Church is not simply a social gathering, a religious club or a friendship circle – it is a time to gather together and encounter the living God. Church members should feel confident to explain what church is all about and how their faith shapes them. Church is a place where everybody should feel welcome – whatever their age or background.
At St John the Baptist, Timberhill with St Julian's we believe a warm greeting is a crucial first step in making someone feel welcome. If no-one talks to a first-time visitor, they’re unlikely to ever come back. We strongly feel taking time to say a simple hello can be more significant than it might seem. We also feel it's one thing to greet a visitor warmly, but it's also important to make sure that the welcome continues after the service is over and that people aren’t left alone with tea and a biscuit.
What is also important is that visitors know what’s happening in the service. If you are new to our church, attending a service can feel like entering a new country with strange customs and unfamiliar language or vocabulary. Different churches will often have different ways of doing the same thing, so to help make newcomers feel welcome, we try to explain what the ‘locals’ take for granted, so offer a Mass book so that you can follow the service step by step.
The signs and symbols used in the Church’s liturgy provide us with a great opportunity for reflection. These simple elements of everyday life invite us to reflect on the mystery of our faith. Many times we do things without knowing why but we do it any way. Because we have always done it that way and no one ever has taken the time to find out why themselves. We just go through life doing things that we have no idea why we do what we do. So why do we do some of the things we do in church?
Why We Make the Sign Of The Cross
Making the sign of the Cross is part of worship throughout the Christian Church. In the Western Church, including the Church of England it is usually made with the right hand. The Sign of the Cross expresses blessing. It symbolizes God’s blessing, and God embracing us with blessings. In the sign we express our belief in God from whom all our blessings flow and embrace our good God with mind and heart and all of our strength.
Why We Burn Incense
What is Incense? Incense is made from various aromatic resins and gums taken from trees and other plants. When burned it gives off scented smoke. In church it is normally burned in a censer or thurible. Because it is difficult to burn on its own, and to create the maximum amount of smoke, it is burned along with charcoal.
Why We Genuflect
verb: genuflect; lower one's body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect.
To genuflect is to 'bow the knee'; to go down on one knee. It is the most profound and solemn form of bowing. The next most solemn form of BOW is a profound bow from the waist. Finally there is the simplest form in which the head alone is inclined slightly forward and down.
Why We Anoint with Oil
Oil has always been the 'life-blood' of society, a fact of which the Jewish people of the Old Testament were very aware. In Church we use oil in two ways: it can be burnt it in votive lamps, and is used to anoint people. As a symbol oil reminds us of God's boundless generosity towards us, and of His never-ending love of us. When we use it to anoint people in Church, it is more than merely a symbol, or reminder. It becomes one of the channels by which God's power comes into the world, by which He blesses us with His Holy Spirit.
Why We Ask For The Prayers of The Saints
Some people ask “why say prayers to saints? Shouldn’t all our prayers be to God?” Praying to the saints is praying to God, in a fundamental way. We're praying to those who can ask God to help us in our various needs in accordance with His will.
When you ask someone to pray for you are you worshiping that person? Of course not! It’s the same when we ask the saints to pray for us! In our prayers to saints we ask them to “put in a good word” for us with God in Heaven. They are not the focus of our worship, God is.