St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
(We are part of the worldwide Anglican Church and share the same creeds as the Roman Catholic Church but are not part of it. When we use the word “catholic,” it means “universal” not Roman Catholic.)
Why We Do What We Do in Our Worship
The central act of our Christian faith is our weekly gathering to worship the Lord. From the beginning, Christians have gathered on Sunday, also known as “the Lord’s Day” and “the first day of the New Creation.” Scripture tells us that Christ rose on “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:9). So when we gather together every Sunday for worship, we are celebrating the resurrection of Christ and proclaiming to the world that we are “Easter” people - risen to new life in Jesus Christ.
The Form of Our Worship
Liturgical worship is a tradition that can be traced back as early as 125 AD. The word liturgy comes from the Greek leitourgia, which means “the work of the people.” In the Kingdom of God, which is enacted in worship, all of creation will praise and worship God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship is not a spectator sport! It is meant to be actively engaged in by all the people who gather to adore our Lord. Liturgy is participatory by nature and calls us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:33). Every part of the liturgy- the words, movements, postures, and symbols- has meaning and plays a vital role in expressing our worship, proclaiming what we believe, and experiencing the presence of God.
We are led into worship by the cross and come in worshipping God in song. Long ago this procession used to go through the town calling people to come to worship. It was literally an act of gathering the people. It is reminiscent of the procession when Jesus entered Jerusalem as King on Palm Sunday. We begin our worship by acknowledging that Jesus, the King of kings, is seated on His throne and on the throne of our hearts ruling in our lives and over God’s Kingdom.
The Opening Acclamation
We acknowledge that we have gathered to worship God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This prayer collects the thoughts and prayers of all the people and often summarizes the theme from the Scriptures for that day.
The Songs and Music
Songs of joy, praise, lament and thanksgiving have played a key role throughout the entire story of God’s people. It is also an important part of worshipping God in heaven (Rev. 5:11-14). Singing praises to God is one of the purposes of the angels, and Revelation speaks of the angels and all of creation singing praises to God the Father and to the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:11-14). When we sing in our worship, we are “joining our voices with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven” who are eternally praising God.
The Nicene Creed
This statement of faith was formulated from Scripture at a Church Council in Nicea in 325 AD to clarify what it is that we proclaim as truth as Christians. By reciting it in our worship, we re-affirm our faith and provide a plumb line for our spiritual growth and development. By placing it after the sermon, it provides a clear check on the teaching that has just been heard!
The Word of God
We believe Scripture is the inspired Word of God. Even though it has been written by men, it was given to them by God- it has been “God breathed.” “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We use the Revised Common Lectionary to provide the readings from the Old Testament, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel reading, ensuring that the fullness of God’s Word is being read and proclaimed through the course of the year. Liturgical churches from around the world are reading the same Scripture passages each Sunday. Before reading the Gospel, the Bible is brought into the midst of the congregation, symbolizing the Incarnation of Christ, the Word of God, who “dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
The Prayers of the People and Confession
In these prayers, we pray together for our common concerns and thanksgivings as the body of Christ, and to lift up our individual prayers to the Lord. These prayers are followed by the Confession and Absolution. We express our sorrow over our own sins, confess them to God and seek His forgiveness, which we are assured of through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
After the Confession in which we make peace with God, we make peace with one another. This comes immediately before the offering. Scripture tells us: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”(Matt. 5:23-24) We are called to be the body of Christ that is characterized by unity rather than division. The peace is our weekly reminder to be reconciled with one another.
Scripture tells us that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is within it” (Psalm 24:1), reminding us that we are mere stewards of all we have. When we bring our offering before the Lord, we do so out of gratitude for all the Lord has done for us and recognition that all that we have is a gift from God. Our gifts to God are also a demonstration of faith that He will continue to provide for our needs.
The Greek word “Eucharisteo” means to give thanks. Our offering of our gifts to God is followed by a celebration of thanksgiving for the sacrifice made for us by Jesus Christ on the cross, buying us back from sin and death, and restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father. This is the high point of our worship. Here the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ in our hearts as we receive it by faith. (In the Roman Catholic Church the belief is that the change actually happens on the altar and in other Protestant denominations it is just a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, it is not actually transformed into Christ within.) In this way we believe we are actually receiving Christ within every Sunday, and through this we believe Christ nourishes, sustains and transforms us. We walk forward to receive the Eucharist, symbolizing our coming to Christ to receive His gift of salvation.
The Sign of the Cross
When we make the sign of the cross, it is used as an act of blessing and a gesture of devotion. In tracing the symbol of salvation on ourselves we are signifying God’s claim on our lives.
The liturgy ends with our being sent out to “love and serve the Lord.” What we receive in our encounter with the living God, we are meant to go and share with others. It carries with it an echo of the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:17-20)
The Colors and Season
The Christian year divides the calendar into seasons representing specific times in the life of Christ. As we celebrate each season- Advent (purple), Christmas (white), Epiphany (green), Lent, (purple), Easter (white), Pentecost (red), and Ordinary Time or the season of Pentecost (green)- we are effectively ordering our lives according to His life, death, resurrection and ascension, while living in anticipation of His promised return.
Candles symbolize the light of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
This vestment worn by the priest in a sacramental service, is a long scarf-like cloth in the color of the liturgical season. It is a symbol of the priest’s ordination and represents the authority of the church and the priest’s commitment to rightly administer the sacraments.