What to Expect

You’ll Be Welcome

We extend a cordial invitation to you to worship with us, and offer the following as a brief introduction to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Panama City and its ways.

The Place of Worship

As you enter the nave, or main seating area, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence. Your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross in the sanctuary.

So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is. At the altar are candles to remind us that Christ is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12) and flowers to beautify God’s house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.

On the left side of the sanctuary as you look towards the altar there is a lectern-pulpit in the shape of a boat’s prow, for the proclamation of the Word; here the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached.

The Act of Worship

Episcopal church services are congregational; that means everyone participates.  We sing together and pray together.  Members from the congregation read the Lessons to us.  In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer, the use of which enables the congregation to share fully in every service.  A service bulletin (handed out by our greeters) gives the Order of Worship and tells you where the hymns and prayers are located.

You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary – even among individual Episcopalians.

The general rule is to stand to sing; hymns (found in the Hymnal in the pews) and other songs (many of their lyrics are from Scripture) called canticles, chants and contemporary music printed in the bulletin. We stand too (as we are able), to recite our affirmation of faith, the Nicene Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist.

We sit during readings from the Old or New Testament, the psalm, the sermon, and choir anthems at the Offertory. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as his children or as an act of humility before him.

We “Pass the Peace” (greet each other in Christ’s name) at the end of the service as we move out of our pews to reach newcomers and visitors. The ministers will often move down the central aisle and back up the other side to greet the congregation personally.  Some people will shake hands, others may give a hug for special friends.  But this should not be a time to chat, just an acknowledgement that we are all God’s children and members of the body of Christ.  Please join us fo rcoffee after the service in Byrne Hall to coninue in fellowship

HOLY EUCHARIST

Every Sunday we celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion).   Some times the service is simple but, especially on special Feasts and other occasions of special significance (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and St. Andrew’s Day), we celebrate with great pageantry, banners and special musical offerings.

We come to the Altar for Communion each week to prepare ourselves to go out to spread the Good News of the Gospel and bring others to know the love of Jesus.  The priest and lay ministers will serve you both bread and wine.  You may receive the bread or wafer in your cupped hands (right over left) or allow the Chalice Bearer to “intinct” (dip) the bread in the wine for you; it will then be placed in your open mouth.  If you (or your children) wish only to receive a blessing, you may cross your arms over your chest and the minister will offer a short prayer for you.  Any person who has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may take Communion.

You will find the services of the Episcopal Church beautiful in their ordered dignity; the liturgy is God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.

BEFORE AND AFTER SERVICES

When you enter the church, greeters will provide you with a bulletin; you may also be given a copy of our monthly newsletter, “High Tidings” which has news about coming events and is also available on-line in the media section of the web-site.  Feel free to sit anywhere in the pews you like. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the pew as an act of reverence for Christ.

It is the custom upon entering the pew to kneel (or sit) for a period of personal preparation for worship.  You are asked not to talk in church before a service so you don’t bother others who are using this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others sometimes sit to listen to the organ postlude.

Following the service, our pastor will greet you as you leave, and we provide coffee and social time in Byrne Hall.

VESTMENTS

To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other participants in the services wear vestments.  A familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it an ordained minister may wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric, around his/her neck. Lay ministers serving at the Altar may also wear the alb.

At the Holy Eucharist the Celebrant frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head-covering called a mitre.

Stoles, chasubles and altar coverings are usually made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white, red, purple, and green.

THE CHURCH YEAR

St. Andrew’s, Panama City observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. The “Green Season” is the longest season, beginning the Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) and lasting until Advent begins again.

During these times the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season.  The New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings. A three-year cycle is observed during which the entire Bible is read.

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