Going to Church

The Eucharist is celebratedAre you considering visiting an Anglican church? Perhaps you’ve passed a local church and wondered what goes on inside. Maybe a friend has invited you to come to her church, or you’re attending a wedding or another celebration.

No matter what the reason, you are very welcome at any of our churches. If you’ve never attended church or if it’s been a while, many sights and sounds may be unfamiliar to you. This brief guide might help.

Worshipping Together

Anglicans believe that the central thing we do as Christians is gather together for worship. In most churches, our main opportunity to do so is the Sunday morning worship service. This is the main time during the week when members of the congregation come together as a community. In most churches, the service is a Communion service, sometimes called the Eucharist or the Mass.

Many congregations also have different kinds of worship services, educational opportunities, activities and events during the week. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Before You Come

The easiest way to find out what’s happening at a church is to visit its website or call the church office. For websites and phone numbers of churches in the Diocese of Toronto, visit the Find a Church section. Many churches also post updates, photos and videos from their own Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

There is no “dress code” for church. Some people may dress informally, and others more formally. Wear what feels comfortable to you.

All children are welcome. Many churches provide programming for kids of different ages during the worship service, or you can keep your kids with you. All congregations make sure church is a safe environment for kids.

When You Arrive

You may want to arrive a few minutes before the worship service begins. You can sit wherever you feel the most comfortable.

There will be materials to help you follow the service and participate. In some churches this may be a paper leaflet and books found in the pew. In other churches the information you need may be projected on a screen.

Feel free to ask a greeter or someone near you for help and guidance in following the service and how to join in.

During the Service

Archbishop Fred Hiltz at The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Easter DayMost services are a mix of readings, prayers and a sermon. Some services have music, including hymns or songs sung by the congregation. Other services (particularly early on Sunday mornings and during the week) have no music.

You might be wondering when you should do what: kneel, sit, stand, say “Amen.” Just relax and follow what others are doing. You may see people bowing or making the sign of the cross at certain times, but this is a personal choice.

In most churches, at one part of the service called the Peace, people near you may greet you with a handshake and the words, “The Peace of Christ” or “Peace be with you.” Feel free to participate in a way that feels comfortable or appropriate to you.

Take in the music, the words of the Bible and the silences. Contemplate the symbols and images – the cross, the altar, the candles, the stained glass windows – that may enhance the worship space.

During most Sunday morning services, there will be a collection of money to support the congregation and the needs of others. You will see people passing a basket or plate. You’re welcome to contribute, but don’t feel obligated. Many churches have envelopes for visitors in the pew, or you can put an offering straight into the plate.

Communion

All baptized Christians are invited to receive the consecrated bread and wine at Communion. There may be some instructions in your leaflet about how Communion is received in that particular church.

You’re welcome to come forward for a blessing, whether or not you’re baptized. If you want the priest to bless you, cross your arms over your chest when he or she approaches you.

You can also choose to stay in your seat during this part of the service – it’s up to you!

After the Service

Most congregations have a time for refreshments and conversation after the Sunday service. You’re welcome to join in and mingle, but don’t feel obligated to stay. Feel free to introduce yourself to the priest and to ask questions. Pick up flyers about upcoming events and services. And most importantly, come back! We’d love to see you.