Our worship tradition and style are in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition of the church and has its roots in both the Roman Catholic liturgy and the Protestant focus on scripture and preaching. Our worship services follow a definite pattern found in The Book of Common Prayer (1979). The clergy and the congregation participate fully in the service, following a "call and response" rhythm.
The first part of our service is referred to as The Liturgy of the Word, 'liturgy' meaning 'the work of the people,' (from the ancient Greek language). We open our service with a proclamation appropriate to the season, a song/hymn of praise and a prayer appropriate to the day. Then we read the selections from scripture appointed for the day - generally a reading from the Old Testament (Hebrew scriptures), a Psalm (read or chanted by the choir), a reading from the New Testament scriptures and then a reading from one of the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. A brief sermon follows the readings. Then we reaffirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, adopted by the ancient church in 381 C.E. and only slightly modified since then, offer prayers for the church and the world, and say a general confession of sin that is followed by a pronouncement of absolution. Then we greet each other with an exchange of the Peace. Be prepared - at St. John's we have an extended and joyful welcome among visitors and members alike.
The second part of our service is referred to as The Liturgy of the Table. Every Sunday and most often in weekly services, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the word 'eucharist' coming from the ancient Greek meaning 'thanksgiving.' The table (altar) is set with bread and wine, our 'Prayer of Great Thanksgiving' is said and the blessed elements are offered to the people. At St. John's, all persons (children and adults) are welcome at God's table. While we offer the sacrament in both kinds (bread and wine), receiving in only one kind is sufficient. If you wish to come forward to the altar rail and receive only a blessing, the gesture of you crossing your arms over your heart serves as the signal for the priest to offer that blessing.
When all have received communion, we say together a closing prayer, receive a general blessing, process out of the church and are dismissed to go out into the world to do the work 'we are given to do." Depending on the season and the type of service, music of various types and from different sources is used to enhance our worship. We use The Hymnal 1982 and Lift Every Voice and Sing II as our principal hymnbooks but frequently incorporate other styles and selections.
Before, during and at the conclusion of the service, you may notice different expressions of piety, such as bowing, genuflecting and/or making the sign of the cross. These are personal choices and not required. At any given service, we sit, stand or kneel - another sign of active participation by everyone. If you are our guest for the very first time, just come and observe and let our style and traditions wash over you. Only you can determine if it "feels right" and meets your spiritual needs. The clergy and other worship leaders are always glad to answer questions and explain "why we're doing what we're doing." So... come and see!
Our choirs form the foundation of our music-making.
Adult Choir. The Adult Choir is the foundation of our music program and open to adults and high-school youth. This group learns a variety of choral literature and is dedicated to excellent leadership of our worship at St. John's. In addition to singing for regular Sunday services, our Adult Choir participates in special liturgies and programs throughout the year. Membership is open to all who can commitment to regular rehearsals and services. Weekly rehearsals are after church on Sundays from roughly Noon to 1:30 PM with warm-up rehearsals on Sunday mornings starting at 9:15 AM for the 10:00 AM service.
Handbell Choir. Our handbell ringers ring two octaves of bells to provide unusual offerings in worship on a regular basis. The ensemble focuses on change-ringing, the English art of ringing bells in non-repeated sequences. All adults and youth (6th grade and up) are welcome to join. Membership is open to all; previous musical experience is not required. Time commitment to both rehearsals and services is important but varies by project.
Gospel Choir. Our Gospel Choir collaborates regularly with Voices Of Hope, the gospel choir of Christ Our Hope Lutheran (ELCA) Church in Riverdale. Led by Allen Ries and Tom Elston, the joint ensemble offers seasonal mini-concerts and gospel-inspired musical liturgies periodically throughout the church year. Rehearsals are scheduled as projects arise.
Choral Scholars Program. The Adult Choir includes the sound of trained voices of music students from area universities who participate in our Choral Scholars program, which provides stipendiary support of their work in college and/or graduate school. Choral scholars sing in solo, small-ensembles, and full ensembles throughout their 9-month program year (September - May).
For more information on any of these groups, please contact Tom Elston, our Director of Music and Organist.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, a group of parishioners gather to say Morning Prayer, Rite II at 9:00 in the Hospitality Suite. They pray for the concerns of the parish and the community and some serve as Lay Eucharistic Ministers, taking communion to those who are no longer able to attend regular service.