Our worship is sacramental and liturgical, based on the tradition of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). We offer services of Holy Eucharist both said (without music) and choral (with music).
The Episcopal tradition of worship, flowing from its Anglican source, sees itself as catholic and reformed. At Saint Martin’s the reformed side of our faith is especially visible in our architecture, a sacred space built in the New England enlightenment style – clear windows, white surfaces and simplicity of line.
The catholic aspect of our prayer is prominent in our centeredness on the celebration of Holy Eucharist, our use of traditional forms of liturgy and emphasis on the altar as the main event of gathering.
Musically we incorporate the best of classical and ecclesiastical currents, including ancient and medieval catholic, as well as protestant, hymns and anthems.
About the Eucharist. The traditional division of our services of Holy Eucharist is two-fold: a liturgy of the Word, followed by a liturgy of the Sacrament. The first part is preparatory and cognitive (hearing and responding, reading and listening) and the second is the central act: faithful communion in the presence of God receiving the elements of Christ’s body and blood.
So our worship time is divided between preparation for the table and the table experience itself (altar). Sections of the liturgy of the Word include an entrance rite (BCP 355-57), Scripture reading and the response of the sermon (357-58), Creed, prayers, confession and peace (358-60). Sections of the eucharistic prayer include the anaphora, epiklesis and words of institution. These same patterns can be seen in all our services of Eucharist (Rite 1, etc.).
All the eucharistic prayers of the BCP are grounded in the doctrines of the incarnation, cross, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. They speak of his being sent into the world by the Father, his taking flesh, his suffering for the sins of the world, his role as Savior and Redeemer, Healer and Institutor of the Eucharistic tradition of worship. They celebrate his resurrection and ascension into heaven where he is exalted before the Father and from whence is sent the Holy Spirit. Attention is drawn to the future of the Lord in his return and judgement of justice, as well as his coming and enduring kingdom.
Much of the creed and the basics of Christian doctrine are repeated throughout the eucharistic prayers in the form of corporate prayer. The reality of the people of God and the Church appear but not prominently (except in Prayer D). The concept of God is triune, celebrating God as Creator and Redeemer. Direct reference is made in several texts to Mary of Nazareth as virgin and mother. No other disciples are mentioned by name and scant reference is made to Christ as teacher or educator. Prayer D refers to his prophetic work.
A Basic Glossary of Worship for Visitors
Eucharist (from the Greek, eucharistia, thanksgiving) is the offering of thanks to God for the grace and generosity of God in the redemption of the world in God’s Son and for all the blessings of this life and the life to come.
Liturgy (from the Greek, liturgia, service) is the labor offered to God in thought, word and deed as worship. Liturgies are set patterns of worship and can be eucharistic or non-eucharistic (morning prayer, etc.). Bishops and priests are the stewards of liturgy, in whose efforts the laity participates and is welcomed.
Collect (Latin, colligere, gather together) is a gathering prayer, calling the people into unity of thought and focus. The Collect of the Day, especially in Sunday worship, states the spiritual theme of the day and week.
Creed (Latin, credo, credimus, I/we believe) is a formal statement of faith uttered as a prayer in worship. The Nicene Creed (4th century), the Apostles’ Creed (perhaps 3rd century) and the Athanasian Creed (5th century) appear in the BCP.
Anaphora (Greek, lifting up, presentation) is the part of the eucharistic prayer in which the celebrant offers/presents the gifts of bread and wine to God. It is also used for the whole of the Eucharistic Rite.
Epiklesis (Greek, calling down) is the calling upon the Holy Spirit by the celebrant to bless the elements of bread and wine.
Words of Institution are the bible texts in the eucharistic prayer explaining the origin of the sacrament in the Last Supper of Christ.
Notes on Eucharistic Prayer B, used much of the year
This prayer contains some of the oldest known liturgy in the Christian world. From the words “We give thanks…” to “…and made us worthy to stand before you” is a section of Greek prayer used by Christians as early as the fourth century, perhaps as long ago as the second century. The English translation softens some of the original language, especially the older direct references to the devil and Christ stretching out his hands on the cross.
The words of institution that follow are the standard ones from the bible (“On the night before he died…”). The second half of the prayer was composed by modern writers, especially Frank Griswold, former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
We tend to favor Eucharistic Prayer B for non-penitential seasons and favor Prayer A for penitential seasons. Eucharistic Prayers C and D are not as well known but powerful expressions of ancient and modern prayer.
We encourage exploration and study of the liturgy of the church. Our clergy and musicians enjoy sharing on such topics.