Our beliefs as Christians
This is a brief introduction to our life and faith and to tell you a little about who we are. The Episcopal Church is a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion, with 70 million members in 163 countries. We are a community of Christians bound together by our belief that Holy Scripture contains the very core of all Christian faith and thought, the many ancient and modern stories that connect us to Jesus and his teachings, discovering daily God’s hope and call to us through our life together.
We live out these core beliefs through:
- Worship and parish programs
- Reaching out to the community
- Sharing our story with others
- Seeking God’s love together in study and prayer
- Giving of our means and talents to the greater purpose of God’s work
In worship, we are united, acknowledging the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer and to celebrate God’s presence among us. All are welcome to participate in our worship because it is in worship that we live our lives as a Christian family together. Scripture is the foundation of our worship. The service follows an order found in our worship book called the Book of Common Prayer, two-thirds of which is scriptural. Every worship service includes the reading of Holy Scripture from the Old and New Testaments. Many of our prayers and hymns are filled with Scripture. The Book of Common Prayer includes a variety of ancient and a modern prayers and worship occasions for times when the whole community gathers, and for individual use. The Book of Common Prayer allows everyone to participate, reminding us that each person is an important part of the worship experience, whether the service is a celebration or a solemn occasion. It is a guide book for daily Christian living. Music, both traditional and contemporary, is an integral part of uniting our prayers and scripture.
Celebrating our God’s Presence
In our worship service, we celebrate God with us through water, bread and wine. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us through baptism we are united with God. The Episcopal Church believes through baptism—in any Christian denomination—we become brothers and sisters in God‘s family. (If you are not baptized and wish to be, you may contact the church office for more information.) Jesus shared bread and wine with his first followers and is with us today in this family meal we call Holy Communion. Through it we receive the forgiveness of our sins and a strengthening of our union with God and one another as we remember Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Any baptized person is welcome and encouraged to share in this meal.
We believe there is One God who creates all things, redeems us from sin and death, and renews us as the Children of God. As Episcopalians we promise to follow Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. We believe the mission of our church is restoration of all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We are enriched by your presence with us.
The Book of Common Prayer is our guide to worship and devotion used in our daily relationship with God. The Book of Common Prayer can be complicated even for life-long Episcopalians and can seem even more bewildering for visitors and newcomers. Although this is brief, we hope to answer some of the questions you may have and make worship in the Episcopal tradition easier for you.
Our current Book of Common Prayer, revised in 1979, was originally compiled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Crammer, in 1549. There are more than 70 million Anglicans (Episcopalians) in 163 countries throughout the world, using the Book of Common Prayer in their own language, reflecting our diversity and ethnic backgrounds.
What is the Book of Common Prayer?
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of ancient and modern prayers and worship occasions for times when the community gathers and for individual use as well. It allows everyone to participate, reminding us that each person is an important part of the worship experience, whether the service is a celebration or a solemn occasion. It is a guide book for daily living.
Why call it “Common” prayer?
Common does not mean ordinary but “available” to the common person. These are the prayers we say together or “in common” when we worship as a community.
Does it relate to the Bible?
Scripture is the foundation of our worship. Two-thirds of the Book of Common Prayer comes directly from the Old and New Testaments.
What services are included?
The primary service is the presentation of our Lord’s last supper with his disciples, a service we call the Holy Eucharist. However, the first experience many visitors have with the Book of Common Prayer is at weddings, baptisms or at funerals in the Episcopal Church.
Can it be used in personal devotions?
Yes, in private daily prayers or with family , prayers in the morning and evening, special prayers of praise or thanksgiving, requests for others and for special occasions. All 150 Psalms, or poems from the Old Testament, are contained in the Book of Common Prayer and can be read at any time. A calendar for reading through the entire Bible every two years, as well as an outline of the Episcopal faith and Church history is also included.
Can I make up my own prayers?
The Book of Common Prayer is meant to compliment daily individual prayers, not to replace them. Every service in the book includes time for personal prayer requests, either silent or aloud. The Book of Common Prayer has been a source of comfort, joy and inspiration, a unique treasure in Christian worship for more than 400 years. Join us this Sunday and experience for yourself the love and the presence of God in an Episcopal Church.
Dear Lord, you govern and make holy all your people: receive our prayers for all those who seek a closer relationship with you, that alone and together we may experience your love and guidance in all that we do in your name. Amen
In the Episcopal Church, we take part in certain regular acts of worship. These are called sacraments or reenactments of Christ’s ministries on earth. The two primary sacraments are baptism and holy communion.
We believe that God is actively present in the world and in us. In the sacraments we realize his presence and his favor towards us. Through the sacraments, which are freely given to us by God, our sins are forgiven, our minds enlightened, our hearts stirred and our wills strengthened.
These sacraments are contained in the worship services found in the Book of Common Prayer, a book used for worship services and as a guide for Christian life. A complete outline of the Episcopal faith can be found on pages 845-862 of the Book of Common Prayer. Your questions are encouraged and always welcome. Please feel free to contact the church office for more information.
