Worshiping at St. James: What to Expect
Welcome to St. James Episcopal Parish!
We are excited to have you worship with us. We know checking out a new church can sometimes feel a little daunting. To help with this, we’ve put together our What to Expect page featuring some FAQs to get you started!
How do I know which service is for me?
As part of the Episcopal Church, our worship services are conducted using the liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer.
- Our 8:00 a.m. service follows the Rite I liturgy. With Rite I you’ll find the language to be similar to old English and partake in a more traditional service without the use of hymns.
- The 10:30 a.m. service is Rite II and so you’ll hear our choir along with more modern language. Wiggling, giggling, and sharing are welcome in all services but the 10:30 has a special place for our littles and offers Children’s Chapel during the service for our younger parishioners during the programming year (Sept-May).
MT. LEBANON CHAPEL (Memorial Day Weekend - Labor Day Weekend)
- During the summer, some of our parish family gathers at Mt. Lebanon Chapel for worship. We offer two Rite II services, one at 8:30 a.m. and one at 9:30 a.m. Attendees may choose to sit in the chapel or outside on the grounds. Those who would like to sit outside are asked to bring their own lawn chair or picnic blanket.
I'm new to the Episcopal Church, what traditions would be helpful to understand?
Welcome, we’re excited to have you join us. Before you do, please let us put your mind at ease regarding our worship. The Episcopal Church has a saying, “All May, Some Should, None Must.” Some folks feel more at home using kneelers during prayer, others prefer to stand. Some use the sign of the cross at the conclusion of a prayer or blessing, others remain still. Some may bow at the altar, others pay their respects internally. The guidelines listed here are simply that, guidelines. You are welcome no matter what.
- Before the service, The ushers are present to offer you assistance; do not hesitate to ask. Please accept a service bulletin from one of the ushers. The bulletin will guide you through the service and to the proper pages in The Book of Common Prayer (red book) and the Hymnal (blue book).
- You may notice that we do not greet or talk much inside the church (the nave) before the service. This is not because we do not want to meet you, but rather because our custom is to enter the church in silence and pray before worship. This time before the service is both a gathering time and an opportunity for silence, leaving our busy lives, preparing ourselves, focusing on our worship of God.
- On entering the church, some people may genuflect or bow toward the reserved sacrament, and cross themselves before kneeling in prayer. It is the custom of many in the Episcopal church to:
- Bow one’s head or genuflect on entering and leaving the pew
- Bow one’s head as the processional cross passes and with the Gospel Book is brought forward
- Turn to continue to face the Gospel Book as it processes to the center of the church.
- Bow one’s head when the name of Jesus Christ is spoken during the Liturgy
- Make the sign of the cross at the opening sentences of the service, at the reading of the gospel, at the absolution after the confession of sin and at the final blessing.
- During the final hymn, the verger, acolytes, and clergy will process out of the church. Please wait for the conclusion of the hymn and for the priest to pronounce the conclusion of the worship. There will be a final "Thanks be to God," before people begin exiting.
How do I get there and where do I park?
If you’re familiar with downtown Wilmington, we’re located at the heart of downtown at the corner of 3rd and Market Streets. The best GPS address is 25 S. Third Street in Wilmington.
One of the challenges of being a downtown church is parking, thankfully, we have some great neighbors, like First Citizens Bank and Wells Insurance, who allow us to use their parking on Sunday mornings. Check out our parking map to see where! Green represents on-campus and handicap parking.
Campus navigation: How do I get into the church and where are the bathrooms?
St. James has a large campus! In fact, we take up the whole city block. The Church itself has two main entrances, the front stairs along 3rd Street and the ADA-accessible transept entrance off of our front lawn. Greeters will be available on Sunday Morning to welcome you and assist with any questions you may have. Please sit wherever you’d like! We do ask that the two pews at the front of the transept (side wing of the church) with the extra space be reserved for families with mobility needs.
With our Church Building constructed in 1839, the closest restroom facilities to the church itself are found in the Parish House just outside of the Great Hall.
Do you offer a nursery?
We offer nursery services for littles 3 and under during our 10:30 a.m. Worship Services as well as our 9:00 a.m. Faith Formation (aka Sunday School) hour. You will find the Nursery in Milton Hall. The best entrances to use will be the Cloister entrance or the St. James Day School Door.
*Please note that Faith Formation is offered September-May.
Do I sit, stand, or kneel?
This one gets its own tab. Episcopal church worship or “liturgy” is sometimes described as “pew aerobics.” As we mentioned in our section on Episcopal traditions, the Episcopal Church has a saying, “All May, Some Should, None Must.” Some folks feel more at home using kneelers during prayer, others prefer to stand, other still to remain seated. Please do what is comfortable for you in your worship.
Our usual practice is to:
- stand to sing, for praise and reciting the Creed,
- sit for instruction, the lessons and the sermon,
- and kneel (or stand) for prayer.
In general, instructions are given in the liturgy, the preferred action is listed first. The rule however is: do what is comfortable for you!
What are the books in the pews?
In the pews, you’ll find, Bibles, Hymnals, and the Book of Common Prayer. The liturgy we follow in worship is found in The Book of Common Prayer (the redbook). The hymns we sing and the service music are found in The Hymnal (the blue book). References in the service bulletin to “BCP” are page numbers in The Book of Common Prayer. Hymns we sing are noted by hymn number, found in The Hymnal. If you get confused, don’t worry! Someone sitting near you will be happy to help!
What is the Book of Common Prayer?
