Come On In
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. No doubt somebody will point out our head usher who loves to make people feel at home by the time they get settled into a pew. You won’t be left in a pew without a bulletin for the day and being shown the location of the Prayer Books and Hymnals.
As you enter the church doors, to your right is a small hallway leading to restrooms (don't miss the stained glass window in the men's room). On the other side of the entrance, to the left, is a “cry room” with a big window, comfortable pews and insulated walls. 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 folks loitering around in the narthex can't help chatting.
The bulletin will help you through the service – and if you look a bit bewildered by it all, somebody nearby will offer some quiet guidance.
At a “low Mass,” (usually on weekdays) there is no music or singing. Everything is spoken. Our low Masses have no sermon and last about 40 minutes. Our "sung Mass" (on Sunday) does have quite a bit of music, there is a sermon, and it lasts about an hour and ten or fifteen minutes, depending on how much Fr. Wilcox or Fr. Ng'ang'a have to say at sermon-time!
In your bulletin you'll see some "stage directions." Anglicans tend to move around in their seats a lot during the service. We stand to sing or hear the Gospel, we sit to listen, we kneel during prayers. The bulletin directions are customs, not what anybody must do. Especially if you're new to our congregation, 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, when there is one, 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: “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 we have refreshments and opinions (both served generously) in David Hall ; please join us!
At St Joseph’s, any baptized person is welcome to receive Holy Communion. When we're not using the main Altar, you'll see a kneeler in front of the table we are using instead. At communion-time, form a line and approach the table after the person in front of you has received the Sacrament, or approach the Altar rail if we're using the main Altar. If you cannot kneel (or get up easily), please remain standing and receive. The priest will place the Sacrament in your hands (it is customary to support your right hand with the left): Simply lift the Sacrament to your mouth. This is the sacramental Body of Christ, so please do not handle the consecrated Bread with your fingers. If you prefer to have him place the Host directly on your tongue, simply open your mouth as you approach and he will place it there. If you would like to have the Host dipped in the chalice rather than drink from it, continue to hold it in your open hand and the priest will take it, dip it into the chalice and then place it directly in your mouth. Please do not dip the host into the chalice yourself. If you wish to drink from the chalice, the Chalice-bearer will be standing beside you at the kneeler and will help you drink from it directly. If you do not wish to receive Holy Communion (or are not eligible to because you are not baptized), but would like a blessing, stand in line until your time comes, approach the kneeler and either kneel or stand and the priest will bless you. To let him know you wish to be blessed, cross your arms over your breast when you approach. He will make the sign of the Cross on your forehead as he blesses you. (Any baptized person is welcome to receive Holy Communion, but not everyone always should. If you are in a state of serious sin, it would be best not to present yourself for Holy Communion, here or elsewhere, until you have confessed your sins, resolved “to live a new life,” and received absolution.) Anyone, baptized or not, can always come forward to receive a blessing. – Fr Gregory Wilcox
Of course! So are older children and teens. Our Children's Church School presently meets on Sunday afternoons, but children are welcome at all services. There is an insulated "cry room" (commonly called "Omar's Room") near the entrance of the church that's particularly suited to fussy babies and wiggly toddlers, 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.
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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