FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS
If you are attending the principal Sunday service (the “Holy Eucharist” or “Mass”) at S. Stephen's for the first time, you may discover the church mostly silent when you arrive. This is not because we are unfriendly. Our tradition values quiet before the service, so that we can say our prayers and prepare ourselves spiritually for worship. The ushers will greet you and give you a program (the "Kalendar") but they will likely keep conversation to a minimum: this is to maintain the atmosphere of quiet before we begin.
The Kalendar is designed to be as user-friendly as possible in helping you to follow the service, while keeping the juggling of Prayer Books and Hymnals to a minimum. At various stages, the congregation stands, sits, or kneels; you may notice some people bowing or making the sign of the cross at certain points. Don’t worry if this is all unfamiliar to you. No one is watching to judge whether you are “doing it right.” Feel free to follow along in whatever way is most comfortable for you.
The "exchange of the peace" at S. Stephen's is deliberately kept brief. We give spoken announcements only on rare occasions, preferring to let the congregation read of upcoming events in the insert called “Parish Notes” included in The Kalendar. Worship is so important in our tradition that we are hesitant to break the flow of the service for any longer than necessary.
Once the final hymn is over, some people leave right away; others remain in the pews to say their prayers and to listen to the concluding piece of organ music (known as a “Voluntary”). When you leave, the clergy will be waiting to greet you at the doors. On virtually all Sundays we have Coffee Hour in the Great Hall – on the second floor of the parish building (known as the “Guild House”) – and we warmly invite all visitors and guests to join us. Ask one of the clergy or one of your fellow worshipers for directions.
Children are welcome at S. Stephen’s! If you have school-age children, we invite you to bring them to Sunday School. Ask an usher to direct you to the third floor classrooms where it takes place. During the first part of the service the children receive Christian education and enjoy fellowship with one another; during the second part they return to their families in church to participate in the Mass.
We also have a Nursery for younger children (up to age five). When you arrive, ask an usher, who will be glad to escort you there. You are also welcome to keep your children with you during church, whatever their age. If you need to take your child out for a moment, please feel free to use the parish library - a comfortable space just a few steps down the hallway from the church.
To inquire about having your children baptized please talk to one of the clergy. More information on Baptism can be found here.
For information on receiving Holy Communion at S. Stephen's, please go here.