What to Expect When You Visit Us
You'll be welcome! We cordially invite you to worship with us and we’ll do everything we can to make you welcome. The usher at the door handing out the service bulletins will greet you and will be only too pleased to answer any questions you may have about the service. There may be other newcomers in church. Feel free to get yourself a nametag, which will be on the welcome table right near the entrance.
When you visit us, you’ll be our respected and welcome guest. You’ll not be singled out in an embarrassing way, or asked to stand before the congregation or made to come forward. You’ll simply be worshipping God along with the rest of us. Note that you don't have to bring a Bible with you.
If you don't yet feel ready to participate in one of our services, you can simply come in to watch and listen to what happens. Just tell the usher at the door that you only want to sit and watch. If you read this whole page, nothing will come as a surprise. Once you've come one or twice, you may feel that you'd like to join in with the rest of the congregation.
The Regular Services
Our principal service is the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion, celebrated on Sunday mornings (10:00 a.m.), or on other great Christian days such as Christmas Day and Easter Day. The service includes wonderful choral music and a sermon. This service normally lasts until about 11:00 a.m. and there is social time afterwards in the entryway or outside in the portico.
You don't need to get dressed up. If you're not sure what to wear, dress as you would if you were going shopping. What you wear isn't important. It's the fact you're here that matters!
Babies and Children
You’re welcome to bring your baby to church. If you bring children, they can either sit with you or join in activities with other children. During the Sunday morning service there’s a nursery for infants and special church school activities for children. These take place in KidZone, with properly qualified supervision. The children join their parents in church at a part of the service called “the Peace,” described in more detail below. If you’d like to take advantage of these faciliti
Belmont Ridge Middle School, where Saint Gabriel’s meets, is wheelchair-accessible, as is the auditorium. The ushers at the door and handing out the bulletins will make sure you're comfortable. Please be sure to ask them about anything they forget to tell you! Everything is on one level. You may transfer to a seat in the auditorium or remain seated in your wheelchair, whichever you prefer. You can go to receive Communion in your wheelchair or we can come to you. Please let an usher know if you want us to come to you.
Restrooms may be found down the hall from the auditorium; there are signs directing you to them, or an usher can tell you where they are. The hall is open before, during and after the service at 10:00 on Sundays.
The Worship Space
As you enter Belmont Ridge Middle School, you’ll be directed into the auditorium. Since we are a young mission church, we do not have our own church building. However, the people of Saint Gabriel’s work hard to turn the school auditorium into sacred space. On the stage of the auditorium you will see a large table that serves as an altar, covered with beautiful decorative altar cloths in the color of the season. To the side of it is a smaller table, called the credence table, where the bread and the wine are placed before the service. To your left at the front of the church, there is a lectern, from which the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached.
Although we cannot use real candles, you may see some electric candles burning: these remind us that Christ is the ‘Light of the world’ (John 8:12).
In some seasons of the year, colorful banners hang on the stage.
Seats are unreserved and you can sit anywhere you like.
Before the Service
Upon entering church, some people like to sit quietly in their pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. They will tend not to talk in church before a service, but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. Some people also quietly greet each other. Whatever feels comfortable to you is what you should do.
The ServiceAs you enter the church, you’ll be handed a service bulletin detailing the order of service including the words to any hymns or songs we will be using in the service.
If you’re in any doubt about what to do, please don’t be afraid to ask the ushers handing out the service bulletin! They’ll be happy to help. Many of our visitors haven’t been to an Episcopal Church before or else belong to Anglican-Episcopal churches which use different liturgies. Some may not even have been to church before – everyone is welcome.
While some parts of the service are always the same, others change. At the Eucharist, for example, two or three Bible selections are read. These change each Sunday. So do the hymns and other songs. Certain of the prayers also change, in particular the collects (short group prayers) and the intercessory prayers (usually led by a different person each week).
You’ll know that the service is about to begin when the prelude (sung by the choir) ends, and the opening hymn begins. At that time, a procession of people comes through, led by an acolyte (altar server) bearing a large cross. These people are the acolytes, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, and the clergy. The Vicar, or other person conducting the service, comes at the back. The congregation stands and sings the opening hymn. The hymns are in the bulletin, which tells you what’s going on all through the service.
