What to expect when visiting St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
You’ll Be Welcome
We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer this brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its ways.
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, nor asked to stand before the congregation nor to come forward. You will worship God with us.
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 is 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.” 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
In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer, the use of which enables the congregation to share fully in every service. The large print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to ministers and people for conduct of the service. You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary—even among individual Episcopalians. The general rule is 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 are sung as part of the worship 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 said sitting or sung standing. We sit during readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We kneel, stand, or sit reverently with head bowed, for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as His children and as an act of humility before God.
The Regular Services
The principal service is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). In some Episcopal churches it is celebrated quite simply, without music, early on Sunday morning. Weekday celebrations also are frequently without music and without a sermon. When celebrated at a later hour on Sundays, or on other great Christian days such as Christmas, music and a sermon are customary. Another service is Morning Prayer. The parallel evening service is Evening Prayer. These services consist of psalms, Bible readings, and prayers, and may include a sermon. They may be with or without music. While some parts of the services are always the same, others change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, two or three Bible selections are read. These change each Sunday. So do the Psalms. Certain of the prayers also change, in accordance with the specific day or season. Page numbers for parts of the service printed elsewhere in the Book of Common Prayer are usually announced or 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 beautiful in their ordered dignity, God-centered, yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
Before and After Services
It is the custom upon entering church to kneel in one’s pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. In many churches it is also the custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving church as an act of reverence for Christ. Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal prayer, meditation and devotions. At the end of the service some persons kneel for a private prayer before leaving. Others sometimes sit to listen to the organ postlude.
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments. Lay Ministers and Choir vestments usually consist of an undergown called a cassock (usually black or red) and a white, gathered overgown called a surplice. The clergy may also wear a cassock and surplice.
Another familiar vestment is the alb, a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles. Over it (or over the surplice) ordained ministers wear a stole, a narrow band of colored fabric. Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, priests and bishops over both shoulders. At the Holy Eucharist a bishop or priest frequently wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special headcovering called a mitre. Stoles, chasubles, mitres as well as altar coverings, are usually 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, green, and sometimes blue.
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. The Christmas season, called Christmastide, lasts twelve days, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins Ash Wednesday. Easter season (Eastertide) lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. During these times 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 from Sunday to Sunday. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament reading.
Coming and Going
If there are ushers they will greet you, and may escort you to a pew. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service. Pews are unreserved in Episcopal churches, except for weddings, funerals and baptisms, when a few pews in the front may be reserved for family members. Following the service the pastor greets the people as they leave. In the Episcopal Church, the Pastor is called the Rector, meaning one who "directs" the worship service.
Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church in general or St. Stephen’s in particular, our Rector, the Reverend Father Ted Smith, will gladly answer questions and suggest the way to membership. Father Ted may be reached at 936-336-3762.
WE ARE A "VISITOR FRIENDLY" CHURCH
Bring your family and be a part of our family! It is our utmost desire for you to feel welcome at St. Stephen's.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church is dedicated to seeking, serving and sharing Christ with all. We are a faith community committed to worshiping as a family; ministering to children, youth and adults; reaching out to all in need; being good stewards of God's gifts, and bringing others to Christ.
St. Stephen's serves the needs of people from all walks of life in Liberty County and beyond. The Church is located off Highway 90, east of the Trinity River, approximately midway between Houston and Beaumont in the city of Liberty, which serves as the county seat of Liberty County. Parishioners come to worship from the surrounding communities of Liberty, Dayton, Kenefick, Cleveland, Hardin, Moss Hill, Moss Bluff, Raywood, Ames, Devers, Daisetta, and Crosby.
Worship in the Episcopal Church
What makes us Anglican? Hallmarks of the Episcopal Church
History of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church