"Disciples Making Disciples"
When people gathered around Jesus and received strength from him, they left joyful, "praising God." This is what the Church, as the body of Christ, is called to do. We gather to participate in the life of Jesus who blessed and healed and made whole. And we are called to imitate that blessing ourselves.
At its best, a Christian community lifts up its members, freeing their gifts, supporting their life, and making them feel as exuberant as the child Jesus blesses in the sculpture.
We welcome you to the Episcopal Church of Saint James.
Within the Episcopal Church all people are ministers. Some are called into special ministry positions to which they are "ordained." These are deacons, priests, and bishops who are together called "clergy." All others are called "lay people." All participate in the work of the church and all participate in its governance. Their special functions are described in the Catechism.
The service of Holy Baptism ends with the following:
Celebrant: Let us welcome the newly baptized.
Celebrant and People: We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.
These words are a reminder that "the people" are sanctified participants.
Episcopalians believe in a Trinitarian God, which means that the one God is a “chorus” of 3 persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) united in eternal love. This belief is stated in forms called Creeds that are said together at worship services.
We believe that the church is Christ’s Body, living and visible in the world. This does not mean that any group is perfect. In fact, belonging to a church is an exercise in patience, forbearance, and love. But at every baptism, all the people present are asked to renew their own baptismal covenant. One of the questions is "Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?" We believe that we are called to continue practices that date back to Jesus.
Jesus communicated his message and grace both by words and by symbolic actions. Some of these actions he commands his disciples to continually perform as his chosen ways of being with us as our Risen Lord. We call these sacred actions “sacraments.” The way we do them is called “liturgy.” Episcopalians are "liturgical," meaning we worship using a set of texts, which are found in the Book of Common Prayer. Not only will you know pretty much what to expect when you go to any Episcopal service, but even the words for that service are in the hands of the people.
These services tell a story and act it out. In doing so, we embody the Gospel. At every Eucharist, the people act out the Gospel story of the Last Supper, receiving the Body of Jesus as we eat a piece of sanctified bread, and receiving the Blood of Christ as we take a sip of sanctified wine, in remembrance of him. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us as we participate in this sacred ritual in obedience to him. In every baptism, we re-enact the baptism of Jesus. In the baptismal covenant, God accepts us as his children in Christ, and we are reborn through water and the Holy Spirit.
Because the liturgy draws us into the story through the use of all senses, services are beautiful and dignified. But they are meant for us, and we are human. So we need not be afraid of "making a mistake." The Prayer Book provides the words you will need and the small italicized print gives instructions about standing and kneeling. These customs may vary in different congregations. You will notice that there are different practices even in the same church.
Episcopalians can and do worship God in all manner of places because the place itself is not important to the validity of the liturgy. At the same time, places can be imbued with meaning and reflect the personality of the people who gather there. They can also help or hinder an understanding of what occurs there.
Essential to every Episcopal place of worship is the altar table around which (or before which) the people gather. The flow of the service may move away from the altar in various directions for readings and preaching but it centers on the table, which for Episcopalians is the table of the Lord's Supper.