What to expect at St Lawrence Church
Most people’s first experience of St Lawrence will be at our 10am Sunday Service. Here are a few things to expect, as well as some FAQ's.
All Sunday morning services are Communion (Eucharist) services and include music and hymns. Most weeks, we follow a fairly traditional format which can vary slightly depending on which season we are in. For all services, the congregation is invited to join in at certain points; these are clearly marked in bold on your service sheet or on the screen. About once a month, we have an ‘all age’ service – less formal, a little shorter and particularly suitable for families with a mix of modern and older hymns and songs often led by our band instead of by our choir and organ.
Everyone who normally takes Communion in their own church is welcome to do so at St Lawrence. If you do not wish to take Communion but would like to come up to the altar for a blessing for yourself or your child, please come up to the altar along with the rest of the congregation, keeping your hands at your side rather than open to receive communion.
Refreshments are served in the Church hall after the service; please do join us there so that we can begin to get to know you.
FAQ 1: When I walk in...who is/why are they giving me bits of paper?
When you arrive, you will be greeted by one of our sidespeople, who will do all they can to make you feel at home. They will give you a service sheet or booklet, usually a song sheet, and a copy of our weekly bulletin which gives you information about what is going on in church over the next week or two.
Feel free to ask them any questions you may have and do not worry if you notice that you have been counted – this is done because the church has to keep records of numbers attending and also the figures are taken up to the altar and used to judge how many wafers and how much wine may be needed for the communion.
FAQ 2: Where do I sit?
You may sit anywhere you like. Regular worshippers tend to sit in the same seats but they are not ‘theirs’. It is better not to sit on the very front row as there would not be anywhere in front of you to put your papers. Also, until you know what happens during a service it may be better to sit a little back so that you can see when those in front sit or stand, etc. The middle block of the church gives a better view when the main altar is being used.
FAQ 3: Why is that man in a dress?
Many different forms of dress are used depending on the service, etc. That ‘dress’ is either a white surplice over a black cassock or a white alb. The main priest will probably wear a chasuble, an ornate poncho like garment, often elaborately embroidered/decorated. Assistants will be in a variety of dress depending on their function that day. ‘Servers’ who assist during the service will wear a white cotta (similar to but shorter than a surplice) over a black cassock whilst young servers will probably be in jeans and a green ‘hoodie’. The choir wear blue robes.
FAQ 4: Why are they speaking in Greek/Hebrew/Latin?
Almost all of the service is conducted in English but occasionally a small part may be in a different language, often at what are called Responses. This is where it is normal to respond! Do not worry about this, the words should all be in one of the books/sheets you have been given or may be up on the screen from the projector. You do not have to participate all of the time so don’t worry if you do not know what is being said/sung.
FAQ 5: What’s burning?
During Communion services, incense (a resin) is sometimes burned in a thurible (seen in the picture). You may have seen the person leading in the procession swinging this as they walked in and that is when the smoke is emitted as the incense burns on charcoal. The thurible will be swung at various times during the service.
There are also candles alight around the church which sometimes make a smell especially when they are put out. There is also a Candle stand on the left-hand side near the entrance to the chapel where you can buy and light a candle to pray for someone or remember them.
FAQ 6: Where am I going in Communion?
About three quarters of the way through a Communion service, the congregation will be invited up to the altar for Communion. This may be the main altar in which case two lines usually form down the centre aisle joining row by row and gradually moving to the altar rail with the left hand aisle also filing into the side (Lady) chapel. It is usual to kneel at the main altar for Communion or a Blessing but if this is not easy for you, stay standing. If a Nave altar (one closer to the congregation) is used, a similar queue forms but this time there will be two people giving you bread in the centre then you move to whichever side you are to where others will offer the wine. Return to your seats via the side aisles in both cases.
At St Lawrence Church, we invite anyone who takes Communion in their own church to come forward to take it here. Everyone is welcome to come up to the altar for a Blessing. If you do this you should keep your head bowed and hands down low in front of you to indicate you wish just for a Blessing. It is helpful to remain at the altar until the wine has passed you to avoid jogging your neighbour as you get up, again just keep your head bowed and hands down. When you first come to Church you may not feel easy about going up for a Blessing but do not worry, you will not be forced to participate, although someone may ask if you would like to go up. Just smile a polite refusal until you feel more comfortable.
FAQ 7: Is it ok that I do not know the songs, etc?
You will have been given all the necessary papers, maybe including a song sheet which will be used. You will also find the orange hymn book in the ledge found in the seat in front of you. It does not matter if you do not know the hymns/songs (or you are just not sure of the tune) just listen to the choir and follow the words until you learn them and can join in. The hymn numbers are usually on two boards, one at the front right and the other on the left-hand wall ¾ way down the church. Sometimes the words are projected onto the screen as well.
Follow the service in the book and where words are printed in bold they are said/sung by everyone. There may be slight variations to the words but you should be able to follow it through.
FAQ 8: Do you provide food and drinks?
After the 10.00 am service on Sunday morning and sometimes after other services, coffee and biscuits are served in the Church Hall. Please do go across to the Church Hall and someone is sure to speak to you!