What to expect on a Sunday morning
Sunday mornings at St. Joseph-St. John are structured, but informal. The service begins at 10:30 AM, which is also when Godly Play, the Sunday School curriculum for children, begins.
The doors to St. Joseph-St. John open right into the church's social hall. As you walk in, you will be greeted by a member of the congregation and given a bulletin for the day's worship service.People usually start gathering in the social hall between 10:10 AM and 10:20 AM. By 10:25 AM most people move into the church, where the organist is beginning or playing the prelude.
Entering into the worship space from the social hall, congregants pass icons of St. Joseph and St. John, the baptismal font, and the Paschal Candle. Baptism is entrance into the church, and people are reminded of that as they enter the church. The Pascal Candle symbolizes Christ's victory over death and the grave. It burns between Easter and Pentecost and for baptisms and funerals. It is sometimes called the Easter Candle.
At or around 10:30 AM the church bell rings three times, which is an invitation for the congregation to stand for the opening hymn. The music at St. Joseph-St. John pulls from a variety of resources — the Episcopal Hymnal 1982, hymn books from other Christian traditions, and music published separately from traditions. Music not from the Hymnal is printed in the bulletin. During the opening hymn a cross bearer, the choir when one is present, and the priest come into the church.
After the opening hymn, the presiding priest says an opening acclamation to which the people respond. Then everyone sings a song of praise. After the song of praise, the presider says or sings a prayer to focus the day's worship. This prayer is called a collect, and it is intended to collect the thoughts of the congregation. After the collect are readings from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament writings. The congregation greets the gospel with a hymn, then a priest or deacon reads a story about Jesus from one of the gospels and offers a homily or sermon.
After the sermon the people profess the Christian faith and belief in the Triune God using the words of the Nicene Creed. (Read more about beliefs on the beliefs page.) Following the Creed the people pray for the whole church and the whole world. Usually after the prayers is a confession said by all people, and the presider offers absolution and assures them that God has forgiven them. To demonstrate God's forgiveness and the people's forgiveness of one another, the congregation passes the peace with a handshake, hug, or gesture of peace.
All of humanity's gifts come from God. After the congregation passes the peace, the congregation's gifts of money are collected for the work of the church in the world, and the congregation brings offerings of bread and wine for use in sharing a meal together: Holy Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or the Holy Eucharist. Eucharist means "thanksgiving," and the long prayer over the bread and wine is a prayer of thanksgiving. This prayer starts with a dialogue between the priest and people, then the priest gives voice to the prayer of the whole assembly. On Sundays this prayer happens with the priest facing the people with the offered bread and wine at the center of the conversation. On Wednesdays, the priest joins the assembly in facing East, the direction of the Resurrection. The assembly joins angels and archangels to sing "Holy, holy, holy" and again respond in the prayer to declare their hope in Christ's return. The people affirm the fullness of the prayer by saying "Amen" in a loud voice or often singing it.
Christ the savior invites all people who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live and unity and peace to the Holy Table. Title I, Canon 17, Sec. 7 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church says, "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church," but those who present themselves for Communion are served at St. Joseph-St. John. Those interested in Baptism should inquire with Father Joseph. Those who prefer not to receive are invited to come to the altar rail and cross their arms to receive a blessing. Gluten-free bread and non-alcoholic wine are available by asking one of the servers.
As the people are finishing receiving communion, a hymn about communion begins and everyone sings. The people thank God for Christ's presence in the Eucharist and pray that they will be strengthened to do the work God has given them to do. After this postcommunion prayer, the congregation shares announcements that need to be especially highlighted or that have not made the announcements sheet. After the announcements, the bishop when present, or the presiding priest may bless the people in the name of the Triune God. The assembly sings a closing hymn, after which a deacon or the presiding priest dismisses them in God's service to the world.
After the service, the congregation socializes! A member of the congregation is scheduled each week to host the coffee hour. There is always coffee, and there are usually some snacks of varying degrees of heaviness. Sometimes there is juice for children — or adults who don't want a hot beverage right after church. This is an excellent time to catch up with a friend, or to make a new one.