymnals.
As you enter the church doors, to your right is a small hallway leading to a men’s washroom (to the right) and a ladies’ room (to the left). On the other side of the entrance, to the left, is a “cry room” with comfortable pews, insulated walls and a speaker system to you can hear every syllable of the sermon and every note of the organ. This entrance-way into the church, with racks of pamphlets and booklets, a bulletin board with the latest parish news and guest books for our visitors (be sure to "sign-in" when you stop by!) is called the narthex.
Just before leaving the narthex and entering the main body of the church (where the pews are; it’s called a nave) you’ll notice a stand with a holy picture on it. These pictures, called icons, have a long and venerable history in the Church. The icon on the stand usually depicts the feast or saint being remembered that day. Beside the icon stand is a beautiful, 19th century walnut baptismal font. The heavy top is removed on Sundays: the basin inside the font contains holy water, which many use to bless themselves with when they come in or go out of the church.
In the nave, you’ll notice people kneeling and saying their prayers. We tend to be quiet in church before the service starts, though occasionally a couple of guys loitering around in the narthex will tell a joke nobody can help laughing at.
Depending on whether you attend the 8.00 AM spoken Eucharist or the 10.30 AM sung one (sometimes called “low Mass” or “high Mass” respectively), the bulletin will help you through the service – and if you look a bit bewildered by it all, somebody nearby will offer some guidance as quietly as possible.
At the “low Mass,” there is no music or singing. Everything is spoken. There is no sermon at the early service, and it lasts about 40 minutes. The "sung Mass" does have quite a bit of music, there is a sermon, and it lasts about an hour and ten or ffteen minutes, depending on how "wound up" Fr Wilcox or Fr Ng'ang'a is at sermon-time!
In your bulletin (which outlines both the 8.00 AM and 10.30 AM Eucharists) you'll see some "stage directions." Anglicans tend to move around alot during the services, though most of the time we stick pretty closely to our places in the pews. We stand at times, sit at others and kneel during prayers. The bulletin says when we do what, but these tell what we customarily do, not what anybody must do. Especially if it's your first or second time with us, you might feel more comfortable sitting throughout.
The Eucharist (commonly called the Mass) is in two parts. The first is called the Liturgy of the Word, consisting of readings and responses from the Bible. It concludes with the Nicene Creed. After the Creed (and, at the later service, the sermon) the second part of the Eucharist, called the Liturgy of the Sacrifice, begins. The bread and wine are prepared at the Altar with prayers, the intentions of the Mass are announced and the prayer for "the Whole State of Christ's Church" follows. The priest leads the people in a confession of sins and pronounces absolution. Then he leads them in the Sanctus, normally sung but in low Mass said: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Glory be to Thee, O Lord most high. Amen. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord…”
The Sanctus is followed by the Prayer of Consecration, wherein the priest asks God to “bless and sanctify” the bread and wine, that they may become the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ. After the Lord’s Prayer and the Breaking of the Bread, the people are invited to come forward and receive the Sacrament. Anglican custom is for the people to receive both the Bread and Wine at communion-time. In the bulletin we have a section just before communion with directions for those uncertain of how to approach and receive the Sacrament.
After returning to their pews, many spend a few moments in prayer while the priest and his assistants clean the chalice and paten. A few common prayers of thanksgiving follow and the priest concludes the Eucharist with a final blessing.
Though there is no liturgical or theological requirement to do so, most Anglicans remain in their pews either praying or waiting reverently until all the candles at the Altar are extinguished. Then, as people leave the church, the chatter and greetings begin.
Most months, on the last Sunday, we have a parish luncheon following the 10.30 Eucharist, but every Sunday after both services we have refreshments and opinions (both served generously) in David Hall ; please join us!
Are Infants and Young Children Welcome at St Joseph's?
Of course! So are older children and teens. Our Children's Church School presently meets on Sunday afternoons, but children participate particularly in the Sunday 10.30 Eucharist. There is an insulated "cry room" (commonly called "Omar's Room") near the entrance of the church with a comfortable pew and a large window to allow anyone there to watch the service. Most major Holy Days we have special programs intended just for the children: decorating the parish tree at Christmas, "burying the Alleluia" at the beginning of Lent (and opening his grave on Easter morning before the Easter Egg hunt), releasing of the Lady Bugges on Whitsunday and a charitable project every year to allow them to do something to help children in need.
What's the Sunday Dress Code?
That's up to you, the content of your clothes closet, and how you were brought up. Some people dress formally, others casually. Whatever your personal style and preference, let it be something you are comfortable wearing in God's House.
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