Church services can range from very formal with lots of ritual and ceremony, to very informal with little ceremony or structure.
However almost all Christian services include:
- some prayers – saying thank-you to God for things we enjoy in life, and asking for His help in matters of concern to us;
- one or more readings from the Bible;
- some teaching or preaching in the form of a homily or sermon, and
- some sacred music, hymns or worship songs.
At St Francis’ our services usually start pretty promptly, and our main services last on average just over an hour. Most of the time we have some form of pre-set structure and format to our services – called a liturgy, and set out in a service booklet. As we are a Local Ecumenical Partnership, the liturgy may reflect Anglican (Church of England – Common Worship), Methodist or United Reformed Church traditions, according to which Minister is leading the Service. However, all of our services are fairly informal and we rarely have a service with lots of ceremony and ritual at St Francis’.
In the time before a service starts, the musicians will be playing and, for the last five minutes, our church bell will be chimed as a reminder both to those intending to come to Church, but also to the whole community, that a service is about to begin.
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The Minister or worship leader will be sitting quietly near the front of the Church for these last few minutes, and at the time the service is due to begin he or she will stand up and move to the reading desk (the lectern). The service begins and follows the liturgy, or pattern of worship for that day.
To find out a little more about the different characteristics of our different services through the month, why not look at St Francis’ Sundae later in this Services section of the website.
If it is a Communion service, then towards the end of the service, the congregation will be invited to come up to the front of the worship area to receive the Communion elements – the Bread and Wine. The ‘sides-people’ (the ‘stewards’ who help during the service) will be on hand to guide you when to go forward. At St Francis’ we stand in front of the dais to receive first the Bread – usually small circular wafers, and then the Wine. We have an “open Table” which means we welcome members of all Christian denominations who are in the habit of receiving Holy Communion (also known as The Eucharist or The Lord’s Supper in some places), at their own Church, to share Communion with us. We have gluten-free wafers for those who need this option. If you need gluten-free wafers please advise a sides-person at the start of the Service.
At the end of the service the Minister will pronounce a Blessing, and during the last hymn or worship song they will walk to the back of the church. There he or she will say a final ‘exhortation’ or farewell sentence to which we respond, and then the musicians will play a final piece of music to close the service. Most people sit quietly for a few moments to gather their thoughts again and say a final personal prayer. Then all attending the service are warmly welcomed to enjoy tea, coffee, biscuits and a time of fellowship with other members of the congregation. We would certainly like to welcome you into our church, and the refreshments served after the service give us all the chance to get to know each other a little better.
What should I do at a Service?
When you arrive at the church you will be handed a Pew Sheet, (which contains a summary of the Service arrangements, some prayer topics for the week ahead, and some notices of what is going on in and around the Church). Sometimes you will also be given a service booklet or service sheet, and perhaps one or more hymn books or hymn sheets. You may then go and sit in any convenient seat.
Many people will sit for a little while to gather their thoughts and maybe say a quiet prayer to help settle their minds, before the service begins. It is also a good time to look at your service booklet. This gives information not only on what will be said and done, but also at some places in the booklet, explains a little more of what is happening.
After the service starts, you will find much of what happens projected onto the wall at the front, including the words of hymns and worship songs being sung. Your service booklet will tell you if you need to stand up or sit down, and the Minister or worship leader will usually announce this as well.
In the service book you will find that the words the Minister says are in normal type, and the ‘responses’ that the congregation say are in bold type. When prayers are said it is customary to sit quietly listening, and to join in an “Amen” (meaning “Let it be so”), or another pre-set response, at the end of each prayer or group of prayers. One of the prayers will be ‘The Lords Prayer’ which begins “Our Father which art in heaven ...” or “Our Father in Heaven ...” in the more modern form. Usually everyone says this Prayer together. Some people like to bow their heads or close their eyes to reduce distractions while they listen to, or join in with, the prayers. In some Churches people kneel down to pray, and you are welcomed to do so at St Francis’ if you wish, though as we are a fairly new Church we do not yet have any soft kneelers to put on the floor.
