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What to expect at St. Paul's

 Welcome! We are always happy to see new faces at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Our Sunday service is at 10 am. All are welcome in The Episcopal Church: we really do mean all, no matter who you are, or what you do, or don’t believe. Here is what to expect on a typical Sunday at St. Paul’s Church:

When you arrive at St. Paul’s on the corner of 15th and J strees in downtown Sacramento, you will find parking along 15th street.  There is also limited parking behind the church – we front in and stack up to 9 cars in the parking lot.  Enter the parking lot off the 15th street alley behind the church.  In addition to on-street parking and our small parking lot there are several parking garages withing easy walking distance to the the church.  One is located on the corner of 15th and K streets with the entry off of K street between 15th and 16th.  The other is at the corner of 15th and H street with entrances on both 15th and 14th streets. There are several steps up to both the J street and 15th street doors of the church, and there is a ramp, wide enough for wheelchairs behind the  building. Restrooms are in back of the church and in the parish hall behind the church.

Ushers will greet you at the front doors of the church, and give you a Sunday service bulletin. The ushers are a good source for any questions you may have before, or during the service. If you have any special needs, like you are unable to come up to the front for Communion, but would still like to receive, tell an usher and they will let the priest know. Please sign the guest book that is in the 15th street Narthex (lobby).  

Children are welcome to join us in the worship service.  We do not get upset if they need to move around and make some joyful noise to the Lord during the service.

Have a seat anywhere you like; people will be happy to share a pew with you. At the beginning of the service the Priest will welcome you to the service and make any announcements for the week.  After that we will center our hearts to worship God.  During that time some organ or piano music will be played, and the custom is to be silent, pray, and reflect before worship begins. At the ringing of the bell everyone stands and sings the first hymn while the altar party processes to the front of the church. The words to the hymns can be found in the Hymnal, the larger blue book in the pew rack, the smaller book, either red or black, is our Book of Common Prayer and contains all the words of our services, but our bulletin has everything you need for the service to make it easier to follow if you aren’t familiar with Episcopal worship.

Episcopalians are known for “pew aerobics!” Sitting, standing, kneeling, and even some “wandering around” during services. You may follow along or just sit and observe. Basically, we stand to sing, sit to learn, and stand or kneel to pray. Also, you will notice that some of us bow when the cross passes, or genuflect (bend one knee to the ground), or cross ourselves at certain times during the service. These are signs of respect and reverence to God and Jesus Christ. These practices vary greatly among our parishioners; you will not stick out if you do not make any of these gestures, as not everyone does.

You will hear Old Testament and New Testament readings, read by a church member (lay reader) who comes forward to the lectern. In between readings there will be a Psalm, usually read together by the entire congregation, and another hymn. For the Gospel reading, the priest will process to the middle of the church with the Gospel book. The congregation will turn to face the Gospel book, and as a sign of respect everyone who is able should stand during the reading of the Gospel.

After the Gospel lesson, there’s a sermon, usually but not always from one of our priests. Following that, we stand to recite the Nicene Creed, an ancient statement of the basic beliefs shared by most Christian denominations. Then we share in the “Prayers of the People” which vary by the week depending on whom or what needs praying for. You will hear people offer up names of folks they are asking prayers for. They may even just say “thank you for this beautiful day”. Some people stand and others kneel for these prayers.

As we read aloud our prayer of confession, many people will kneel. You may remain seated or stand if it is more comfortable. Next the priest will proclaim God’s forgiveness of your sins, and a hearty ”May the Peace of the Lord be always with you,” to which we respond, “And also with you!” The priest will invite anyone that would like a blessing for a birthday, anniversary, thanksgiving, or traveler’s prayer to come forward. Sometimes parents will accompany little ones if they are too shy to come up alone.

The next part of the service is Holy Eucharist (an ancient Greek word meaning Thanksgiving), also called Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Mass, or the Sacrament. This is bread and wine, which Episcopalians believe become the body and blood of our savior Jesus Christ, after they are consecrated or blessed. The bulletin will guide you through the prayers and responses. 

In The Episcopal Church all baptized Christians, no matter their denomination, are welcome to take Communion. The ushers will come by the pews, from front to back to invite you to go forward to the front of the Church.  Those who wish to receive communion are invited to come forward.  Please indicate if you would like to receive the bread only or receive in both kinds by intinction (dipping of the host by the clergy), or by drinking from the common cup.  The silver chalice has consecrated wine and the pottery chalice has consecrated grape juice. Prayers for healing are available at the Baptismal Font during Communion.  If you do not wish to come to the front for Communion or a blessing, you may stay in your seat; no one will think it strange or judge you.

We finish with a post-Communion prayer, a blessing from the priest, and sing another hymn as the priest and the altar party recess to the back of the church. A final dismissal from the priest and then we sit for our postlude - a time to collect our thoughts before we go to Coffee Hour - or whatever else our day holds for us.  Coffee hour is usually held in the back of the Church or in the Parish Hall