A Brief Outline of How Episcopalians Worship
The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) is a Liturgical Church, meaning that it performs solemn ceremonies, or rituals during public Worship Services.
At All Saints, the Traditional Liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer is conducted during most Sunday Services. Rite I is used for the 8:00 AM Sunday Service, and Rite II is used for the 10:15 AM Service. Approved elements of contemporary liturgies of the Episcopal Church are included in the 10:15 A.M. Youth Service scheduled every 4th Sunday of the month.
For more information on the Episcopal Church and its Lectionary Calendar visit:
There are Three Central Texts that the Episcopal Church uses during its services. They are:
The Bible – Passages from the Old Testament, Psalms, Letters of Paul, and the Gospels are regularly read during services throughout the year. All Saints provides Bibles in the pews.
Book of Common Prayer –This book is found in every pew at All Saints and contains the Liturgy to be followed during the Church Service scheduled for that day. The Book of Common Prayer also provides Worship Liturgy for family and private devotions as well as an annual calendar of Church Feasts, and Biblical Readings to be read for each day of the year. The Prayer Book provides a wealth of information on the traditional beliefs and sacramental practices of the Episcopal Church. It is central to the spiritual life of the church.
The Hymnal 1982 – This hymnal contains hymns of the early church all the way through to the favorites of contemporary times. All Saints also sings from the hymnal, Wonder Love and Praise, that is a second supplement to The Hymnal 1982.
Note: Though all Episcopal Churches center their worship primarily around these three books, the methods of conducting services may vary greatly, from very informal, contemporary services to those with great traditional ceremony.
Traditional Christian Creeds most commonly said during All Saints Worship Services are:
Apostles’ Creed – This is a creed originating in the early Roman Church, dating from the 2nd Century.
Nicene Creed – This creed is most commonly said during Communion Services at All Saints. It is Eastern in origin, dating from the 4th Century during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Note: There are many creeds from different times and locations in church history. All Saints uses a more contemporary creed during its Youth Service regularly scheduled for the 4th Sunday of the month.
The Homily or Sermon
At All Saints, the Sermon is usually centered in the Biblical Readings for the day with an emphasis on how the teaching of Jesus Christ revealed in the Gospel reading of that day is relevant to our contemporary lives.
The Episcopal Church believes there are two Sacraments essential to Christian life ordained by Jesus in the Gospels:
The Book of Common Prayer defines these Sacraments as “Outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.”
Baptism – The Book of Common Prayer states that: “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.”
Baptism is administered once in a person’s life – usually as an infant but many adults are baptized. Water is poured on the head or sometimes a person might be fully immersed in water. Poured on the head or fully immersed, the Sacrament symbolizes the washing away of sins and the adoption of the new Christian Sister or Brother into the Family of God.
Holy Eucharist – The remembrance of, and the praise and thanksgiving for Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and his bodily Resurrection, is central to the Sacrament of Holy Communion. During Communion, bread and wine are blessed by the Priest and given to the congregation as spiritual food to be received in an act of faith as a symbol of the presence of Jesus Christ within us. When receiving Communion, Episcopalians offer themselves to God in repentance, love and faith and with a renewed hope in the heavenly banquet.
There are five additional Sacraments recognized as Church Traditions by the Episcopal Church. They are:
Penance – Sorrow for sinning, and with a sincere desire to amend one’s life. The repentant receive assurrance by a Priest of God’s forgiveness through absolution and reconciliation with the Creator.
Confirmation – Conferred by a Bishop on a person seeking to become a member of the Episcopal Church, Confirmation strengthens the commitment made to Christ at Baptism. It gives us courage to witness Christ in the world and to selflessly serve each other.
Ordination – The Sacrament consecrating Christian men and women in complete service to God as Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Religious Orders. Spiritual power and grace are given to help them devote their lives to the good of the community – teaching, administering sacraments, governing the Church.
Matrimony – The Sacrament of Marriage is a Sacrament in which God joins together those seeking to live their lives as one in physical and spiritual union.
Ministry of Healing – Healing Prayer Services continue Christ’s work among the sick of today. Central to this Sacramental Service is prayer for physical and spiritual health, and, at the request of the sick, the laying on of hands, and the anointing by a Priest with oil are offered to the sick.
To enter the ordained ministry, a candidate (male or female) usually must have a college degree, be physically and psychologically qualified and be recommended by the Parish Vestry, Priest and Diocesan Ministries Commission.
- An unbroken line of Bishops may be traced back to the early Church commissioned by Jesus. Bishops are spiritual overseers of their Dioceses (groups of Parishes, Missions), which elected them to office. Bishops act as counselors to Clergy. They ordain Priests, Deacons and consecrate other Bishops. They administer Confirmation and are final counselors in church matters. Together, Bishops share responsibility for the welfare of the church.
- Must meet high standards of personal integrity and judgment. Priests are parish leaders. The full scope of their duties covers every pastoral, spiritual and educational activity. Specifically, Priests celebrate the Eucharist, baptize, pronounce absolution, and perform many other duties.
- An order of special ministry of servanthood, Deacons assist Priests in Parish work or minister (under a Bishop’s supervision) in Missions or unorganized Parishes. They cannot perform Sacramental Acts of the Priesthood – e.g., though not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist, they may minister the consecrated Holy Communion at a service or to the sick.
- Religious Orders
- Consist of men and women bound by the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Most monks and nuns live in communities; some are active in the world. Emphasis is on a life of prayer, but members also perform social, medical, and educational duties, as well as religious ones.
- Archbishop of Canterbury
- Has a Primacy of honor throughout the Anglican Communion; but – every National Church within it is self-governing.
- Presiding Bishop, Chief Pastor, and Primate
- Chief Bishop of the Episcopal Church, but not an Archbishop or a Pope.
- Presides over a Diocese (a group of Parishes) assisted by Standing Committee and Councils of Priests and Lay People.
- Rector (Priest)
- A tenured Priest who presides over the Parish; elected by the Parish, subject to the Bishop’s approval.
- A Rector of Mission is chosen by the Bishop, who appoints a Vicar to represent him/her.
- Consists of parishioners elected to be the agents and legal representatives of the Parish in matters of property and relations to the Clergy.
- Lay People
- Are also ministers of the Church. They take part in church services and participate in its teaching mission.
Parishes elect Lay Delegates to the Annual Diocesan Convention presided by a Bishop.
- Lay Delegates and Clergy conduct the Church’s business in the geographic area of the Diocese.
Diocesan Conventions elect Clergy and Delegates to the National General Convention. Clergy and Lay Delegates take part in this, the highest Legislative Body of the Episcopal Church. It provides guidelines for the faith, guides the whole Church in programs of Christian Education, Evangelism, and Social Action. It consists of:
- House of Bishops
- House of Deputies