Welcome to Good Shepherd! Your visit is a great joy to us and we pray that you will feel welcome. If you are looking for a church home, would like to be on Good Shepherd’s email list, or would like to be contacted during the week, please fill out the visitor card that has been inserted into your bulletin and place it in the offering plate as it comes by during the service. Please do not feel obligated to give any money during the offering time. We would rather get to know you. The plate is passed around to give regular members who do not send in their offering electronically or by mail an opportunity to support Good Shepherd’s mission and ministry.
Good Shepherd is an Anglican church. The word “Anglican” comes from an older word that means “English”. Anglicans trace their spiritual roots to England and many of the prayers you will hear and pray today go back centuries. Some are over 1500 years old. Over the years we have found that visitors and even those who choose to make Good Shepherd their home church have many questions about Anglican worship. This brief FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is designed to help you make the most of the worship experience.
Please feel free to ask the pastor any questions that haven’t been answered in the FAQ after the service or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or text or call the office at (607) 723-8032.
Welcome, again, to Good Shepherd and may God richly bless you!
Why do Anglicans use written prayers?
The Book of Psalms is, essentially, a written prayerbook. The psalms were memorized and used in worship gatherings by generations of Jews from the time they were penned until Jesus’ day and beyond. Jesus grew up attending his local synagogue every Sabbath and continued to attend synagogue worship, often preaching during the services, throughout his ministry (Luke 4:16). We know quite a bit about synagogue worship in the first century. In the synagogue, Jesus would have prayed the Psalms. He would have also have prayed through a set of common memorized prayers and followed an order of service very much like the one you will experience today with the exception, of course, of Communion (The Lord’s Supper) and the readings from the New Testament. Jesus and his apostles were all Jewish and the early church was made up mostly of Jewish believers who took the synagogue form of worship–that is, the memorized formal prayers and Psalms, the readings from scripture, and the sermon–and added Communion to it. Anglican worship simply continues this ancient practice.
But memorized or “rote” prayers were not only for formal gatherings of the church or synagogue. When his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, Jesus said, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2) and then he recited the famous “Lord’s Prayer”. Jesus was not only giving them a format for their prayers but also an actual prayer to memorize and repeat. It was common for rabbis in the first century to teach disciples formal prayers for memorization. The Lord’s Prayer was given to the disciples for just this purpose. Of course, Jesus also prayed spontaneously as did his disciples. There is no one “right” way to pray. Both written and spontaneous prayers are wonderful ways to approach God through Jesus Christ. But when the church gathers for worship, it is good to use God’s own words to praise him. The prayers printed in your bulletin are almost all taken directly from the scriptures or are paraphrased versions of biblical texts.
But aren’t written prayers insincere?
Sometimes modern people feel that written prayers are insincere. “Unless”, we sometimes think, “my prayers spring directly, unrehearsed from my heart, they cannot be genuine expressions of devotion.” This is a very modern way of thinking that would have surprised Christians of other ages. And common experience tells us that it is untrue. I genuinely love my mother. At the end of our phone calls we have a ritual that is followed by millions of sons and mothers the world over. I say: “I love you”, and she says, “I love you too.” Now, at that moment, I may not have a feeling of warmth or affection. The words do not always spring from the well of my heart. But does that make them any less sincere? Not at all. I genuinely love my mother and it is good to say that to her even if, at the moment, I do not have the feeling of love. I am being sincere because I am speaking the truth. Written prayers operate the same way. Christians do not always, if we are honest, have a burning affection for God. But our feelings are not the measure of our faith. If we wait to “feel it” before praising God we let our emotions rule our worship. Written prayers provide you with the freedom to praise God with true and ancient words, taken from his own words, without the pressure of having to work up a “worshipful” feeling beforehand.
Why does the pastor wear robes?
