First time in church?
What happens at a service?
We know that coming to church for the first time can be quite intimidating. Even for a seasoned church-goer, a new church throws up all sorts of questions. Well, here we try to answer those questions… and above all let you know that you’ll be made welcome.
When you come to a service in one of our five beautiful church buildings, you will normally find someone to welcome you and give you any books you might need.
Please sit anywhere you like. If you’re new to church, then it might help to sit near the back, where you can see what everyone else is doing. Or you might like to ask the person handing out books to suggest someone to sit beside you to guide you through anything unfamiliar. Wherever you sit, please don't worry about ‘getting it wrong’. Even the most regular churchgoers can chime in with the priest's words by mistake, or sit down when everyone else is standing - and nobody minds!
Before the service: Some people will be chatting or helping to prepare for worship, while others are sitting in silent prayer. Please do whatever feels most comfortable for you.
Before the Service
Can I just walk in?
Yes! Anyone is welcome.
What should I wear?
There’s no dress code. Some people feel more comfortable dressing smartly for church, others prefer to come along dressed more casually. Churches can be difficult to heat fully. It’s always a good idea to have some extra layers in cold weather just in case!
How long will the service be?
It depends on the service. Usually between 45 minutes and an hour.
Do I need to bring anything?
No. However we do take a collection during one of the hymns (it will be clearly marked which hymn) so you may want to bring some money (see below for more details about the collection).
During the Service
Service sheets include guidance about when we usually stand or sit, but if you are unable to change positions easily, or find it difficult to stand for any length of time, then you are very welcome to remain seated throughout.
The service leader should let us know if we need to skip pages or do anything different. We really do try not to get this wrong, so that you won't find that there's a part of the service where everyone seems to know what's happening except you - but if we do, then please remember that this is our mistake not yours, and just join in by listening at that point.
Similarly, if you don't know one of the hymns or songs that we sing, then please don't worry. The words of the song may still be very meaningful for you to read, and as you hear the tune repeated through the verses you may feel able to join in.
After the Service
Many people like to remain in church to chat together. Tea/coffee and biscuits/cake are often served at this time (there is no charge for the refreshments, which are donated by church members). Please do join us for this time of fellowship, which will also give us a chance to meet you. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have concerning the service and our community.
God is perfect but we are not!
We try to be as welcoming as possible, but if we get it wrong - if people are either so deep in conversation that you feel left out, or so very 'welcoming' that you feel overwhelmed - then please do let us know.
At Communion services
What is Communion?
Bread and wine are blessed by the priest, in a series of prayers, before we share them.
Before the Communion prayers, the priest may invite us to “offer one another a sign of peace”: we shake hands with those around us, saying “peace be with you” or similar words. Some people move around the church to greet one another. Others prefer simply to stand or sit quietly. Please do whatever you feel comfortable doing.
Should I go up during the communion?
Please do. You’ll see the warden coming up the church inviting people to come in turn. Everyone is invited up to the altar at communion. If you usually take communion in other churches, or have taken it before, then please do take the bread and wine with us. If you’ve never taken communion, please do still come up and receive a blessing – many people do. Just follow everyone else, and when you get to the rail, kneel down and hold your hands down. The minister will know that you’re there for a blessing. After your blessing, go back to your seat.
But if you prefer to stay in your seat, that’s fine, no one will mind. Sometimes people watch what’s going on the first few times they come to church, then join in when they feel comfortable.
At most services, an offering (money) will be taken during one of the hymns. This will be announced, and a collection plate passed along each row. This is our main source of income: in the UK the church does not receive government or council money, so church members' giving is what pays for our priest and other ministry costs, and for the upkeep of our historic buildings. As a visitor, you should feel free either to pass on the collection plate or to contribute if you wish. There is no 'right' amount to contribute: we give what we feel called by God to give.
At the end of the service: We usually remain standing while the person or people who have led the service walk to the back of the church, and then we sit for a few moments in silence.