Whether you have previously visited other churches or if this is your first time, visiting any church can be a daunting experience.
You may worry about what you're going to experience, or feel self-conscious in fear that you may 'do something wrong'. You may think that as a newcomer you'll be pounced upon, or fear that you'll be abandoned to muddle on by yourself.
When you arrive at church you'll be greeted by someone who will give you two folded leaflets: one of them has all the words you'll need for the service, the other one has some notices about events coming up in the days ahead. You're then free to find a seat for the service - there's no reserved seats at St Mary's! You might want to sit somewhere where you can see what other people are doing so you know when to stand up and sit down etc. However if you're unsure where to go then please do ask.
We think that music is a very important part of our worship and most of our services feature music either played on the organ, sung by the choir or for the whole congregation to sing. Don't worry if you don't know the music - some people join in with the singing, others don't.
You may have joined for us for our main Sunday morning service at 10am and it might be helpful to walk through what happens. The service is in three parts - the introduction, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament.
In the introduction the priest welcomes us and introduces a time when we reflect upon who we are and the things we have done wrong. We ask God for forgiveness and, through the priest, he forgives us all our sins.
Second is the Liturgy of the Word. This is when we hear different readings from the Bible: one from the Old Testament (the Jewish texts), one from the New Testament (Christian letters and writings) and a story from one of the Gospels (a moment in the life of Jesus). For the Gospel reading we all stand and turn to face the place where the Gospel is read because the life of Jesus is at the very centre of the life of the Church. It is the heartbeat of the community. We then hear a sermon based on the readings we have heard. Afterwards we stand and say together the Nicene Creed, an ancient statement of what Christians believe. Following this is a time of prayer. Finally we stand and share God's peace with one another by turning and shaking hands with those around saying 'Peace be with you.'
Third is the part of our worship everything else has been leading up to - the Liturgy of the Sacrament. Here we remember the night when Jesus gathered with his friends, broke bread and shared wine and asked them to remember him in this way. Though we may not understand how, we believe that Jesus becomes truly present among us as we share in the gifts of bread and wine. If you are baptised then you are welcome to receive Christ at the altar (though some people choose to wait till they are are confirmed), or you may choose to receive a blessing (anyone can receive a blessing) or you may just want to stay in your seat. Any of those options are fine. The service ends with the priest giving a blessing to the whole congregation.
After the service, do stay for a coffee if you can! If you're new, please introduce yourself to one of the clergy so we can say hello properly.
That might explain a little of what we do every Sunday but it is impossible to get a sense of what it means to worship God simply by reading what goes in the service. The only way it can ever become meaningful is by taking part. You may not understand everything or get it all right, but then worship isn't about 'getting it all right.' It is about being prepared to experience the one true and living God, often in ways that surprise and amaze us.
Church may seem scary but at every step there are people who want to support you and help explain what is going on, so please do speak to one of the clergy or contact the Parish Office.
"Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.' Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'"