When a person preaches or leads worship he is filling an important role. He is not merely expressing himself or his opinions or personal thoughts about God. He is called to explain and apply the word of God and to lead people in prayer and praise. The robes are meant to deflect attention from the person himself and to draw the mind to the role he plays as a servant of God and the people. He wears white to symbolize the purity of Christ and the cleansing power of his shed blood. He wears a stole (a long scarf-like cloth around his neck), resembling a yoke, to show that he is bound to the Gospel, a slave of Christ, and that his words and actions must always bear witness to the Lord he serves. During Communion (the Lord’s Supper, sometimes called the “Eucharist” or “thanksgiving”) the pastor puts on another robe (it looks a bit like a pancho) called a chasuble. This symbolizes the righteousness of Christ. We cannot enter Great Feast hoping to be accepted by God because of our own works or righteousness. Even our good works are, as Isaiah tells us, “filthy rags” in his sight (Isaiah 64:6). Instead, we must be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. To all who turn in faith to Jesus, seeking mercy and grace, God credits or “imputes” the pure, unblemished obedience of his Son. The chasuble reminds us that we can only approach the Father through the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ imputed to us.
Are you Catholic?
We are not Roman Catholic. Anglicans are protestants and our confession of faith, The 39 Articles of Religion, is comparable to the Lutheran and Presbyterian confessions. Like all evangelical Christian bodies we believe that sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. We have bishops but not a pope. We believe that the Bible alone is inerrant (without error) and, as God’s own word, stands alone as the supreme authority and the final measure of all truth. In the Creed, we profess that we believe in the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. The word “Catholic” means “universal”. It does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, it refers to the fact that our faith is the same faith professed universally by Christians of all places and ages.
Do Anglicans believe their pastors have the authority to forgive sins?
No. Only God has that authority. After the confession prayer during the worship service, the pastor stands and announces that all who sincerely repent and approach the Lord with true faith can be assured of God’s pardon and forgiveness. The pastor, himself, is not forgiving anyone. Rather, he proclaims that the promise of God to forgive through Jesus Christ all who turn to him and repent is indeed true and lasting and applies to all who sincerely prayed the prayer of confession.
Why do Anglicans stand up and shake hands in the middle of the worship service?
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul warns the Corinthians not to come to the Lord’s table unless they have made peace with God and one another. Having confessed our sins to God and received assurance of his forgiveness and that we are at peace with him because of the work of Christ, we then turn to one another and make peace with our brothers and sisters. During this time, if there is someone you have sinned against or someone who has sinned against you, find that person and either make peace then and there, or commit to talk with that person later in the day or week. If you are at enmity with someone who is not present, commit to God to seek that person out and make peace as soon as possible. Otherwise, if you are at peace with all your neighbors, simply shake hands with the people around you and say something like, “The peace of the Lord be with you.”
Why do some Anglicans make the sign of the cross?
There is nothing magical or mysterious about this ancient gesture. It serves rather to remind those who do it that the cross of Christ is their only hope and that his shed blood alone has won for us forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and fellowship with God. Though God the Son in Jesus Christ is the only Person of the Trinity who hung on the cross, the saving work of God is a trinitarian work. The Father, because he loves us, sent his Son to save sinners, and by the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ in faith. So the sign of the cross is not only a reminder of Christ’s death, it is also a reminder that our salvation, as a whole, is the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God in three Persons.
Will I be welcome at Communion even though I am not Anglican?
All those who have been baptized (in whatever denomination) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and who truly believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ are welcome at the Lord’s Table. Simply come forward with everyone on your row of pews, stand in line with everyone else, and hold your hands together palms up to receive the bread. You can either keep the bread to dip in the wine (this is called “intinction”) or you can consume the bread first and then take a sip from the wine (yes, it’s real wine) when the cup comes by. In keeping with ancient tradition, we use a common cup (one cup from which everyone partakes). Don’t worry about getting sick. The server wipes the cup after each person drinks and the alcohol from the wine kills off any germs. If you would like gluten free bread please let the pastor know when you go up and he will be sure to give you a gluten-free wafer.
If, however, your home church does not allow you to receive communion from other denominations, or you are under discipline at your home church, or you are not at peace with God or neighbor, you are invited to come forward for a blessing. Simply cross your arms across your chest and the pastor will know to give you a blessing instead of communion.