About the Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church is a gathering of all kinds of people who put their trust in Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior, who believe that God loves all people, and who want to share God’s love, peace, and forgiveness with everyone we encounter. We want to follow Jesus and his teachings in our daily lives
The word “Episcopal” is an old word which refers to Bishops. Bishops are church leaders called to oversee the work of the church and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Because Bishops not only have the important work of leadership in our church, but are also symbols of our unity, we have called ourselves the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians are Christians who practice their faith in the traditions of the Episcopal Church. As Episcopalians, we believe it is deeply important to be connected to one another beyond our local parish, and bishops help us to do that. We believe that church is always bigger than our particular experience, and that we can accomplish more together as a wider church than we can as individuals. Many important decisions about the Episcopal Church are made as a larger church in the United States of America, rather than just at the local level. In this way, we are different from Christian traditions in which all church decisions are made in the local congregation.
In addition to bishops, other ordained persons, priests and deacons, also have important leadership roles in the church. Priests most commonly are responsible for caring for individual parishes and presiding over the spiritual life of the congregation. Priests who are responsible for individual parishes are often called Rectors. Deacons are ministers who help to connect the work of the church with the needs of the world.
Most importantly, though, all baptized Christians are called to be ministers of Jesus and to make decisions about the mission of the Episcopal Church. Lay leaders, for instance, help the clergy discern a vision for the church by serving on church boards called Vestries. The chair and vice-chair of the church board are typically called Senior Warden and Junior Warden, respectively, dating back to their historical roles as caretakers of church properties.
Our roots go all the way back to the traditions of the very first Christians. We are also open to new ideas, movements, and ways of being Christian. We have been shaped and influenced by both the catholic and reformed traditions of the church. We have a very deep and historic connection to the Church of England, as many of our most important traditions are rooted in the English Christian heritage. For that reason, Episcopalians belong to a family of churches often referred to as Anglicans.
Our worship and prayer life is centered around the sacraments (holy signs of God’s grace and love) of Baptism and Holy Eucharist (or Holy Communion, or the Mass as it’s called). Our worship follows ancient forms, uses long cherished prayer language, and is also relevant to current realities.
As Episcopalians, we believe we are called to be loving and inclusive towards all of God’s children, and to build communities in which the abundant love and hospitality of Jesus is on full display.
This is a brief snapshot of what it means to be an Episcopalian. To learn more, we invite you to visit the website for the Episcopal Church, which can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org. In particular, you may visit this wonderful page called “I am an Episcopalian,” found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/i-am-episcopalian.
The Reverend Patrick J. Skutch
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church