What is the Episcopal Church? The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. is a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is an international association of churches in full communion with the Church of England. Each national or regional church in the Anglican Communion has full autonomy. The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. officially separated from the Church of England after the Revolutionary War.
Is your church Protestant or Catholic? The Episcopal Church represents a “middle way” between Protestantism and Catholicism. Anglicans participated in the necessary reforms of the Church in the 16th century. However, we attempt to follow the ancient, apostolic Church’s organizational pattern, with local or national congregations organized under the rule of their own bishops. You will find very “high church” Episcopal parishes (our word for churches) and very “low church”. Most fall somewhere in the middle.
What does the Episcopal Church believe? Like Christians everywhere, we believe in Jesus Christ, as expressed in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We believe in the Holy Scriptures, understood through reason and tradition. We believe that the Sacraments, including Baptism and Holy Communion, are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. These beliefs are held in common by Episcopalians, but the Church also values intellectual freedom and individual conscience in matters of faith.
What are worship services like? Our worship services are liturgical, which means they follow a set pattern of prayers, readings, and responses from week to week. We actively participate in worship with these prayers and responses. You will notice that people sit, stand, or kneel at different times. This might be new to you, but over time we hope it will become familiar and comforting. We always celebrate Communion at our weekly worship services.
What is the role of women in the Episcopal Church? Women participate fully in all areas of the Church, including leadership. Our current Presiding Bishop is Katharine Jefferts Schori, a woman. The Episcopal Church began ordaining women in 1976.
How diverse is the Episcopal Church? Episcopalians come from every race and culture. The worldwide Anglican Communion is composed of about 85 million people, worshipping in 165 countries around the world. There are Anglicans on every continent.
Why is there so much ritual in your worship services? Our rituals allow us to express outwardly our inner faith and commitment to Christ. It involves our bodies and all our senses in an act of devotion and gratitude to God, and unites us in our worship with other Christians around the world.
What is the Book of Common Prayer? The Book of Common Prayer, our guide to worship, is a collection of ancient and modern prayers for public worship and private devotions. It was produced in 1548 to allow the people of England to participate in worship services in their own language, rather than Latin. It is also a treasured literary masterpiece. Each Church (including the Episcopal Church) of the Anglican Communion uses its own adaption of the Prayer Book.
Is the Archbishop of Canterbury an Anglican Pope? No, he is not. We do not have a Pope. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is composed of more than forty different churches (including the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.). However, none of these churches has authority over the others.
What is your attitude about homosexuality? Many active members of the Episcopal Church are gays and lesbians. We do not forbid church membership or discriminate in any way against people because of sexual orientation. In the words of our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, “God has created us in myriad diversity, and no one sort of condition of human being can fully reflect the divine. Only the whole human race begins to be an adequate mirror of the divine.” We are an open and affirming congregation.
Birth control? We believe that contraception and birth control are matters of individual conscience.
Is your church politically liberal or conservative? The Episcopal Church does not endorse political candidates or parties, and our members hold diverse political beliefs. We believe God has called us, first and foremost, to be followers of Christ.
Should I make the sign of the cross in church? You might notice that many Episcopalians make the sign of the cross with their right hand on their forehead and chest. This is done as a bodily reminder to ourselves of Jesus’s love for us and sacrifice on the cross. However, it’s completely optional. If it’s meaningful to you, do it, but again, it’s optional.
I’m planning on visiting your church, but I am not a baptized Christian. May I take Communion? Yes. All those seeking Christ are welcome at His table.
How do I receive Communion? The people come forward to the altar, and you will be given bread and wine. You can drink the wine from the common cup, or you may dip the bread into the wine (called intinction). If you do not wish to receive bread and wine, you may cross your arms over your chest to receive a blessing.
Is it unsanitary to drink from a common cup? Studies have been conducted on this, and experts agree that you are probably no more likely to catch a contagious virus from taking Communion, than from shaking hands. Our wine is fortified, which means it has a higher alcohol content, and alcohol kills most germs. We are not aware of any documented cases of disease outbreaks from taking Holy Communion. If you are concerned about this, you can simply eat the bread and not drink the wine.
How do I address your clergy? The best way to know how to address an Episcopal clergy member is simply to ask him or her. Some prefer to be called “Father” or “Mother.” Here at Epiphany, it’s simply Kathryn and Kristofer.
Where can I find more information on the beliefs and practices of the Episcopal Church? Most of this information comes from The Episcopal Church You can find much more on their site. Image courtesy of The Episcopal Church.
Where can I find articles and discussion of currents events in the Episcopal Church? The Episcopal News Service
Of course, the best way to find out what we’re like is to visit us. We’d love to meet you!