"I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke."
The Thurifer censes the People at the Offertory.
Worship is central to our life and mission at S. Stephen’s. Our Sunday services comprise the full round of the Church’s daily worship: the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Holy Eucharist (or Mass). In addition to Sundays, we offer the Eucharist and usually one of the Daily Offices every day of the week as well.
The purpose of worship in the Anglo-Catholic tradition is not to entertain, edify, educate, inspire, motivate, or instruct; worship can and often does accomplish these things, but its primary purpose is to render to God the praise that is his due. Along the way, we may find our spirits lifted into God’s presence so that we receive a foretaste of heaven. By worshiping regularly, we grow spiritually to become more and more the persons that God has created us to be. But, again, the point of worship in our tradition is not what we get out of it, but what we give.
Worship in the Anglo-Catholic tradition is liturgical; that is, it follows an ordered and predictable pattern. While our services may seem confusing to someone attending for the first time, they quickly become comfortably familiar to those attending Sunday by Sunday – because most Sundays the same things are said and done in much the same sequence. This highly structured order of service is not stifling but liberating. Not having to reinvent the wheel each week, we gain the freedom to concentrate on worshiping God.
Anglo-Catholic worship is sacramental, in two senses of the word. First, it gives a central place to the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist, as the appointed means by which we receive God’s grace and strength. Second, because we are not pure intellects or disembodied spirits, Anglo-Catholic worship engages
us in the fullness of our humanity, body and soul, by visible signs and symbols that appeal to our sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Our worship is thus richly sensual, making use of music, incense, candles, vestments, sacred images, and ceremonial pageantry to lift our hearts and minds to the unseen God.
Finally, Anglo-Catholic worship is corporate, in that it is the activity of a gathered assembly. God did not create us to be isolated individuals. As human beings, we realize the fullness of our identity in relationship with others. The liturgy thus brings us together as members of a community. Worshiping together, we grow in the ability to forgive one another as God has forgiven us, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Opportunities for Service
Our parishioners serve in many capacities which make our corporate worship possible. Below are several critical roles that one may wish to consider undertaking, after becoming regular participants in parish life and thoughtful discussion with clergy about where one's gifts can best be put to service.
"I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God..." -- Psalm 84
Our ushers greet people at the door, make sure everyone has what they need for worship, answer questions about what's happening or where to go, take the collection and present it at
S. Stephen's in Procession around College Hill, with the Sacrament under the canopy. Feast of Corpus Christi.
the altar, and stand ready to respond to any need or emergency that occurs during the course of the service. Ushers are the first people many of our visitors meet, and their untiring friendliness is a testament to the joy they take in what they do.
"Who are these, clothed in white robes...?" -- Revelation 7
Acolytes accompany the clergy in carrying out the ceremonial of our worship. There are various parts to play: torch-bearers and the crucifer, thurifer, master of ceremonies, and the subdeacon, all to complement the functions of the ordained ministers, the deacon and celebrant. Acolytes learn these roles part by part, adding to their "repertoire" as they grow in skill and as their interest directs. We welcome children and youth to participate as acolytes. It can be a great introduction to the Church and the Christian life of faith, and it is always a lot of fun besides!
"She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work..." -- Psalm 45
The Altar Guild looks after the material implements of our worship and takes great care to get them ready Sunday by Sunday for the service of the altar. Their work happens largely behind the scenes; they are responsible for our lovingly cleaned and pressed linens, spotless silver vessels, and shrines full of votive candles.
"Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren dwell together in unity...!" -- Psalm 133
Coffee hour after church on Sunday is a time to enjoy one another's company over light refreshments and, in many ways, continues the work we started in church! This is a great occasion to greet visitors, share news, and make plans for the coming week. A rota of parishioners volunteers to make this happen: providing food, setting up the parish hall, and cleaning up afterwards. It is heroic service and an invaluable contribution to the vibrancy of parish life.