If you haven’t been to an Anglican Church service before, you can think of this page as your “First-Time Guide to Visiting an Anglican Church”. We’re so glad that you’re here! Please know that you will be a welcome and respected guest. We won’t single you out in any way, and we won’t ask you to stand up or come forward. You will simply worship God with us.
When you enter our church, you will notice an atmosphere of reverence. Our church is built in the shape of a cross in the ‘carpenter gothic style’. The interior feels like an upside-down Noah’s ark, with the bow leading your eye to the altar. And so your thoughts will immediately be guided to God, whose house the church is.
On and near the altar you will see candles to remind us that Christ is the ‘light of the world’. We often have flowers to beautify God’s house and to remind us of the resurrection of Jesus.
Some people bow to the altar as an act of reverence for Christ when they enter or leave the church. This is a personal choice. Some of our members will visit with each other before the service begins, while others use this time for personal meditation and devotions. You are welcome to kneel in the pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship if you wish.
Our service will last about an hour. It is easy to follow and is printed entirely in the bulletin, except for a few hymns, which you'll find in the large blue “Books of Common Praise” in each pew.
Our service is rooted in the practices of the Early Church while open to contemporary expression and thought. In our worship, you will find traditional and contemporary songs, readings from both the Old and the New Testaments, a sermon in which the "sense of the ancient story" interacts with our modern life and knowledge, prayers, and the sacrament of Eucharist (Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper), offered to all.
You may wonder when to sit, stand or kneel. You will see that practises vary among our members. Please do what feels comfortable to you. Most people stand to sing, to listen to the Gospel, and to say our affirmation of faith. We sit during readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We stand, sit, or kneel for prayer, depending on each person’s individual preference. You may also see some people bowing or making the sign of the cross at certain times, but these too are a personal choice.
You will find our service beautiful in its ordered dignity, God-centred, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of people.
We usually begin our gathering with a few announcements. The actual service begins when the deacon announces the first hymn, and everyone who is able, stands up to sing. You can find the hymns in the big blue “Book of Common Praise”, which is abbreviated as “CP”. You will find the blue CP in the pews. Feel free to ask someone near you to help you to find the hymns!
The priest, the deacon, and a server, who will be carrying a beautiful cross, will walk in from the back of the church and take their places while this song is being sung. This procession reminds us of our call to follow Christ with every step that we take.
The priest will welcome everyone, and we will all join in a prayer called a “Collect’, which is meant to gather the all of the hopes and prayers of the people, as well as the focus of that Sunday's worship, into one succinct prayer. The Collect will be printed in the bulletin, and you are invited to read the bold print out loud with us. On most Sundays, the Collect will also be projected onto a screen. After the praying the Collect, you will be invited to sit down.
The purpose of this fairly short part of the service is to prepare us to listen for the Word of God and to enter into the celebration of the Eucharist, which means, "Thanksgiving."
The service continues with three readings from the Bible. We sit to listen to the first two readings, but when the Gospel is read, all those who are able to will stand up. The readings are followed by a sermon. At St. Thomas, the sermon usually lasts about ten minutes.
After the sermon, we spend a minute in silence for prayer and reflection. Then the deacon invites everyone to stand again to affirm our faith by saying a ‘creed’ together. The creed is a short statement summarizing what we believe about God and his church. The creeds have been handed down to us through the centuries.
You will then be invited to stand, sit or kneel, depending on your preference, as a member of the congregation leads us in “The Prayers of the People.” This is a time when we bring our needs to God. Each Sunday, we pray for the church, the world, the sick and suffering, as well as other matters, depending on what is happening in the world and in our lives.
Most weeks, the priest then leads us in a short “confession and absolution”. We will read a short prayer together, where we acknowledge our own brokenness and our failings before God. Following that, the priest assures us of God’s forgiveness. The Anglican Church doesn’t dwell on guilt or sin, but we do acknowledge it as part of the human condition.
This section of the service ends with the “Passing of the Peace”. Assured of God’s forgiveness, we share God’s peace by shaking hands with those around us and saying, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or more simply, ‘Peace’. Participate in a way that feels comfortable or appropriate to you. If you prefer not to shake hands, you are welcome to simply nod and smile at the people around you.
The final section of the service begins with another hymn, called the “Offertory Hymn”. As we sing this, we pass offering plates to collect money to help the church and those in the community and the world. You are welcome to contribute, but don’t feel obligated. We take the offering as part of our worship to remind ourselves that we are giving back to God in thankfulness for all the blessings that He has given us. During this time, we also bring gifts of bread and wine to the altar. We bring these gifts to God, along with the gift our of hearts, our lives, and our daily efforts to follow Christ. We then join in a prayer over all of these offered gifts.
Next, the priest will lead us in a prayer to prepare us to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion, called “The Lord’s Supper” in some churches. During this prayer, we praise God and thank Him for everything that He has given us. Some of these prayers will be sung. The words and music for these prayers are in a separate leaflet. If you don’t know the music, just let the congregation lead you. After we sing the Lord’s Prayer together, everyone is invited to come forward to receive the bread and wine of communion.
All are invited to join us for communion. You are equally welcome to come forward for a blessing, whether you are baptized or not. If you want the priest or deacon to bless you, cross your arms over your chest when he or she approaches you. You may also choose to stay in your seat during this part of the service – it’s up to you!
We receive communion at two stations. When invited to do by the sides-persons, some people come forward to the front of the church and either kneel or stand at the altar rail to the right. The priest will come to you and offer you a wafer. Put out your hands, and the priest will place the wafer on your palm. We eat the wafer immediately, and then take a sip of wine when it is offered to us.
At this station, the bread and wine will be offered to you with a phrase such as, “The body of Christ, which is broken for you,” or, “The blood of Christ, shed for you”. Most people say, “Amen,” before eating the wafer or sipping the wine, but you may also remain silent if you wish. If you don’t wish to receive communion, simply cross your arms over your chest when the priest approaches, and he will give you a blessing instead. Once you have received communion, you may return to your seat by going back up the side aisles.
At the other station to the left, the deacon will dip a wafer into some wine. You will then open your mouth, and the deacon will place the wafer on your tongue and say a phrase similar to, “The body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for you.” After you have eaten the wafer, you may say “Amen”. Or you may remain silent, if you wish.
After communion, there will be some closing prayers, and a final hymn. During this hymn, the priest, the deacon, and the server will walk to the back of the church. The recessional reminds us to follow Christ as we leave the church to serve Him in the world next week.
When the last hymn is finished, the deacon will dismiss us with a final encouraging word. You are invited to remain in the pews for a few minutes in silent reflection and prayer. Then we all leave!
The priest, deacon, server and choir members usually wear ‘vestments’ to signify their special ministries and to add to the beauty and festivity of the service. Our choir vestments consist of a blue gown, while our priest and deacons wear albs. The alb is a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over this, they wear a stole, which is a narrow band of coloured fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders.
At the Eucharist, the priest will put a chasuble over the alb and stole. This is a circular garment that envelopes the body.
Stoles and chasubles, as well as altar coverings, are usually made of rich fabrics. Their colour changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colours are green, violet, white, and red.
The Anglican Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. Our church year starts during the season of Advent, when we prepare for Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent marks the beginning of the Easter season, which lasts for fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. During these times, the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season.
During the rest of the year — the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost, the New Testament is usually read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings. The church year ends by celebrating the reign of Christ on the last Sunday before Advent.