|What to Expect When You Visit
We are so glad you have chosen to find out more about St. Stephen’s. We understand that visiting a church for the first time can be a bit daunting. Many people who visit and join St. Stephen’s come from other denominations, and we try hard to make your first visit as comfortable as possible. We offer you these observations that may answer some questions you might have about our services.
What are the different kinds of services?
We use the contemporary service called Rite II in both of our morning services. Every once in a while we use what is called Rite I. The most apparent difference between Rite I and Rite II can be found in the type of language that is used. Rite I liturgies reflect a more traditional style of Anglican worship. Rite II liturgies use familiar, common English. Both of the services are Eucharistic, that is we have Holy Communion with bread or wafers and a common cup each Sunday. We invite all worshippers no matter how old to come forward to the table to share in the bread and wine.
What are the different books in the pews?
When you come in, an usher will give you a bulletin that guides you through the service and tells you what book to use when. The primary service book, which has a red cover, is called the Book of Common Prayer. It is the same book that is used in Episcopal services throughout the country.
Our hymnal, which has a blue cover, is used for congregational singing at both the early and later services. We sometimes supplement our singing with other books or cards, but these will be identified in the bulletin as well.
Also in the pews are visitor’s cards. We encourage you to fill one out and put it in the offering plate when it is passed to you. This way, we can create some lines of communication in case you have other questions. We also like to contact you after your visit, and this will help. Signing the visitor’s book that is in the narthex (or foyer) will give us a chance to send you notes after your visit. If you would like to visit with the priest, please indicate this on the card or call the church office at 256-881-7223. Office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30.
How will I know when to stand, sit, or kneel?
Generally, we stand to sing, to pray the Creed, for the reading of the Gospel, and for the prayers of the people. We sit while the other lessons from the Bible are read, during the sermon and announcements, and when the choir is singing. Some people in the congregation prefer to kneel for prayers while others prefer to stand – either is appropriate. What counts is participation, not perfection – please don’t worry about doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Your comfort is more important than being precise!
How do I receive the Eucharist?
The center of our worship each week is the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper). In the Eucharist, we share bread and wine in remembrance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, just as Jesus commanded at his Last Supper with his disciples. We also experience the mystery of Christ’s presence among us here and now.
We welcome you to participate in the Eucharist. When you come to the altar, you may choose to receive the bread and wine, or just the bread. Many people kneel at the altar, but you may also stand. To receive the bread, simply hold out your hands, palms up, one over the other. Some people intinct (or dip) their bread in the cup as it passes while some sip from the cup. It’s up to you. If you choose to take only the bread, please indicate this to the servers by crossing your arms in front across your chest. They will politely pass by. If you are not ready for communion, please come to the altar rail to receive a blessing from the priest.
Where do I take my children?
Children are always welcome at our services. As you come in the sanctuary doors, there is a large basket with books and bags of crayons for your children to bring to the pews if they wish. Don’t worry; they are getting far more out of the service than you think! We also have professionally staffed nursery care available at 10:00 and a quiet room available for either service in the back of the church where you can listen while your child is free to play or sleep.
If your child is of preschool or early elementary age, our program of Godly Play coincides with the 10:00 service. The children may be taken to the Godly Play rooms (ask an usher to lead you) before the service begins, and they will be brought back into the church to join you for communion. All children are invited to partake of communion according to their parents’ wishes.