YOUR FIRST VISIT TO St GUTHLAC'S
Our main Sunday service starts at 10am and usually last for about 1¼ hours. Everyone is invited to come along and join in the worship. Children are most welcome too. Currently if children are aged 10 (Year 6) or below they also have the option to join Guthlac's Young Explorers (the Sunday School) across the road in the Green School at 9:50am. They usually come to join the rest of the congregation later in the service (about 45 minutes) to show us all what they've been doing. People often worry that the children will make noise and be disruptive but don't be concerned; the ministers can be noisy too. Just come along and join in.
It can seem a little daunting to go to a church service if you haven't been before or it's been a little while since you last went to church. Please don't worry as we regularly see new individuals and families coming to our church and they tell us it's pretty easy to follow what's going on so just come along, join in where you want to and make yourself at home.
Hopefully this page will make some sense of what to expect when you join us.
St Guthlac's is a friendly community and we do our best to recognise and welcome all first-time visitors, but if we don't manage as well as we'd like, don't be afraid to say "hello" to someone. If you're looking for space to be on your own we will try our best to respect that. At the end of the service, there is a cup of coffee (or tea or juice) with biscuits and often cakes.
Here are some things you probably want to know, especially if you are not a regular church-goer:
The service follows a familiar structure, but there will be small changes as the seasons change throughout the year.
• THE OPENING PART
Before the service begins, the ministers (the rector and/or curate) will stand at the front and welcome us all and may read banns of marriage for a forthcoming wedding and also highlight notices (usually notable upcoming events or information people would like to know) from the pew-sheet. We usually start with a hymn; a song worshipping God. Normally our singing is accompanied by the organ and the choir and the words will be in the hymn book (the hymn number is usually displayed on a board at the front). As we sing the hymn, the servers, rector and/or curate will walk up the central aisle with the choir to the front.
When the hymn finishes and the ministers gets to their places, there will be the opening prayers. The words that you need can be found in the service booklet and will be highlighted in BOLD text. If you're not sure when to join in, don't worry. Join in the parts that you can.
Some people worry about when to stand, sit or kneel. The easiest thing is to follow the crowd but if you are frail, please make sure that you are comfortable (if that means that you sit throughout the service, we don't mind).
• READINGS FROM THE BIBLE
We will hear a couple of readings from the Bible. The text for the readings is usually printed on a pew-sheet which also has the notices for the week. You can take the pew sheet home with you at the end of the service and go through the readings in your own time. When the rector comes to read her part, she and the choir will sing a short "Alleluia" or a song of praise. After the readings have finished, the rector (or an appointed person) will give a sermon to explain the meaning of the readings and their relevance in our lives today before we declare our faith in the words of the Creed (the words are printed in the service booklet).
As the needs of the church, our community and the world constantly change, these prayers will differ each week. Someone from the intercession team will lead the prayers which also usually relate to the readings that we have just heard. Prayers are offered for those who are sick and those who have recently died. The congregation are invited to join in the prayer responses.
• THE PEACE
Jesus Christ invites us to come to him to make our peace with him, but before we do that we need to make peace with ourselves and each other. What this means in practical terms is that we shake hands with each other whilst saying "Peace be with you" in our attempt to make sure that we are not at odds with one another. Then we sing a hymn whilst the altar is prepared for Holy Communion.
• HOLY COMMUNION
Normal bread and wine are brought from the back of the church and placed on the altar. The presiding minister says special Communion prayers (called Eucharistic prayers) over them. We then treat the bread and wine differently as for us it now represents the Body and Blood of Jesus. Next we say The Lord's Prayer (the one that starts "Our Father") and then the bread is broken so that it can be shared. We invite those who would usually receive communion to come forward to receive the bread (actually a small piece of wafer) and receive it with a sip of wine. Anyone who normally receives communion in their own church (no matter which denomination - all are welcome) is welcome to receive at St Guthlac's. If you are not receiving communion, you are still invited to come forward if you wish to and the minister will place her hand on your head and pray that God will bless you.
• THE LAST BIT
The altar is cleared away as we sing a final hymn then the presiding minister will lead a prayer of thanksgiving before giving us all God's blessing. The service then concludes with words that challenge us to go out into the world proclaiming the love of God. The Cross, choir and ministers then process down the main aisle of the church after which we can all get together for refreshments and a chance to catch up.