The main entrance to the church
is from the narthex, which is an antechamber to the sanctuary where
services are held. Upon
entering the sanctuary, the eye is immediately drawn to the altar area,
above which are three stained glass windows depicting Jesus, Thomas and
Mark. The altar itself is
covered with a cloth and decorated with candles and flowers, symbolizing
the light and resurrection of Christ.
A cross is on the wall above the altar, and beneath the stained
glass windows. During the
Eucharist (Holy Communion), the bread and wine are consecrated at the
Facing the altar, the pulpit is
to the right. Sermons are
preached from the pulpit. To
the left is a lectern, from which the lessons are read and the prayers of
the people are led by a lay reader. The
baptismal font is in front of the pulpit.
It is moved to the center of the main aisle for services of
The principal service at St.
Thomas is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion).
There are two services each Sunday.
The 8:30 a.m. service is a spoken service, meaning there is no
music. Typically, Rite I,
having the older, more traditional language, is used at this service.
The 11:00 a.m. service is a full choral service.
On high Holy Days, parts of the service of this liturgy may be
sung. At the 11:00 a.m.
service Rite II, having more modern language, is used, except during the
penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.
Each of these services follow the
same basic format, using prescribed readings from the Bible, a sermon,
affirmation of faith, prayers of the people, confession of sins, exchange
of the peace, and communion.
Our communion rail is open and
anyone, regardless of denomination, is welcome to take communion.
Bread used during communion is baked by members of the parish.
Wine is used.
Visitors and newcomers can be
assured that you will not be singled out or have unwanted attention
focused on you by having you stand or come forward during the service.
Texts and Music
Although the service is led by
the priest, members of the congregation actively participate.
Some of the scriptures are read by lay readers (the Gospel lesson
is read by clergy) and laymen assist in communion by administering the
chalice, or cup, containing the wine.
Communicants may either eat the bread separately, and drink from
the chalice, or may dip the bread into the wine and then consume it (known
as “intinction”). People in the congregation participate in the prayers.
pew is equipped with three books.
The Book of Common Prayer (red) is used
nationwide by Episcopal churches.
It contains the text for all the spoken parts of the
service. We regularly
use the psalms, the Nicene Creed (the Apostle’s Creed is used at
Morning Prayer), the Lord’s Prayer, the prayers of the people,
the confession, and the Holy Communion.
The Book of Common Prayer also contains text for special
services such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, dedications, and so
on. The service text
is printed in standard print and directions to the clergy and
congregation (“rubrics”) are printed in italic.
1982 Episcopal Hymnal (blue) is the official hymnal of the
Episcopal Church. It
contains text and music for the sung portions of the service.
in each pew is another hymnal, “Wonder, Love and Praise,”
(green, soft cover) which contains additional hymns and music.
During the Eucharistic service
you will hear one reading from the Old Testament, one from the New
Testament, and one from the Gospels.
During Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, the readings are
selected to match the season. During
the rest of the year, the Old and New Testament readings are matched with
the reading from the Gospels.
First time visitors to St. Thomas
need not be taken aback by the standing and kneeling during the service.
Episcopalians typically sit to listen, stand to sing, and kneel or
stand to pray. Kneeling for
prayer is an expression of humility in the face of God’s love. However, whether one stands, sits or kneels can vary from one
person to another. No one is
expected stand or kneel if to do so would cause discomfort.
Some people will genuflect toward
the cross in the aisle before entering to sit or upon leaving to approach
the communion rail. This is
entirely a matter of choice and is optional, as is making the sign of the
cross at certain times during the service.
Children are a vital part of our
services and are always welcome. Many
parents prefer to have their children sit with them during the entire
service, while others prefer that their children remain in the nursery or
parish hall. Older children
(over two years of age) who remain in the parish hall for activities are
brought to the sanctuary for communion.
Year and Liturgical Seasons
The form and content of our
services are largely determined by the liturgical season of the
traditional Church calendar. The
year begins with Advent, the season of preparation for the birth of Jesus
Christ (Christmas). Advent
begins on the Sunday closest to November 30.
It is followed by Christmas on December 25 and lasting for twelve
days, after which we celebrate the feast of Epiphany (January 6).
Epiphany is followed by Lent, the forty day period just before
Easter, when we reflect on our relationship with God and prepare
spiritually for the crucifixion of Christ.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.
Easter is a happier season, in which we celebrate the resurrection
and the promise of eternal salvation.
Easter lasts for 50 days and concludes with the feast of Pentecost,
marking the birth of the Christian church.
Clothing and Accessories
Clergy and other liturgical
leaders wear special garments, called “vestments,” signifying their
ministries. These are often made with colorful and decorated fabrics and
serve to enhance the beauty and majesty of our worship services.
The colors worn by the clergy are changed in accordance with the
liturgical season. Some
special vestments are worn on holy days and special feast days.
The colors for the liturgical seasons at St. Thomas are:
Advent (purple), Christmas (white), Epiphany (green), Lent
(purple), Easter (white), and Pentecost (green).
On the first Sunday of Pentecost red is used.
White is used on the second Sunday of Epiphany, celebrating the
Baptism of Jesus.
cassock: this is
a full-length undergown, usually black or red, worn by choir
members and clergy.
surplice: this is
a gathered, half-length, white overgown worn over the cassock.
alb: a white,
full-length, long-sleeved tunic.
a band of colored fabric worn by ordained clergy on top of
the cassock, alb, or surplice.
Priests and bishops wear the stole around their necks, with
the loose ends hanging down in front.
Deacons wear the stole over one shoulder, with the loose
ends fixed at the waist.
circular, shawl-like garment worn by a priest or bishop over the
alb or stole.
dalmatic: this is
a version of a chasuble worn by deacons.
this is tall, stiff headpiece worn only by bishops.