Many people go into a church either to admire its architecture and contents; to listen to a concert; to attend a social function or simply to appreciate its stillness and tranquility. They feel quite relaxed about this even if they are not regular 'church goers'.
You may feel differently, however, when thinking about participating in a church service for the first time or after a gap of a few of years. You may feel hesitant because you don't know the routine. What should I wear? Where should I sit? Will I know when to stand up or sit down? What about the collection? What do I do during communion? Can I bring my children?
This is understandable - none of us like to feel conspicuous in a strange environment but please try to relax. We hope this information will help to make your experience less intimidating and will hopefully give you the confidence to make that first step.
It is our sincere desire that all who attend St Mary's will encounter God. This may be through the worship, through Communion, through the sermon, prayers, notices or through the welcome you receive. It may be that you encounter God through conversations with others or through the architecture of the church building, or in the quiet and still moments. May God bless you as you spend time with us in worshipping God.
We don’t have a dress code; some prefer to dress smartly, others prefer to dress casually. It is important for you to feel comfortable and for others attending to feel comfortable too. It is helpful to have a respect for God, for where you are, for who you are and for why you are there.
Please remember to switch your mobile to silent, or off.
Arriving about 10 minutes before the service would give you time to get the feel of the place and find a seat before the service starts.
As you approach the entrance you may hear music and, stepping through the door, we would hope to give you a warm and friendly welcome and pass to you any service sheets and information you may need for the service. If the church is filling up there may be someone to help you find suitable seating, otherwise, please feel free to sit where you feel most comfortable. If you are part of a baptism group we may have reserved seats for you in a place nearer the front, where you will be able to see the baptism.
Take a moment or two to look around. You will see some people chatting, some people may be praying or preparing for the service. Some may be looking through the information handed out at the door. Feel at ease, you're in God's house and you are very welcome! Take a moment to prepare yourself for the service.
Please ask those who welcome you about our children's groups. We have a creche and groups for children up to the age of 11. We'd be delighted to tell you what's happening, where, and when. On some Sundays we start all together in the main church building, on other Sundays children meet in the Church Centre, a separate building located just behind the church. Our welcome team will let you know what's happening.
On the fourth Sunday of each month we hold a Family Service. This is a shorter than normal service (about 40-45 minutes) and is planned with all ages, all backgrounds and all understandings in mind.
For those who would like to keep younger children with them in church, we have bags with toys and books, colouring sheets and pens at the back of church, in the corner next to the door through which you arrived. You may have brought your own favourite toys.
We realise that it can be difficult for parents if children start crying or become fractious or restless and want to run around. If this happens it will probably trouble you more than those around you. Please don’t worry. The service is meant to be informal enough to cope with families of all shapes and sizes. We’re learning how to welcome and accommodate people in the most relevant way. Children often can’t help but move around and use the floor spaces to play with their toys. To the right of the platform area we have a prayer chapel, specifically set aside for parents and children who feel they need a quieter and more secluded space for their children or for themselves. Please don’t feel anxious about making use of this room, for however long or short a time, at any time in the service. Don't feel awkward; many of us remember the stresses and strains of caring for young children in a new environment, we aim to be sympathetic and try to help.
We have toilets, including disabled facilities and changing facilities, at the back of church directly opposite the entrance to the church.
The service will begin with a welcome from the person leading the service. You will be able to follow the service from the sheet handed to you when entering and from following the service on the screens at the front of the church.
The service sheet should indicate when to stand or sit, and the person leading the service will also give an indication. You may also follow what other people do.
This one can really get people in a tizz! There you are, you've done fine up to this point and suddenly somebody shoves a little bag into your hand and it takes you by surprise - oh dear, just when you thought you had it cracked ...Don't Worry!
The collection happens during the offertory hymn. It is announced by the leader of the service. Once the singing has started the collection will begin from the front of the church so you can see it coming. If you wish to give something, place your gift in the collection bag as it is handed to you and then pass the bag on to the person next to you. The collection money is used for the up-keep of the church building, its running costs, and for the salary and pensions of clergy, and for all the ministries we run and support here and abroad. Please do not feel any obligation to give, feel free to pass the bag to the person next to you without any obligation or embarrassment.
If the Sunday you attend happens to be a Communion Service, that part of the service will begin after the collection. Again, you can follow this from the service sheet. If you take communion in your own church we invite you to join with us in taking communion in St Mary's. For the actual giving out of communion, members of the church help direct people to take their place at the front of the church. If you feel you'd rather not go up, that's fine; just let other people out of their seats and feel free to stay seated. Alternatively, you may wish to go up to receive a blessing instead of communion. In that case just join the others from your seat but carry your service sheet so the vicar may pray for you and with you.
After the Service
When the service is over, at the end of the final hymn, people sit and pray for a moment, until the music group plays. Then people get up, start chatting and get refreshments. Coffee, tea and biscuits are served after every service. This is a good time to strike up a conversation and meet people from the church, but if you prefer to quietly leave, that's fine too. It may be that something in the service has triggered thoughts within you and you may wish to talk or pray with someone about any issues that have affected you. We reserve our prayer chapel (to the side of the front of the church) for people who wish to think, talk or pray about anythig on their minds. We have church members there who will sensitively listen to you and seek to help you in the most appropriate way.
After the service the vicar will be standing at the door and wish people well as they are leaving.
We hope that you found this explanation helpful and look forward to welcoming you soon.