During the singing of hymns and worship songs some people at St Francis sometimes feel moved to stretch out or raise their hands high in thanksgiving to God. This is a matter of personal choice, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, but no-one minds if you feel you would like to.
In many churches, including St Francis’, we observe The Peace during a Communion service. When the Minister says “Let us offer one another a sign of peace”, you just shake hands with the people near you and say to one another “Peace be with you” as a way of showing that you hold no ill-will against anyone else present at the service.
During Holy Communion services, at the time of Communion, and if you are not of Communicant status in your own Church, or you do not wish to receive the Communion, then please do still come forward at the appropriate time, to receive a blessing from the presiding Minister. It is usual to carry a service booklet as a sign to the Minister if you wish a blessing.
One of the hymns later in the service will be announced as the Offertory hymn, and this is when a money collection is brought forward to the Holy Table for a blessing. At most of our services we place a collection basket or plate on a small table near the back of the Church, into which you are encouraged to make your donation as you arrive. If you miss that opportunity then it is possible to slip out of your seat during one of the hymns to make a gift. However at major festival services when the Church is much fuller, for convenience a basket is passed along the rows of seats into which you can put some money.
These collections go towards helping to meet the costs of running the Church building, staging the services and funding the other activities which the Church undertakes. Churches get no money from the Government or Local Authorities to cover Church running costs, though as Charities, Churches can now claim “Gift Aid” tax relief on much of the money donated by income tax-paying members of congregations and the wider public.
If you didn’t bring any money on these occasions, just hand the basket to the next person. You may find that even regular worshippers at St Francis’ simply pass the basket on, as a number of our Church Family members make regular gifts by Standing Order from their bank account. This helps provide the Church with regular and predicable funds.
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How much should I give? There is no set amount or “subscription” in a Church. What you give should be a matter between you and God and a result of prayerful consideration of your response to all the blessings God has bestowed on you. One of the principles of Christian life however is generosity in response to a generous God. At St. Francis’ we appreciate each individual gift of time and money however large or small it may be. But as a guide to the sorts of finances involved in running our Church and funding our Christian Mission and witness in our neighbourhood and the wider world, we budget for expenditure of around £100,000 each year or to put it another way it costs us around £275 per DAY to fund our Church and its work.
When the Service Ends: At the end of the service, the Minister or worship leader will be at the door as you leave the worship area, so do introduce yourself, as he or she will be keen to get to know you.
Remember that if you would simply like to sit at the back for a few services and not take part at all, we will still be very pleased to see you!
What should I wear in church?
Some people like to wear fairly formal clothes [e.g. suit and tie], but many others wear casual clothes, and clean jeans and tee-shirts are quite acceptable these days – it is a matter of personal choice. Nowadays, very few women wear hats or cover their heads, but you are welcomed to do so if you wish.
I have not been Baptised (Christened) – can I still attend a Church service?
Absolutely you can! – Almost all churches welcome people who are starting out on a journey towards faith. At St Francis’ we welcome all who wish to explore the way to God through the Christian faith, and we make no judgement about any-one’s faith status. Our hope is that in due time you may feel that you have come to a point where you would like to be Baptised. In the meantime, during Communion Services we would encourage you to go forward to receive a Blessing when the Bread and Wine are distributed.
I have small children – won’t they disrupt the service?
At St Francis’ we are a family-friendly Church and we welcome parents and carers bringing small children. Our Ministers are not bothered at all by the sounds of little ones and we have books and colouring materials for toddlers who would like to stay with their grown-ups during the service, but need a distraction at some point. We have a Créche next to the worship space, which is often staffed, so that grown-ups can be in the service nearby, or hear it on speakers in the Créche itself.
Older children are welcomed to join in one of the junior church groups which operate on every Sunday in school term time except the 1st Sunday, if they would like to.