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.
Under normal circumstances, everyone would be invited to stay for a chat over tea or coffee after a morning service or to play a more active role in church life at other times. Such opportunities have had to be suspended for now.
While restrictions apply, the average act of worship lasts about half an hour. Children are welcome, however small. We look forward to being able to reopen our safe play area for the very young at morning services but, for now, children must remain with their parents or carers.
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 at certain points (we are not allowed to sing at present, so there are no hymns). 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 once-a-month 9.00 am service at St Nicolas' Church follows the Holy Communion service in the 16th century Book of Common Prayer. The 10.30 am service is in contemporary language.
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 Worship or All-Age Worship, this is the style of service you can expect.
A service of All-Age Worship 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.