Worship and Prayer
Episcopalians believe that prayer is responding to God by thought and by deeds, with or without words. Episcopalians believe that prayer is deeply personal. Although prayer is unique to each person, a shared faith in Christ expressed through liturgical worship is also an essential component of the Christian life. Liturgy refers to a public service of worship that expresses the common faith of the Church. Episcopalians believe that in corporate worship we unite ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God's Word, to offer prayer, and to celebrate the sacraments.
The administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church are contained in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979. The Book of Common Prayer is a hallmark of worship in The Episcopal Church. Many Episcopalians find comfort, encouragement, and great challenge in the worship and teaching it contains. The cadence of its language and the value of repetition assist us in keeping a continual remembrance of those great things God has done for us.
The Episcopal Church is a sacramental church. The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. The two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church are Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ' s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again. Episcopalians believe that Christ is personally and actively present in the consecrat elements of bread and wine; thus they are called "the body and blood of Christ given tohis people, and received by faith." The benefits we receive in the Holy Eucharist are the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet that is our nourishment in eternal life. When we come to the Eucharist, it is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people. Because the two great sacraments are means by which we initiate and then sustain and deepen our relationship with Christ, they are treated with utmost reverence and respect.
Other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent (confession) and unction (anointing of the sick). Although these sacramental rites are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are. God is not limited by these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.
Episcopalians affirm two historic creeds that are statements of our basic beliefs about God. The Apostles' Creed (Book of Common Prayer, p. 96) is the ancient creed of baptism; it is used in the Church' s daily worship to recall our Baptismal Covenant. The Nicene Creed is the creed of the universal Church and is used at the Eucharist (Book of Common Prayer, p. 358). Both have trinitarian structure, based upon the fundamental Christian conviction that the Trinity is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Episcopalians believe that in the Ten Commandments (Book of Common Prayer, p. 847) we have a basic summary of our duty toward God and our neighbors.
The Holy Scriptures
Episcopalians believe that the Holy Scriptures (the Bible) contain all things necessary to salvation. The public reading of scripture in corporate worship is a distinctive mark of liturgy in The Episcopal Church. Private reading is strongly encouraged. We are taught to "read, learn, mark, and inwardly digest" the words of scripture with the intention that they may lead us "to embrace and ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life."
Although the study of scripture is often viewed as a very complicated task requiring professional skills, Episcopalians, while embracing modern insights, believe that Scripture is a gift to the Church and all its members. According to the Catechism (Book of Common Prayer, p. 854), Episcopalians "understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.
Into the World
While individual Episcopalians have many different perspectives on the problems that beset our communities, nation, and world, none can escape the clear teaching that "we respect the dignity of every human being" and that we are sent "to love and serve the Lord." A long tradition of social witness is rooted in the Anglican conviction that Christ has come to save and preserve our "bodies and souls."
Episcopalians care deeply about the causes of personal and systemic evil and are prepared to join others in the cause of justice and peace. Episcopalians tolerate and encourage dialogue and even disagreement on social matters in the hope that common engagement will lead to lasting and real solutions.