What is Holy Baptism?
Baptism is the means by which we become members of the community of believers, defined in the New Testament as the Body of Christ. Just as Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist, we include the people in the community of faith by baptizing then with water. Following a series of questions, responses and prayers, the priest pours water on the candidate. The sign of the cross may be made on their forehead with blessed oil. In the Episcopal Church, a person is baptized only once.
What is Holy Communion?
It is a reenactment of the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples before his death on the cross. Any baptized person is welcome to share in this meal of bread and wine.
What are the other sacraments?
Confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent and unction.
What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is when a baptized person, who has been instructed in the Christian faith, makes a mature commitment to God within a worship setting and receives a special blessing and prayer from a bishop.
What is Holy Matrimony?
Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which a woman and a man enter into a lifelong union and make their promises before God in a worship service.
What is Reconciliation of a Penitent?
While private confession of sins is not a requirement, anyone may request the reconciliation of a penitent from a priest and receive assurance of God’s forgiveness. The confession is always made in private and kept in strict confidence.
What is Unction?
Unction is a special blessing for those who are sick or desire special prayers. A sign of the cross is made on their forehead with blessed oil.
What is ordination?
Ordination is the sacrament where God empowers trained persons for special ministry as deacons, priests or bishops. The service always includes the laying on hands by bishops.
Dear Lord, in your sacraments you fulfill your promise to be with us always and you strengthen us to continue in communion with you in a community of faith: bring us we pray into a closer relationship with you. Amen
The word “Creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” which means “I believe”. The Creeds are the statements that contain a summary of our basic beliefs.
In the Episcopal Church we say both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed in our Worship. The apostles Creed dates from the early years of the Christian Church and was used as a statement of faith at Baptism. The Apostles Creed is included in the services of daily Morning and daily Evening Prayer that may be used both at church and in private devotions. It can be found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 53, 66, 96 and 120 within these different services.
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Nicene Creed was written in the year 325 by early bishops meeting in Nicaea (modern day Turkey). It is a statement which summarizes the Christian faith and is said in unison during services of Holy Eucharist (the reenactment of the Lord’s Supper). It can be found on pages 326 and 358 in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Why the Creeds?
Because we are a community of faith, we openly declare our beliefs and in this way unite ourselves to Christians in the past, present and future.
Do I have to believe everything in the Creeds?
Relationship with God is a personal journey and also one we share with others in this community of faith. The Creeds clearly state the beliefs of the Church and we recite them as we join with those around us in the process of discovering our own relationship with God. So it’s not easy to answer this question “yes” or “no”. The importance is to take part with fellow seekers in this lifelong journey.
What if I have doubts or questions?
It’s not unusual to have doubts and questions. In the Episcopal church, questions are encouraged. There are many groups, classes and forums available for discussing questions with other seekers. One opportunity is the Discovery Class, held at different times throughout the year in all Episcopal churches. In addition, the clergy are eager to be contacted for help with questions.
Dear Lord, you have promised to be with us on our journey and have given us your Creeds for our own journey: help us, in our doubts and uncertainties, to draw closer to you. Amen.
Scripture, Tradition and Reason
In the Episcopal church, we are called to live out our faith on a daily basis, whether we are at home, school, work or recreation. The cornerstones of our faith are Scripture, tradition and reason.
Scripture is the word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The 39 books of the Old Testament contain the story of God’s love from Creation up to the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. They contain God’s laws as He gave them to the Hebrew people. The New Testament contains Christ’s teachings, the accounts of this life as told by his followers, and the beginning of this church. It is written in 27 books. Within an Episcopal worship service, Scripture is read in the lessons, the Gospel (the teachings of Jesus), the Psalms (poems from the Old Testament) and other prayers. Additionally, two-thirds of our guide to worship, the Book of Common Prayer, comes directly from the Old and New Testaments.
We are not Christians in isolation but are part of a living faith that spans 2000 years. Tradition is the embodiment of our experience as Christians throughout the centuries. The heart of our tradition is expressed through the bible, the Creeds (statements of faith, written in first centuries of the church’s existence), the Sacraments (the Lord ’s Supper and Baptism), and the ordained ministry passion by Christ to his Church. Our tradition is expressed with many voices, among which are a variety of worship styles, languages, cultures, architecture and music. Our tradition encourages this diversity. We see to value the life and story each person can bring to the community of faith. As in a multi textured tapestry, each person’s offering is woven into the life of the whole, making it stronger and more beautiful.
Each one of us, with God’s help, makes a decision about how we use tradition and Scripture in our lives. A personal relationship with God allows us to realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a complement to Scripture and tradition, leads us to seek answers to our own questions and to grow spiritually. Being active in a community of faith strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving scripture, tradition and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God.
Dear Lord, you bless us with the gifts of Scripture, tradition and reason and with them you empower us as your children to draw closer to you; be present with all who seek to learn more about you and to become members of your community of faith, carrying your message of love and peace into the world. Amen