The Episcopal Tradition
Some Information About The Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church is a Christian denomination with a rich Catholic and Protestant heritage. We believe in a God of creation, redemption, and constant presence and love. We believe that God’s love and grace, which belong to all people without exception, are expressed through the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Our faith is not based on anticipated rewards or punishment, but on a free commitment of our will to do God’s will.
Within the Episcopal Church all people are ministers. Some are called into special ministry positions to which they are “ordained.” These are deacons, priests, and bishops who are together called “clergy.” All others are called “lay people.” All participate in the work of the church and in its governance.
Episcopalians are “liturgical,” meaning we worship using a set of texts, which are found in the Book of Common Prayer. Not only will you know pretty much what to expect when you go to any Episcopal service, the words for that service are in the hands of the people.
These services tell a story and act it out. For instance, in Holy Communion (a worship service that we also call the “Eucharist”) the people act out the Gospel story of the Last Supper, eating a piece of bread and taking a sip of wine because Jesus told us to do so, in remembrance of him. Similarly, the baptism of Jesus began for Christians a rite of acceptance that makes use of the symbolism of water.
Because the liturgy draws us into the story through the use of all senses, services are beautiful, dignified, yet invariably human. Do not be afraid of “making a mistake.” The Prayer Book provides the words you will need and the small print gives instructions about standing and kneeling. But even these customs vary in different congregations. You will notice that there are different practices even in the same church. Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church is a Christian community in the Episcopal Tradition.
Of prime importance to us is that we are Christian. Our faith, worship, and life are based on our belief in the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, and in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God written by humans to guide us in our faith walk.
We are a community. We are not just a collection of individuals, but together we form the Body of Christ, ministering to each other and the world around us. As community we value and respect each other, seeing Christ in each other. We work to be open and honest in our dealings with each other and in our dealing with the larger communities around us.
This is all grounded in our Episcopal tradition. We are not an isolated congregation but are part of a community that spans the globe as a part of the Anglican Communion. We have deep historical roots. We celebrate our traditions through the use of The Book of Common Prayer as the basis for our worship, and celebrate our part in this global community through our participation in the work of the Diocese of Rhode Island.
(Adapted from materials developed by the national Episcopal Church Visitor’s Center)