The Book of Common Prayer is a treasured collection of scripture and prayers which provides the basic structure for our worship on Sundays, on weekdays, and in our daily prayers. The “Common” in the title should be taken to mean “shared.” No matter where you worship in the world, if you visit an Episcopal church, your service will follow the same pattern. Even if you cannot understand the language, you will be able to participate in the worship.
The book in its original versions dates back centuries to 1549. Our prayers and worship however follow the forms of the earliest Christian communities and many of the prayers in our worship can be traced back to the beginnings of the Christian church. If you would like to know more about The Book of Common Prayer or would like to obtain a copy, please speak with one of our clergy.
What role does the Bible play in Episcopal Worship?
The Episcopal Church is a Bible church.
Every service of the church and every Holy Eucharist includes two or three readings from Holy Scripture and the reading or singing of a Psalm. All Episcopal clergy, when ordained, take as their chief written authority the teachings of Holy Scripture. The Book of Common Prayer provides a lectionary (p. 934) to guide us in day-by-day reading of the Bible. Our Sunday worship service consists of two equally important sections. The first is The Word of God (the opening prayers, Scripture for the day, the sermon, the Creed, the Prayers of the People, the confession and greeting one another in God’s name). The second is The Eucharist, also called Holy Communion, the liturgy of the consecration and distribution of the sacrament of communion.
The purpose of Holy Scripture, and the purpose of our worship, is to draw us closer to the living God. We come to church in community to pray together, to hear scripture, to share the Gospel, to gain understanding, to receive instruction, to give praise, to share in communion and to grow ever closer to the living God and to each other. God and God’s purpose for us is our end. The things we do in church, using all our available senses are means to help us grow in the presence of God. We kneel or stand in prayer because we believe these to be appropriate positions in which to approach God.
Unlike some churches which make the pulpit the focus of attention, the Episcopal church intentionally places the altar in the central position because it is the symbol of the ongoing presence of the living God with and among us.
What is Holy Eucharist/Communion like?
In the Episcopal Church, we take communion each Sunday, and at St. James, we also offer a Noonday Eucharist on Wednesdays! All baptized Christians are invited to receive Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist) in the Episcopal church. The consecrated bread and wine are received by us as Jesus Christ commanded; in remembrance of Him and for our spiritual nourishment.
You may receive the both bread and the wine, or partake of just the bread or the wine. To receive, come forward to the altar rail and stand or kneel. Place your right hand in and your left hand palms up and extend your hands to receive the bread. To receive the wine, gently guide or tip the chalice to your lips. You alternatively may leave the bread in your palm and intinct (dip) the bread into the chalice.
If you do not wish to receive Holy Communion, or you are not sure whether you should, we encourage you to come forward for a blessing or a prayer. Just cross your arms across your chest at the altar rail so the priest and chalice bearers will know you wish to receive only a blessing or prayer.
After receiving communion, or a blessing, please proceed to the side corridors to return to your seat.
May my child take Communion?
In the Episcopal Church, all children who have been baptized, no matter the age, may receive Holy Communion. The reason for this stance is that children are fed and hugged long before they have a clear understanding of nutrition or love. God loves us and shared His grace, long before we understood it. At the Altar, we come to be fed and nurtured in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We, therefore, encourage all to come to the altar rail.
Parents, however, are best qualified to determine if their child or children should receive Holy Communion. Some parents allow their children to receive the bread only; some allow their baptized children to have both bread and wine. Children who do not receive Communion are offered a Blessing by the priest.
What are Busy Bags?
Busy Bags are a special part of our Children’s Ministries! We love having families and kids as a part of our services. We understand that sometimes, you need something to keep little hands (or even big hands) busy during the service. The Busy Bags are stocked with family fun activities and coloring sheets to enjoy. They may be found at the transept entrance. Please feel free to help yourself to a busy bag before service and return it along with any reusable items to its home at the conclusion of worship.
What/When is Children's Chapel?
Children’s Chapel is a special time of gathering for the children of the parish that occurs during the 9:00 a.m. Service. As the Acolytes prepare to bring the Gospel book forward, children are invited to gather in the front right corner of the church to depart for the Children’s Chapel. During Children’s Chapel, they’ll hear the same gospel shared during the service with an age-appropriate homily shared by a member of our clergy or other leader of the church. Parents are welcome to join the children if that is what is more comfortable for your family or the children are welcome to attend under the guidance of our volunteer Chapel Shepherds! This allows parents the space to focus on and be present with the Gospel and the sermon. Children’s Chapel concludes after the Prayers of the People and the children are invited to participate in Holy Eucharist (communion) alongside their family!
If you would like to volunteer to be a Chapel Shepherd, you can sign up online or simply accompany your child to check it out.
What/When is Faith Formation a.k.a. Sunday School?
Our Faith Formation hour is Sunday Morning from 10:10-11:00 a.m. We have multiple adult offerings as well as age-appropriate classes available for three-year-olds to 12th Graders. You can learn more about this Sunday’s offerings HERE.
FAITH FORMATION CLASSES FOR SUNDAY MORNINGS - 10:10 AM
- DISCIPLE'S CLASS - meets in the Great Hall
- FAITH DISCUSSIONS - meets in the Stephen Ministry Room
- JUBI-LATTE ROUNDTABLE - 6th-12th Grades - meets in Cookie's Office
- FAITH THROUGH WONDER - 3’s and 4’s - 2nd Floor Milton Hall
- FAITH FOUNDATIONS - K5 & 1st graders - 2nd Floor Milton Hall
- FAITH BUILDERS - 2nd and 3rd graders - 2nd Floor Milton Hall
- FAITH ADVENTURERS - 4th and 5th graders - 2nd Floor Milton Hall