Visiting? What to Expect

About Episcopal services

Episcopal services involve the congregation a lot. The most important thing to remember is you can’t do anything “wrong.” In fact, within a single congregation, you may see people doing different things. Some people may stand, sit, or kneel at various times. Others do not. Some may make the sign of the cross on themselves. Others do not. We encourage you to do what feels comfortable to you.

How to follow along

Episcopal services have many congregational responses, such as when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” the people in the pews typically reply, “and also with you.” You can follow all of the words and actions in either the bulletin or in the Book of Common Prayer, which is typically available in every pew. You should also see hymnals. Page numbers and hymn numbers are most often provided in the bulletin and provided by the speaker during the service. Again, participate to your comfort level. If you want a preview of a church service, many churches also livestream their services on their website or social media channels.  

What about taking Communion?

By far, the most common service in The Episcopal Church includes the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (also known as Communion). All baptized persons are invited to share in Communion.

Customs for communion may vary slightly, but generally speaking, ushers direct the congregants to come forward, row by row, and form a line near the altar. You will receive a wafer (gluten free wafers are typically available upon request). There will also be a common cup of wine. Since COVID, customs around taking the wine vary, and typically the priest will announce the method they use to give wine. It is perfectly acceptable to take only the wafer and no wine. You may see others doing this. In general, if you choose to take communion, just observe what others are doing, participate to your comfort level, and remember that there is no wrong way to do it.      

If you prefer not to take communion for any reason, that is totally acceptable. You will likely see some members who choose to remain in their pew.

If you are not baptized, you are welcome to come forward for a blessing. You do this by crossing your arms over your chest when you stand before the clergy person.  

How can I find out what the church near me is like?  

The best way to get a feel for a particular church is by checking out their website and social media. There you may glean answers to common questions, like: What do most people wear to services? Is there Sunday School? A nursery? Again, many churches livestream their Sunday services – another way to preview the service and the congregation.

Will I be welcomed?

The Episcopal Church welcomes everyone – no exceptions. We believe that all people have a full and equal claim to God’s love. We invite you to read our message of inclusivity in The Episcopal Church.