When you arrive
The main entrance of the church leads into a vestibule. Go round to the left and down the steps and you will be met by members of the welcome team who will give you an order of service (sample at this link) and answer any questions you might have. You will then be directed through the double doors and into the church itself. Please sit wherever you feel most comfortable. The two hymnbooks we use (New English Hymnal – green; Common Ground – purple) and the Blue 1982 Scottish Liturgy book will be on the shelf in front of you.
Once inside the church proper people tend to be quiet and to prepare themselves for the start of the service. Some people sit in silence, others kneel in prayer and some talk quietly to their neighbours. The organ will play quietly in the background.
As people come in to church, some will bow or genuflect in the direction of the altar at the front. Others don’t. This is a matter of personal preference and there is no need to do anything like that unless you would like to.
At the start of the service
The service starts when the choir and clergy process in from the back. They are led by a ‘crucifer’ who carries a cross. The choir follows (dressed in blue robes), then the server (dressed in a white alb) and then the clergy. The congregation stand for this procession.
When they get to the front, the choir, clergy and servers bow to the altar and take their places. One of the clergy faces the congregation, welcomes them and invites them to sit down.
Once the congregation are seated, one of the clergy makes any announcements that are necessary and we then stand to sing our first hymn
The first part of the service
This part of the service is called ‘The Preparation’ in the liturgy books. In it, we prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word and to meet him in Communion.
After the first hymn the congregation remain standing to say the opening prayers and responses which are in the blue liturgy book (the congregation say together the Collect for Purity and, thereafter, the words in bold). We then sit or kneel and say the Confession together, after which the priest proclaims our absolution, or forgiveness.
If it’s Lent or Advent we remain sitting or kneeling to sing the Kyrie and then go straight to the Collect (a short prayer for the day said by one of the clergy). Otherwise we miss out the Kyries and stand to sing the Gloria, an ancient hymn of praise, and remain standing for the Collect.
After the Collect we enter into the part of the service known as the Liturgy of the Word.
We hear a reading from the Old Testament, we stand to sing a psalm, we hear a reading from the New Testament, sing a hymn and then remain standing for a reading from the Gospel. The Gospel reading is almost always read by one of the clergy standing at the top of the chancel steps (between the choir stalls). There is a sung response after the Gospel is announced and at the end of the Gospel Reading.
Following the readings, at the main 11.00 am service on Sundays, one of the clergy will preach a sermon – a short address lasting about 10 minutes in which the preacher helps us to make sense of the readings of the day and see their relevance to our lives.
After the sermon, we stand to recite the Nicene Creed. This is one of the ancient creeds of the church formulated partly at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and finalised at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. We say it not so much to confirm our uncritical belief in all that it claims, but rather as an affirmation of both our heritage and history and of our commitment and loyalty to Christ.
Following the creed we sit or kneel for the Intercessions. These are our prayers for other. We pray, amongst other things, for those close to us, for those in positions of power and responsibility, for those who suffer or who are ill, and we remember those who have died and those who mourn their loss.
The prayers of intercession are normally led a different member of the congregation each week.
In response to the priest’s invitation, “We meet in Christ’s name”, we say “Let us share His peace”, and then greet those around us with a handshake, a hug or a kiss, and wish each other “peace” or “peace be with you”.
The Eucharistic Prayer
Following the Peace there is a hymn which we stand to sing and following that we remain standing for the Eucharistic prayer which is led by the priest, or celebrant as he or she is known. This is the prayer in which we thank God for his love, for his gift of life in Christ and in which the bread and wine are consecrated as Christ’s body and blood.
It begins with some sung responses and, after singing the “Holy, holy, holy” the congregation usually sit or kneel.
After the Eucharistic Prayer we sing the Lord’s Prayer and the “Lamb of God” and then the celebrant makes a general invitation to the congregation to come forward to the communion rail to receive communion. At the 11.00am service, the choir usually go first, then the congregation follow starting with those in the front pews with people further back in the church gradually following as those who went first return to their seats. Whilst people are receiving communion we sing, seated, the communion hymns.
At the communion rail simply kneel or stand. Hold out your hands to receive the ‘host’ (a thin circular wafer). Once you have received the host, consume it immediately. You will then be offered the chalice.
Either take it from the server and take a sip of wine (be aware, it is real, alcoholic wine) or allow the server to put the chalice to your lips and take a sip as he tips it up.
When you are ready, make your way back to your pew.
If you would rather not receive communion but would like a blessing, please go up to the communion rail but don’t put out your hands to receive the host (if kneeling, keep them beneath the rail) in order to indicate to the priest that you would like a blessing. After you have received your blessing, and when you are ready, go back to your pew.
Of course, if you would rather remain in your pew and not go for communion or receive a blessing, that’s fine too – though you may have let others sitting further in the pew out so they can go forwards.
When everyone has received communion there is normally a short silence and then the celebrant will say a short prayer.
After this, one of the clergy will come to the front of the main body of the church and invite the children and young people forward and have a chat with them and ask what they’ve been doing in Young Church. This might not happen in school holidays.
After this, the celebrant says the remaining prayers, with responses from the congregation, blesses the congregation and we sing our final hymn.
As we sing the final hymn the choir, servers and clergy will process out – again being led out by the crucifer. The congregation remain standing until the procession has left the church.
The congregation then file out of the church, usually shaking hands with the clergy as they go. All members of the congregation are welcome to stay for coffee and refreshments in the hall.