Visiting: I’m not churchy!

I’ve never been in a church. I don’t know a lot about Jesus or the Bible. What can I expect?

Let’s start with some promises on our part:

A. You will not be singled out. At no point will you be asked to stand up alone or sign anything. You are our guest, and you will be treated as such.
B. We will not attempt to brainwash you. Episcopalians believe that doubt and intellectual inquiry are a fundamental part of a healthy Christian faith. There are no topics in faith, including the Bible, that are off-limits or hidden from vigorous scrutiny. Our tradition is one that has long valued scientific discovery and we see no inherent conflict between the life of faith and science. (Our former Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, was a research oceanographer before she entered ministry!)
C. You will not be pressured to give money. While we do take up a collection every week to help support the ministry of the church, it is certainly not an emphasis. If you don’t feel able or ready to give, just pass the plate without any embarrassment. Most of our members give on a monthly basis and many give online, so not everyone puts something in the collection plate every week. Don’t sweat it.
D. You will not be laughed at if you don’t do the right thing at the right time. The folks who worship at St. Dunstan’s come from various traditions and backgrounds. Some stand at some points while some kneel. Some cross themselves at various points, and others don’t. So most of the time, there is not one correct thing to do. Just follow along as best you can and find what works for you.
E. There are no stupid questions. Not only will you need help finding the bathrooms, but you may need help with the worship booklet or hymnals, or have other questions. Please ask your neighbor, an usher, or Rev. Miranda without embarrassment.

What will happen during the service?
Our services are based in the shared tradition of the western church. While our services are in modern English, they reflect two thousand years of church tradition. When you participate in our services, you are encountering God in a manner shared by billions of people across the world and through time.

We will sing. Episcopalians love to sing, no matter how good we are at it. Join in with gusto. At St. Dunstan’s, we sing from the primary Episcopal hymnal, the blue “Hymnal 1982” and a red supplemental hymnal containing songs we love from other sources. We also sing some “paperless” music – music taught on the spot for everyone to sing together, regardless of age, familiarity, or ability to read music.

We will read Scripture. Through the use of a lectionary, the vast majority of the Bible is read aloud in small snippets over a three year cycle. Each service includes a reading from the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), a Psalm, a reading from the letters and sermons of the first Christians (the New Testament),  and from the Gospels, the four books of the New Testament that tell the story of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection. This is followed by a sermon of about twelve to fifteen minutes.

We say the Nicene Creed. The creed is a statement of the church’s faith passed down through the centuries. It is poetic statement of the faith of the whole church, not an individual intellectual affirmation. It is a starting point for speculation about God rather than an end product.

We pray for the church, the world, and our society. By holding up our concerns before God, we remind ourselves of the needs of those around us and ourselves, and we commit ourselves to working for a just society. 

We confess our sins. We do this with a shared text as a congregation, acknowledging that we often fall short of what God would like from us. You will not be asked to voice your individual sins, nor will anyone else. The priest pronounces God’s absolution, reminding us that we are never beyond God’s love.

We pass the peace. We greet one another, reflecting our gladness in Gods love and forgiveness.

We celebrate the Eucharist. The priest prays over the bread and wine on the congregations behalf, asking Jesus to be present in it.  The congregation is invited to share in the bread and wine, which are Christ’s body and blood. In the Eucharist we are made one with Christ and with one another.

The priest pronounces a blessing. Then we go out into the world where the real work of Christian life occurs. Being a Christian is not primarily about church on Sunday. It is about living our lives in such a way that we daily reflect the love of God we have been shown. We strive to do that in our daily lives.

No matter where you are on your journey of faith, you will be welcome at St. Dunstan’s Church. You will not be judged, you will not be shaken down, you will not be embarrassed.

Text adapted from St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, WI. 

6205 University Ave., Madison WI