Our Sunday Service

Justin Martyr describes meetings in the early church

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

First Apology Chapter 67 (ca 150 AD)

In an Anglican setting worship is a communal experience retelling the Christian story in four movements. Imagine showing up to a musical, being given a script and being invited to play a part. The script is called a liturgy which is another word for the Christian community’s response and participation in worshiping God through praise, thanksgiving, prayer and repentance. Some of the prayers and songs in the liturgy date to the early church.

When we use the liturgy we are identifying with the Christian church worldwide and with those who have gone before us. Tradition is the living faith of those who have gone before us. Therefore in worship we draw from the wells of ancient Christian practices consciously supplementing them with more contemporary music.

The movements are: we gather together before God, we hear the Word, we come to His table, we are sent into the world.


We Gather Together

we-gather-400x239In movement one we acclaim God’s goodness as we gather and prepare our hearts for worship. A short prayer or collect is said asking God to cleanse our hearts that we may love Him more fully. The celebrant then will read a summary of the commandments. This is to remind us of God’s holy character, and that we are called to reflect His life and holiness. We then lift our hearts to God and sing or say the ancient hymn Glory to God. A Psalm is then read, and a short prayer is offered. A mixture of old and new worship songs are then sung. One of the members of the congregation will then offer up prayers of the people and we pray for our rulers, the nations, God’s mission on earth and those whom he lays on our hearts. We do so as a group and opportunity is given to pray for individuals.



We Hear the Word

Movement two of this great unfolding drama is the Liturgy of the Word. Here we listen to readings from Scripture, hear a sermon from one of our priests, deacons or a member of the congregation. We also confess our faith by reciting the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, and respond to God in prayer. Our practice is to to do two readings, one Old Testament lesson or reading from the Epistles. The second reading is always from the gospels. We always stand for the gospel reading. The sermon is usually based on one of the readings, but could be based on another text or topic at the discretion of the preacher. It is usually about 20 minutes long. At the end of the sermon we arise and declare our faith that we hold in common with each other and the universal Church. We do this by reciting one of the creeds.

The Nicene Creed is longer and a wonderful outline of our faith. It tells God’s story and summarizes the important things God has revealed to us about the Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and about God’s work in the world, primarily through the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

To prepare our hearts for movement three we say a prayer of confession, and then great one another with the ancient words ‘The peace of the Lord be always with you‘.


We Come to His Table

we-come-to-his-table-400x300In movement three our focus shifts from the Word to Sacrament, from the pulpit to the altar, from Christ’s words to us to Christ’s presence in our midst. We lift up our hearts to the Lord together and join the heavenly host as described in Revelation 4. Next is the Sanctus hymn (Latin for “holy” and pronounced sank-toos). This is the song that Isaiah (Isaiah 61) and John (Revelation 5) heard sung around God’s throne. A prayer is said asking God to consecrate the bread and wine to be used in the Lord’s supper, or Eucharist. The Eucharist reminds us of our Lord’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension on our behalf. The words that Christ said to his disciples are repeated and then we dedicate ourselves afresh to Christ. All Christian believers are invited to take part.


We Are Sent Out to the World

We have celebrated the drama of God’s mighty acts by hearing his Word; we have received the Body and Blood of his Son under the forms of Bread and Wine; we have been taken to heaven in a liturgy shared with the communion of saints.

Now we are dismissed to the world to take up our lives in the power of the Spirit and refreshed with the life of Christ. A deacon calls out the dismissal from the middle of the Church, a dismissal which in fact is a re-commissioning to a life of ministry and service, and we all respond, “Thanks be to God!”