A Guide to the Episcopal Service

It’s good to arrive a few minutes before the service so you can get yourself settled. Ushers and greeters will give you a bulletin/service leaflet/ program which will guide you through the service.

Whether Rite I or Rite II,  our worship consists of two main “parts”,
The Liturgy of the Word and
The Holy Communion.
Liturgy means “the work of the people”.

Sunday worship binds us together as a parish, and guides, nourishes, and forms as Christians.  And, it is our liturgy, our common work, that reminds us that we are a people of God.

We bring ourselves, our lives, into this place.  Because it is a sacred space, we hope to see our world in a different light as a result of our being here.

The opening rituals of our liturgy help us to mark a threshold between the world and the Realm of God. 

The Opening Acclamation, marks the formal beginning of our worship, focuses our attention on God, and joins our praise  with people of God across time.

The Collect:  The Collect of the day is a short prayer that concludes our gathering.

The first part of the service is called  “The Liturgy of the Word.”
We begin by praising God through song and prayer, and then listen to as many as four readings from the Bible. Usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the Epistles, and (always) a reading from the Gospels. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation.

We hear and respond, and are reminded through listening to Scripture that God continues to be present in our own day.

The Gospel, or “good news” is a record of what Jesus himself said and did, and is always given the highest honor. This is why we stand when it is read. The reading of the Gospel symbolizes the presence of Christ,       reminding us that Jesus lives and works through his people, the Church. 

The purpose of the sermon is the “break open” the Word of God heard in the the readings for the day. The sermon teaches us about God’s message in its historical context, and then personalizes and interprets it so we are able to hear and feel its inspirational message for our lives today.

We respond to the Word heard and proclaimed by reciting the Nicene Creed.
The Creed began as a three-fold response to questions beginning,  “Do you believe . . .?”  spoken just before baptism. It is much more than a statement of religious beliefs.  It is a proclamation of trust and a promise to live as Jesus lived:
● A life undivided, solely dedicated to God.
● A life fully shared with our sisters and brothers.
● A life in communion with all who follow Jesus.

To pray for the Church, the world, others, and ourselves is one of the fundamental reasons we come to God in worship, and is an obligation we bring from Baptism.
Our prayers take us out into the larger world, to hospital rooms and nursing homes, those who are shut-in or ill, to the halls of government and into the places of commerce.  The prayers guide us into churches around the globe and into places of violence, famine, and disaster and to the saints who have gone before us; and we stand with the weak, the broken, and poor.  Our  prayers of thanksgiving remind us of all the deep and powerful blessings we have received.

The confession is a time to reflect ipon our own personal choices and decisions and to see where we have been wrong or at fault, and to offer those things up to God.  Following the confession, the priest pronounces an absolution, and we gratefully accept forgiveness as we say “Amen.”

To exchange the Peace of Christ is to recognize and affirm that it is Christ who brings us together as members of one body, Redeeming our failures, Transforming our losses and Healing our wounds.
When we exchange the peace with one another, we affirm that we are also reconciled with each other.

We begin the second part of the liturgy, the Holy Communion, with The Offertory sentence.
In the tradition of our faith, sacrifice is not a painful loss imposed by God, but rather a joyful affirmation of thanksgiving for the communion which God has already made possible.  We bring our alms, or, gifts of money and material goods, because the life of our community depends upon our sharing. More importantly, the placement of these gifts on the Altar represents the placing of our lives into God’s hands.
We do so thankfully because we know that everything we have has come to us from God. We do this faithfully because we know we can trust God to provide.
In making our sacrifice, we participate in the sacrifice of Christ himself, thankfully and faithfully entrusting his life to God’s hands and, receiving it back to bring life to the world.

The table is set and the celebrant greets the people, inviting them to participate with their whole heart in the prayer of Great Thanksgiving. 

The heart of the Eucharist, recalling Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, shared the day before his crucifixion.
Over the centuries, Christians have been divided over how we understand what happens to the bread and the wine. Anglican teaching is that when we consume the bread and wine of the Holy Communion, Christ is really present in us, not in some cannibalistic way, but in our hearts by faith.
The emphasis is upon what happens within us, the transformation of our lives, rather than upon what happens to the bread and wine.
We sanctify, make holy, the bread and wine that we may be holy people, strengthened for the work we have ahead of us, to be Christ’s body in the world and feed others as God has fed us. 

This is the Table of Jesus. We invite all who seek to walk in faith to join us at the Altar, sharing in Christ’s sustaining life and love.

The Liturgy of the Church reconnects us with our source and highest good in God. It forms us into the body of Christ and  strengthens us for our mission, proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
May God’s will be done on earth as in heaven, as we are sent out into the world

Wherever you are in your Journey of Faith,
all are welcome at God’s table.

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Rite I and Rite II
The language in the Rite I service is more traditional, dating back to the Elizabethan era and the first BCP. Rite I is very similar to the 1928 version and  is spoken with no music. The Rite I Liturgy is celebrated at 8AM on Sunday.
The Rite II language is more contemporary, developed about 25 years ago it reflects more fully the influence of the liturgical movement and contemporary theology. Rite II is celebrated at 10:30AM on Sundays.

The Liturgy of the Word
We all sit down to hear the readings, usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the Epistles, then stand for a reading from the Gospels. The psalm is usually sung or recited by the congregation.

These readings are part of a set “lectionary” which assigns readings for every Sunday on a three year cycle. The Lectionary schedule can be found here:
The Lectionary Page

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Gulfport, MS  39501