WORSHIP NOTES: ADVENT and THE CHURCH YEAR
Worship in the Episcopal Church blends tradition and innovation, adhering to forms and structures of worship that date back centuries while also making room for new expressions of prayer and praise. Sometimes we call our worship “liturgy,” which is an old Greek word that refers to something people do on behalf of, or for the benefit of, the whole community. Liturgy is our common work, and Sunday worship is intended to be a common experience of the gathered community. (As opposed to personal prayers, which we may undertake privately.)
Episcopal liturgy is drawn from several main sources (the Book of Common Prayer, the Hymnal), and makes additional use of supplementary sources (prayers and blessings come from Enriching our Worship and the Book of Occasional Services; and hymns from music sources like Wonder, Love, and Praise; Lift Every Voice and Sing; and Voices Found). Every liturgy at St Stephen’s includes material drawn from one or more of these sources.
Liturgy in the Episcopal Church follows a calendar, a three-year cycle of Bible readings called a lectionary (the readings we hear on Sunday mornings are not chosen by the clergy; they are drawn from the lectionary, which is more or less shared among all major denominations). The church year is also divided into seasons, each of which is characterized by a particular theme or theological focus. The first season of the year is called Advent, and it starts today. Its themes are expectation, hope, renewal, and the coming of Christ (both in judgment and in glory).
For this season of Advent, we have included some alternative material from Enriching Our Worship; for example, the Nicene Creed uses slightly different language to express the complexity of our belief in the Holy Trinity. In this way, we honor both our commitment to the traditional structure of liturgy, and also our openness to new expressions of that tradition.
Festival of Lessons and Carols (aka Stories and Songs)
December 17 @ 5pm
Lessons and Carols is a time-honored event that has been celebrated at King’s College in Cambridge for 99 years. Churches around the globe gather for this special way of remembering the great story of Christmas through stories and songs from our tradition. On Sunday, Dec 17 at 5pm, St Stephen’s will join ourselves to that tradition in our own special way, re-imagining Lessons and Carols as “Songs and Stories,” and inviting people of all ages to come and participate, read, listen, pray, and sing our way into Christmas together. Readers of all ages are encouraged to participate: contact Rev Steve if you’re interested (email@example.com). The service will be followed by a festive reception in the Parish Hall.
CHRISTMAS AT ST. STEPHEN’S
St Stephen’s Episcopal Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of Christ with songs, stories, and sacraments: Join us!
December 24, Sunday
8am Advent IV & Holy Eucharist
11am Christmas Pageant (rehearsals December 10 & 17)
Our first service of Christmas is especially intended for families with children, though all ages are welcome. We tell the story of Jesus’ birth in an interactive way that invites children’s participation. Familiar Christmas hymns make it easy to sing along, and we share Holy Communion with everyone in the room. Come early to get a good seat, and to visit the crèche beforehand.
8pm Christmas Eve Eucharist
A music celebration starts at 7:30pm. A traditional service with choir and organ, anthems, hymns, readings from scripture, and Holy Communion. The service includes singing by candlelight.
11pm Christmas Candlelight Eucharist (with incense)
A music celebration starts at 10:30pm. A traditional service with choir and organ, anthems, hymns, readings from scripture, and Holy Communion. The service includes singing by candlelight.
December 25, Monday
10am Christmas Day Eucharist
The hymns and readings are different than on Christmas Eve, so if you want to experience the complete liturgical complement of Christmas, add this to your plans.
December 31, Sunday
8am & 10am
The First Sunday after Christmas Day. “Fruitcake Sunday”, bring a leftover treat to share (coffee provided).
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