The service then gets under way. Although there’s considerable variety during the year, most of the services have the same basic shape, which you'll get used to after coming a few times. If you get lost just ask someone near you to show you where we are in the service bulletin – they’ll be delighted to help.
You may wonder when to stand or sit. Practices vary, even among individual Episcopalians. We print cues about standing and sitting in the service bulletin. We do not kneel, since our worship space does not have kneelers. The general rule, though, is to stand to sing hymns and other songs (the words will be printed on your service sheet). We stand, too, for the reading of the Gospel and to say our affirmation of faith: the Nicene Creed. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and any hymns or songs sung only by the choir. We usually stand for prayer to show our gratitude to God for his love for us as His children or as an act of humility before Him. However, don't worry if you’re not doing exactly the same as others around you. Some people sit for the whole service. It really is more about how you feel comfortable; there's no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way.
During the service, the Vicar will say, “The peace of the Lord be always with you.” and the congregation replies, “And also with you.” Everyone then shakes hands, saying, “Peace be with you.” Please join in, as it helps to emphasize that we are all one people at peace with each other before God. Just after this, there’s an offertory, or collection. While your offering is welcome, please don’t feel that you have to contribute. Your presence is your gift to us, and our worship is our gift to you.
The service then moves to ‘Communion’: receiving the bread and wine. This, the central act of the whole service, is a symbolic remembrance of the Last Supper which Jesus ate with his closest friends on the night before he died (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20). A t Saint Gabriel’s, all baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, are welcome to receive communion. The ushers will invite each row to go forward to receive Communion. If you wish to come forward, please come up to the altar rail, then kneel or stand as you prefer and hold out your hands to receive. If you don’t feel that you want to receive the bread and wine then please still come up to the rail and kneel or stand, but cross your arms over your chest and we’ll know just to give you a blessing. If, however, you don’t feel ready to receive communion or a blessing on your first visit, no one will worry if you remain seated in your pew. Your children can come up to communion with you.
Communion is followed by a closing prayer. The service then concludes with a blessing and a final hymn. After this, the procession of servers and clergy forms again with the cross at the front and processes out as we sing a recessional hymn. The celebrant then says a dismissal.
We hope you’ll find the services at Saint Gabriel’s meaningful, God-centered and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
After the Service
At the end of the service, after the dismissal, the Vicar stands out in the hall and greets everyone as they leave. After the service, most people go to the outdoor portico or the cafeteria for tea or coffee, with soft drinks for children. You're most welcome to join us. You don't have to come, but it’s a good chance to meet people.
On most Sundays, there is an Adult Forum (a Sunday School for grown-ups) in one of the classrooms after coffee time. You are welcome to join in this time of conversation and learning; it may be a Bible Study, or dealing with the issues that we wrestle with as Christians, or church history. Occasionally we have “Stump the Pastor” sessions, when you get to ask all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask!
The Church Year
The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, is the four Sundays before Christmas. Christmas itself lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which is always on January 6th.
Lent, the forty day (excluding Sundays) period of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. The Easter season lasts for fifty days, starting on Easter Day and concluding on the feast of Pentecost.
During Advent and Lent, the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year - the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost - the New Testament is read sequentially from Sunday to Sunday, except for a few special Sundays which have their own readings. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments. The clergy usually wears the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it, ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders.
At the Eucharist, a priest or bishop may wear a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. The deacon's corresponding vestment has sleeves and is called a dalmatic. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a miter.
Stoles, chasubles, and dalmatics, as well as 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 purple, white, green and red. In general, purple is used for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter, green for the seasons of Epiphany and Pentecost and red for martyrs' days and saints' days.
Further informationIf you'd like to find out more about the Episcopal Church or about joining Saint Gabriel’s,The Rev. Daniel Vélez Rivera, our Vicar, will gladly answer your questions. Please speak to him after any service or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.