St Matthew's Episcopal Church of Pampa TX  
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Your First-Time Guide to Visiting a Episcopal Church

You'll be Welcome

We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer this document as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its ways.


Who are Episcopalians?   Click to Find out!


The Place of Worship

As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence.

Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether the church be small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. So our thoughts are taken at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.


On or near the altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the ``Light of the world'' (John 8:12). Often there are flowers, to beautify God's house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.

On one side at the front of the church, there may be a lectern-pulpit, or stand, for the proclamation of the Word; here the Scriptures are read and the sermon is preached. In many churches, however, the lectern is separate from the pulpit and stands on the opposite side of the church.


The Act of Worship

Episcopal services are congregational. In the pews you will likely find the Book of Common Prayer. This enables the congregation to share fully in every service.


In the Book of Common Prayer (aka Prayerbook or BCP) the large print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to ministers and people for conduct of the service. You will also find a Hymnal and a Hymn board above the lectern with the hymns for today. Some of the music (at the start of the book) is numbered with an “S”, e.g. S95. These are music settings for the “service music” for when we sing something that could also be said. An example, said or sung in almost every service is the Sanctus – “Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of Hosts…” The others are hymns used during the service.


You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary---even among individual Episcopalians. The general rule has always been to stand to sing---hymns (found in the Hymnal in the pews) and other songs (many of them from the Holy Bible) called canticles or chants and printed as part of the service. We stand, too, to say our affirmation of faith, the Creed; and for the reading of the Gospel in the Holy Eucharist. Psalms are sung or said sitting. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We normally kneel for the Confession and the Eucharistic Prayer.


The Regular Services

The principal service each Sunday is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion).


RITE I: At the early service (usually 8am) it is celebrated quite simply, without music and is done with Rite I. Weekday celebrations also are frequently without music, and without sermon.


RITE II: When celebrated at a later hour on Sundays (usually 10:30 for most of the year), we use Rite II. The difference is traditional language for Rite I and contemporary language for Rite II. With few exceptions, in a Sunday service a sermon is required.


While some parts of the service are always the same, others change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, three Bible selections are read. These change each Sunday. So do the psalms. Certain prayers also change, in order to provide variety. Page numbers for parts of the service printed elsewhere in the Book are announced and given in the service leaflet. But do not be embarrassed to ask your neighbor for the page number.


You will find the services of the Episcopal Church quite beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.



Before and After Services

It is a custom upon entering church to kneel in one's pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. It is also a custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.


Most Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some people kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others may sit to listen to the organ postlude.  The priest or celebrant will be at the church entrance to acknowledge those that are leaving and will welcome any questions you may have and willing to take the time to meet with you if you desire.



To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments. Choir vestments usually consist of a gown and stole in the color of the season.


Other leaders in the service wear an alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it priests and deacons wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders. Others may wear a scapular, a length of cloth hanging down the front and back, over the shoulders.


At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest typically wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a mitre.


Most vestments, as well as altar coverings (also called vestments,) are made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year. The most frequently used colors are white, red, violet, and green.


The Church Year

The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. Christmas lasts twelve days, starting at the late service on Christmas Eve, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6).


Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. The feast days from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost change dates from year to year. The easiest way to find a given date is to look it up in the BCP.

During these seasons of Christmas, Lent, and Easter the Bible readings are chosen for their appropriateness to the season. During the rest of the year---the season after Epiphany and the long season after Pentecost (except for a few special Sundays) ---the New Testament is read sequentially. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.


Coming and Going

There are usually ushers who will greet you, and may escort you to a pew. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service. Pews are usually unreserved.


Following the service the Rector greets the people as they leave.


You Will Not Be Embarrassed

When you visit an Episcopal church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way. You will worship God with us.


Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church or how one becomes an Episcopalian, the priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.


Contact Info Address: 727 W. Browning Avenue, Pampa, Texas   Phone #: (806) 665-0701 Contact Us       Members Area
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