What To Expect
"What happens at a church service? How long does it last? Can I sit quietly and listen or do I have to take part? Are children welcome? Does it matter if they make a noise? Do I have to sing? Will I understand what's going on? "
If you have questions about what to expect when you visit us, read on.
Make Yourself At Home
You'll find our church friendly and welcoming. If you're unfamiliar with Christian worship, there's no need to feel apprehensive. There's a place for everybody, including those who prefer to sit quietly and listen. This is your church and we want you to feel comfortable when you're here.
If you're the gregarious type, then of course there are opportunities to have a chat over tea or coffee after a morning service or to play a more active role. If you prefer, you can slip away at the end.
The average act of worship lasts about an hour. Children are welcome, however small or noisy, and we provide a safe play area for the very young at most services. No-one is going frown at you if your child runs around or starts crying!
On most occasions, a service booklet will be provided. It will help you to understand what is happening and when, and it will provide the congregation with words to say or sing at certain points. You need never feel lost or out of your depth and you do not have to join in.
And the dress code? We don't really have one, but "smart casual" comes close. The days of "Sunday best" are over.
"Do this in remembrance of me" said Jesus. For centuries, the Jews had gathered at Passover to share a meal designed to remind them that it was God who released them from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.
Hours before He was executed, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his closest followers. But this time, with a few words and gestures, He would change it forever. In His hands, the Jewish celebration of rescue and freedom would take on deeper significance. It became the event which connects his followers to the meaning and the power of His death and resurrection. Since the earliest days of Christian history, Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist, has been the central act of worship of the church. Many of our services take this form.
The main elements of a Communion service are these:
we greet each other in Jesus' name
we confess our sins and are assured of God's forgiveness
we listen and respond to readings from the Bible
we listen to a sermon which explores those readings
we pray for the world, the church and each other
we exchange the Peace, a gesture of reconciliation
the priest prepares the table
the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer
the priest breaks the bread
the priest blesses the bread and wine
we share the bread and wine amongst us
we depart with God's blessing
The 9.00 am service at St Nicolas' Church follows the 16th century Book of Common Prayer. The 10.30 am service is in contemporary language. Most services, including those held in the evening at 6.00 pm, include hymns, songs or chants, whatever the style of the service.
Services of the Word
Not all services in the Church of England are Holy Communion services. A Service of the Word has a slightly different focus. The emphasis is on hearing the Bible read, on listening to a sermon, on singing and on prayer. As the title suggests, words play a central part.
Where a service is listed here as Morning Praise or as an Outdoor Service, this is the style of worship you can expect.
A service of Morning Praise will also give a prominent role to children and the service will be designed with them (and their attention span) in mind.
A service of Holy Communion has to be presided over by a priest. A Service of the Word can be led by anyone with appropriate training including Readers and Lay Ministers.
Three out of our four variants of Evening Worship are also Services of the Word, though they vary greatly in style. See below for details of evening services at St Nicolas' Church.
The style of the 6.00 pm service at St Nicolas' Church varies Sunday by Sunday.
1. Taizé Prayer
Silence, simplicity, singing. An unhurried pace, time to reflect, ancient icons, dimmed lighting and candles. Brief Bible readings, no sermon, no distractions; in fact, as few words as possible. Based on the worship of the Taizé Community, an international, ecumenical monastery in France.
Compline has its origins in the life of the early monasteries, probably as far back as the 6th century. It is a simple, beautiful service designed to lead us into silence and contemplation at the end of the day. Parts of the service are chanted, in monastic fashion, to ancient plainsong melodies.