What is an Episcopalian?
Worship with Us to Know Us
Whenever I or another priest is leading, we celebrate a symbolic meal of ordinary bread and wine called the Mass or Holy Eucharist or Communion Service. In the meal, we believe, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate Christ’s presence and receive new life and new forgiveness from God. In fact, we call the service a "sacrament of forgiveness.' In the name of God, we all forgive and pledge anew to love God, to love our neighbors as ourselves. We all together create our worship, so that it is not a passive consumer act but a participatory act. We are all worship leaders in that way.
Who are These Neighbors we Love as Ourselves?
They are you and I, all of us in the full variety of our humanity. No one is shut out from our worship meal: whether we were baptized in another denomination, feel like an outsider, are diverse in ethnicity or heritage, are gay or straight in sexual orientation, etc., all of us are God’s family. All of us are simply human in all the variety that it entails. Our differences enrich us. God’s radical hospitality is the hospitality we hope to extend to insider and outsider.
Do Episcopalians Read the Bible?
Not only do we read the Bible, we read it four times during each church service. From time to time we also come together to study the Bible.
Ah! But, do you Believe the Bible?
We do more than believe! By letting its stories become our stories, we ourselves become a new embodiment of the Word of God. The Bible is our common heritage of our spiritual ancestors from two to four thousand years ago, writing their experience of God and the meaning of life. Those ancestors share their spiritual lives with us and we share ours with each other.
So, What’s with this Word "Episcopal?'
I agree that it’s an unlikely marketing label. It comes from the Greek word for "Bishop,' and simply means that we are a religious denomination with Bishops as part of our ministry. The word in Greek speaks of oversight or overseer.
So, are You a Bishop? Are All Your Ministers Bishops?
We believe that all baptized persons are the primary ministers of the church. Our local clergy are usually priests, but they, along with Bishops and deacons, exist to help or assist the whole group in our ministries. We all are ministers together. The clergy are simply support staff, with education and attitude.
Why Meet in Community as a Group? Can’t I Grow Close to God by Solitary Prayer and Study?
We believe humans are made for relationship, and that we grow in community, not as isolated individuals. We learn to love each other by being with a wide variety of people, not simply those most like "me" or "us." That’s why we gather for worship. Jesus promised that whenever we do so, he would be right there with us even if we do not know it. So we live in the tension of learning to love in community and carrying that love with us into our daily lives.
How do I Learn More?
Try coming to church for five weeks in a row! Ask our priest or other members when the next study and prayer group meets and, if they do not know, ask them to create and conduct one. You can also find out more about our Diocese (click here) and the Episcopal Church (click here) by visiting their websites.