WHY COME TO CHURCH?
Coming to church is about gathering ourselves God’s family, in God’s presence, to praise him, to get to know him better, and to receive his grace and blessing in our lives. So it’s about:
Meeting God – getting to know God more, and receiving his grace and blessing.
Meeting each other – growing together as God’s family in the local community, and supporting each other in our faith and in our lives.
When we come to church we bring with us in our minds and hearts all that has happened to us in the days and weeks that have just passed – our hopes and dreams, our fears, our regrets, the situations and decisions about which we need guidance, the burdens we carry for ourselves and for others. All these things are what we bring before God for his blessing when we come to church.
During a church service:
We gather in God’s presence – often this means singing a hymn, saying an opening greeting, praying a prayer together
We set ourselves right with God – often this means saying together a prayer of confession, during which we bring to mind the things that we have done (or failed to do!) that have damaged our relationship with God, with each other, and with the world, and we ask God’s forgiveness. The minister ‘pronounces the absolution’ – that is, he or she assures us that when we are sorry, God has forgiven us.
We hear God’s word, from the bible, and usually there is a talk or sermon that helps us to reflect on what we have heard, and relate it to our own life, and the life of the world.
We say the ‘creed’ – that is, we affirm what we believe, that God is the only God, and that we can relate to God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit (click here for more on this). This is a faith that we share with Christians all over the world.
We pray – usually prayers are led by a member of the congregation, and include prayers for the world, for the church, for the local community, for those who are in special need (perhaps because they are ill) and for those who have died.
We usually share the peace – that is, we set ourselves right with each other by saying ‘peace be with you’ and sharing a handshake or a kiss. This can be an opportunity to make peace with someone when there has been a disagreement or upset.
If the service includes Holy Communion, then representatives from the congregation bring forward some bread and wine, and the priest blesses them with a special prayer, and we receive them, as a special way of receiving God’s grace – scroll down for more information on Holy Communion.
At the end of the service the minister prays for God’s blessing on us, and we are sent out, renewed in our faith and strengthened for whatever challenges we will face in the coming days.
Church services come in all shapes and sizes – some is very traditional, some is modern, some is very adult-centred, some is very much geared towards children and families, some is quiet, and some is noisy!
The Eucharist, or Holy Communion (sometimes called the Lord’s Supper, or the Mass) is at the heart of Christian worship. This sharing of bread and wine is Jesus Christ’s gift to the Church, deriving from the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before the crucifixion. At the Last Supper, Jesus used bread and wine to teach his disciples about his approaching death and its saving significance for them, and for us. He also commanded that they should remember what he did, and repeat the action, giving Christians – even two thousand years later – a way of coming close to God and receiving God’s grace in a special way.
The central most important words in the Eucharistic prayer are called the words of institution:
Jesus took bread, and gave you thanks;
He broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
Do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper
He took the cup and gave you thanks;
He gave it to them, saying:
Drink this, all of you;
This is my blood of the new covenant,
Which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it,
In remembrance of me.
The Eucharist is one of what the Church calls the sacraments – special ways in which God acts upon us and communicates his grace. All Christians who usually receive communion in their own Church, of whatever denomination, are welcome to receive at All Saints. If you prefer, you are welcome to come to the altar rail for a blessing instead.