Here’s what you can expect when you come to church for the first time.
Entering the Church
When you come in, there will be someone to greet you at the door. They will give you what you need for the service: an order of service or a prayer book, a hymnal and possibly a notice sheet. If you are not familiar with Church of England liturgies and you are handed a prayer book, just ask the person on the door to show you where to find the service and to guide you through.
You can sit anywhere you wish in the church. Feel free to join others in a pew or row, or to sit by yourself if you prefer.
Before the service some people chat quietly to catch up with one another and to bring the reality of the week into prayer. Others prefer to pray silently. Some sit and some kneel to pray. If you want silence, it’s best to sit still with your eyes closed or to kneel — that way people will know to welcome you after the service, rather than disturb you before.
The Start of Worship
Worship begins either with spoken words of welcome, or with the organist beginning the first hymn. The congregation stands at the start of the service to welcome God’s presence and to begin our formal time of worship together.
Please feel free to join in the singing however you can — hum, sing, listen. Music helps us say things to God that we can’t say in words alone, and it is a big part of our worship (especially in Waltham and New Waltham).
Stand, sit or kneel?
Feel free to do what seems right for you at any point. In general, we stand to sing, to listen to the gospel, to proclaim our faith, and when we are giving thanks. We kneel to pray quietly, to confess the things we’ve done wrong, or to rest in God’s presence after taking communion. We sit to listen to each other, to the bible, and to the sermon.
When we worship, we all join in. Sometimes we join in by speaking — if you have a service sheet, the words will be in bold; if you have a prayer book, others will start off and show you what to do. We join in by singing. We join in by listening — both to words and to music. We join in by praying. And sometimes we join in by laughing, crying, moving, writing or drawing something. You are welcome to join in actively, or to sit, listen and watch.
You are welcome to share in communion at any time.
The tradition of the Church of England is that children are welcomed into communion for the first time at a special celebration after a time of preparation. If you or your child has taken communion elsewhere, you are welcome here too. If you would like to take communion for the first time, please talk with the clergy and we’ll begin planning for the party.
Adults usually begin taking communion around the same time that they are confirmed — either after confirmation, or as part of their preparation for it. Confirmation is a special service where we name our faith publicly as a sign of thanks for God’s presence in our lives. The Confirmation service is always led by the bishop, and we gather with other church communities too. Sometimes, the moment has come to take communion, and the confirmation service is still many months away. If so, please speak with the clergy — it is possible to be admitted to communion at any time as you get ready to be confirmed.
Jesus gave bread and wine freely, to all who were willing to come. We try to too.
A lot of people come to church unsure of whether they are baptised, or knowing that they haven’t been. Don’t worry — you can be baptized at any time and at any age. Just speak with the clergy to begin the process.
The end of the service
Towards the end of worship, there will often be notices of things happening in the coming week. You are welcome to take part in any group or activity that is running in the church. Ask at the door if you would like more information about anything that is mentioned in the notices.
At the end of worship, we are sent out “to love and serve the Lord.” Often, though, before we go, we take time to be with each other informally over coffee. Please feel free to stay for coffee and conversation, or to leave immediately after the service if that is what you prefer.