Your First-Time Guide to Visiting Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
You Will Be Welcome
Whether you are looking for a new church home or just visiting the Reno-Sparks area, we welcome you! Trinity Episcopal Cathedral opens its doors to all people, combining the richness of both Catholic and Protestant traditions in its worship. We offer a variety of educational, social and outreach opportunities intended for personal spiritual growth and service to the larger community. Whether you are a senior, a family with young children, LGBT, single or married, please know we welcome you.
We extend a cordial welcome to you to worship with us, and offer this document as a brief introduction to the Episcopal Church and its traditions.
The Place of Worship
As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship.
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. In this way, 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” (John 8:12). Often there are flowers, to beautify God’s house and to recall the resurrection of Jesus.
As you face the altar, on the left is a lectern/pulpit for reading Scripture and leading prayers and for the proclamation of the Word in preaching.
The Act of Worship
Episcopal services are liturgical but also congregational. In the pews you will find the Book of Common Prayer which enables the congregation to share fully in every service.
In the Book of Common Prayer (aka Prayerbook or BCP – https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/book-common-prayer ) the larger print is the actual service. The smaller print gives directions to leaders and people for conduct of the service. You will also find a Hymnal – https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/liturgy-music – . The hymns will be listed on a Hymn board above the lectern as well as in your bulletin. Some of the music (at the start of the book) is numbered with an “S”, e.g. S95. These are music settings for the “service music” for when we sing something that could also be said. An example, said or sung in almost every service is the Sanctus – “Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of Hosts…” A plain number indicates hymns used during the service.
You may wonder when to stand or kneel. Practices vary—even among individual Episcopalians. The traditional rule has been to stand to sing, sit to listen, kneel to pray. We 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 and printed as part of the 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 sung or said sitting. We sit during readings from the Old Testament or New Testament, the sermon, and the choir anthems. Many will kneel for the Confession and the Eucharistic Prayer except during the Easter Season of seven weeks or the Christmas Season of 12 days.
The Regular Services
The principal service each weekend is the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion).
RITE I: At the 7:30 a.m. Sunday service we use Rite I. It is celebrated quite simply, without music. Rite I is a more traditional sounding language (King James English), harking back to the beginnings of the Prayerbook.
RITE II: The 5:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m. Sunday services are Rite II. The Saturday service is without music. The Sunday service is with hymns and a full choir. The difference is traditional language for Rite I and more current or contemporary English for Rite II. The content is theologically identical, though there is an emphasis with Rite I on the vertical relationship of “loving God” as Rite II puts greater emphasis on the horizontal relationship of “loving our neighbor.”
With few exceptions, a sermon is required for each service. While some parts of the service are always the same, others (called Propers) change. At the Holy Eucharist, for example, three Bible selections are read (typically an Old Testament, New Testament Letter, and a Gospel), changing each week over a three-year period. So do the Psalms which are designed to parallel the theme of the first or Old Testament Reading. Certain of the prayers also change, in order to address the season or the event. Page numbers for parts of the service printed in the Prayerbook are announced and 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, and yet mindful of the nature and needs of human beings.
The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is an integral part of our worship. At the appropriate time the Congregation will come forward, one or two rows at a time, to the altar rail. Once at the altar rail most people kneel, though standing is also acceptable. Simply cup your hands and a communion wafer will be placed there by one of the priests. A Eucharistic Minister will follow, carrying a chalice of wine. You may eat the wafer before the wine and then take a sip of wine as the cup is tipped toward your lips; dip the wafer into the chalice yourself and then consume it; or hold the wafer up, and the Eucharistic Minister will take it, dip it into the chalice and then place it on your tongue. The choice is yours. Each is acceptable. Or, if you do not want to receive either the bread or the wine, simply cross your arms across your chest for a blessing from the priest.
ALL are welcome to the Lord’s Table no matter what your religious tradition might be. You do NOT have to be an Episcopalian to partake. We are quite certain that neither Jesus nor his disciples were.
Before & After Services
It is a custom upon entering church to kneel in one’s pew for a prayer of personal preparation for worship. It is also a custom to bow to the altar on entering and leaving the church as an act of reverence for Christ.
Many Episcopalians do not talk in church before a service but use this time for personal meditation and devotions. Others may sit to listen to the organ postlude after the 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning service.
To add to the beauty and festivity of the services, and to signify their special ministries, the clergy and other ministers wear vestments which reflect the color of the liturgical or church season that is currently observed.
Other leaders in the service wear an alb (Latin for “white”), a white tunic with sleeves that covers the body from neck to ankles (which symbolizes the baptismal robe worn by most at their baptism). Over it priests and deacons 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 typically wears a chasuble (a circular garment that envelopes the body (like a pancho) over the alb and stole. Bishops sometimes wear a special head covering called a mitre.
Most vestments, as well as altar coverings (also called vestments,) are made of rich fabrics. Their color changes with the seasons and holy days of the Church Year – https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/liturgical-colors . The most frequently used colors are white/gold for joyous times like Christmas and Easter, red for Pentecost (fire) and days marking periods of violence (Holy Week till Easter), violet for penitence, and green for “ordinary times” or all other times (symbol of “growth in the faith”).
The Church Year
The Episcopal Church observes the traditional Christian calendar. The season of Advent, during which we prepare for Christmas, begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Christmas season lasts twelve days, starting at the late service on Christmas Eve, after which we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (January 6).
Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday and last for 40 days, not including Sundays. Easter season lasts fifty days, concluding on the feast of Pentecost. The feast days from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost change dates from year to year. The easiest way to find a given date is to look it up in the BCP.
During these seasons of Christmas, Lent, and Easter 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. The Old Testament lesson corresponds in theme with one of the New Testament readings.
Coming & Going
There are usually greeters and/or ushers who will greet you, and if you need assistance, they may escort you to a pew. If you desire, they will answer your questions about the service. Pews are usually unreserved.
Following the service the Dean and Assistant Priest greet the people as they leave.
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. You will worship God with us.
Should you wish to know more about the Episcopal Church (https://www.episcopalchurch.org )or how one becomes an Episcopalian, the Dean or Assistant Priest will gladly answer your questions and suggest the way to membership.