Are you thinking about visiting an Anglican church? Maybe you’ve passed a local church and wondered what goes on inside. Maybe a friend has invited you to come to her church, you’re attending a wedding or baptism, or you simply feel called to step inside.
Whatever the reason, you’re very welcome at any of our churches. If you’ve never been to church or if it’s been a while, some of the sights and sounds may be unfamiliar to you. This brief guide might help. You can also watch or join online worship services, including the regular Sunday morning livestream from St. James Cathedral in Toronto.
Can anyone go to church?
Yes, absolutely! It can be intimidating to walk in the doors of a church, especially if it’s new to you. You don’t have to believe the right things, have all (or any) of the answers, or live a certain kind of life. Wherever you are on your faith journey, you’re always invited.
In most churches, our main opportunity to gather together is the Sunday morning worship service. Many churches also have different services, educational opportunities, activities and events during the week. You don’t have to go to church on Sunday morning to attend these other activities.
If you want to learn more about a church, you can visit its website or call its office to find out what you can expect. Many churches post updates, photos and videos from their own social media profiles. You can also check out our events calendar to see what’s happening around the Diocese!
We believe that the central thing we do as Christians is gather together for worship, often on Sunday morning. This is the time when members of the congregation come together to praise God, hear scripture and pray as a community. In most churches, this is a Communion service, sometimes called the Eucharist or the Mass. That means we receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
Some congregations also have different kinds of worship services on Sundays and during the week.
If you worship with us during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll notice some differences to what we describe below. Rest assured, we have rules in place to make our churches safe for everyone.
Check with the church you’re planning to attend to find out if you need to register beforehand. When you arrive, you’ll be asked some screening questions. You don’t need to be vaccinated to attend most worship services.
Everyone coming to church needs to wear a mask. You may see the priest or other leaders speaking without masks when they’re reading the lessons or delivering the sermon, but they’re the only exceptions. Members of different households need to maintain distance from each other. You’ll find hand sanitizer in various places in the church.
If you decide to receive communion, you’ll receive the bread or wafer from the priest, and then step aside before you remove your mask, eat the bread, replace your mask and sanitize your hands. We’re not using wine during communion right now.
Each church will have a slightly different set-up, so listen for instructions and watch what other people are doing if you’re not sure!
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 Find a Church.
There’s no “dress code” for church. Some people dress informally, and others more formally. Wear what feels comfortable to you.
All kids are welcome. Many churches have programs 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 service starts. You can sit wherever you feel the most comfortable. Each worship space looks a bit different – some have benches or pews, and some have chairs.
There will be materials to help you follow the service and participate. In some churches this may be a paper leaflet and books with hymns and prayers. 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 in following the service and how to join in.
During the service
Most 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.
You can join in as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. 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.
In most churches, at one part of the service called the Peace, people near you may greet you with a handshake or a bow 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.
During most Sunday morning services, there will be a collection of money to support the congregation and the needs of others. You’ll 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.
Most Sunday morning services include Communion. All baptized Christians are invited to receive the consecrated bread and wine. In this meal, we’re energized, nourished and strengthened to love and serve the world in Jesus’ name.
There may be some instructions in your leaflet about how Communion happens in that particular church. Often, a sidesperson (greeter) will indicate when it’s your turn to go forward, or you can simply follow the people in front of you.
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 they approach 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 churches have a time for refreshments and conversation after the Sunday service – often called “coffee hour.” You’re welcome to join in and mingle, but don’t feel obligated to stay. Feel free to introduce yourself to the priest and members of the community, and to ask questions. Pick up flyers about upcoming events and services. And most importantly, come back! We’d love to see you.