If you have not been to St Mary’s before – don’t worry; it is easier than you think.
For details of how to find the building, see the Getting Here page on this website.
Most people first come to the 10.30 am service which is held every Sunday morning or to Evensong which takes place through the year at 6.30 pm.
If you come to one of these services, the first person you are likely to meet is likely to be one of those responsible for leading the service. Members of the clergy usually greet people at the door of the church. Once you come inside, someone will welcome you and give you a service sheet. Everything that you need is in this leaflet – hymns, music and prayers are all gathered together. Find a seat anywhere in the main body of the church – no seats are reserved. If you want a Bible during the service, there are copies at the ends of the pews. We use the New Revised Standard Version.
There is flat access into the church for those in wheelchairs. There is also an accessible toilet on the same level, which is located through the door on the left behind the organ console near the front of the church.
On most Sunday mornings there is a meeting of the Young Church in the Synod Hall at t he same time as the first part of the service in church. We all come together for communion. Children are welcome to choose whether to go to Young Church or remain with everyone else. We are relaxed about babies (and there are quite a few very young members of the congregation at the moment). Whoever meets you at the door will give more details of what is available for young people if you want to know about this.
You will know that the service is about to begin as the side door near the back of the church will open and a procession of people will come through – the congregation stands up to greet them. These people are the altar servers (who help the service to run smoothly), the choir (if they are singing in the service) and the clergy. Note that the choir sings most weeks, but usually has a week off on one Sunday after Christmas and Easter and for six weeks in the summer. The person who is going to be conducting the service comes in at the back of the procession.
You may see someone at the front of the procession bringing an offering of incense in a thurible. We use incense in our worship on feast days and special occasions – a symbol of our prayers rising to heaven and a sign of the sacredness of the worship in this place.
Whoever is presiding at the service will greet everyone and the service is then underway – most of the hymns are not announced – all the details are in the service sheet that will tell you what is going on all the way through. Although there is considerable variety during the year, most of the services have the same basic shape week by week which people get used to after coming a few times.
You are unlikely to get lost in the liturgy, but if you do, just ask someone who is near you to show you where we are – they will be delighted to help.
Most people stand to sing and we generally sit or kneel to pray.
The morning services on a Sunday are always communion services. Everyone is welcome to receive communion at St Mary’s. If you don’t feel you want to receive the bread and wine, you are encouraged to come to the altar along with everyone else for a blessing.
The evening services are not communion services. Most of the year, this is the special service of Choral Evensong. In this service, the choir take a major part in leading our prayers. During this stunning service, most of the prayers are sung by the clergy and the choir. The congregation joins in with the singing of the hymns. There is not usually a sermon in the evening though at certain times of the year, for example during Lent (the time of preparation for Easter) there may be a short devotional address.
During the summer, whilst the choir are on holiday a simpler form of service takes place on Sunday evenings: Sung Evensong. In these services the congregation sings more of the service and there is organ music for meditation in place of a choir anthem.
After the 1030 morning service there is usually tea and coffee at the back of the church. You don’t have to stay, but it is a good chance to meet people if you want to do so.
If you are finding a way into the congregation, please fill in a Welcome Card. These are available at the back of the church and in the pews. It is also possible to fill this in online.