What is an episcopalian?

Answers to the most common questions about the Episcopal faith


Q.  What is an Episcopalian?

A.   A person who belongs to the Episcopal Church is called an  “Episcopalian.” The word “Episcopal” means a church governed by bishops.  We call our local churches “parishes,” which are governed by an elected  “vestry” of ordinary people who help lead the church and make important  day-to-day decisions. The pastor of an Episcopal church is usually  called a “priest.” In the Episcopal Church, priests are female or male,  married or single.

Q.  What is the Episcopal Church?

A. The Episcopal Church  has over 7400 congregations in 109 dioceses plus three regional areas  in 16 countries with 2.2 million members. The Episcopal Church has  members in the United States, as well as in Colombia, the Dominican  Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan,  Venezuela, the Virgin Islands, and the Convocation of Churches in  Europe.

We  are diverse. Episcopalians are Black, White, Latino, Native American,  Caribbean, and more. We are young and old, poor and rich, straight and  gay. We try to reflect the diversity of the communities in which our  congregations are located. Even though we are not there yet, we do  strive to be welcoming communities of faith, sharing the love of God  with all.

Q. What do Episcopalians Believe?

A.  We  believe first and foremost that we can best come to know God, our  creator, through a relationship with his son, Jesus Christ. The clearest  statements of what we believe is to be found in The Apostle’s Creed and The Nicene Creed.  These 2,000-year-old creeds (short statements of faith) are held to be  true by billions of people around the world today. Beyond that, the best  place to learn what Episcopalians believe is the Bible, which is the  source of our theology, and The Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The  BCP is not only the guide to our conduct of worship, but it is also  articulates our theology.  The Episcopal Church follows the “via media”  or middle way in our theology and discussions because we believe that,  whether we agree on a particular topic, we all are beloved by God and  can have thoughtful and respectful discussions. There are no  prerequisites in the Episcopal Church … everyone is welcome.

Q.  What can I expect when I show up for an Episcopal worship service?

A.   As you enter, you will notice an atmosphere of worship and reverence.  Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles; but whether  the church be small or large, elaborate or plain, your eye is carried to  the altar, or holy table, and to the cross. So, our thoughts are taken  at once to Christ and to God whose house the church is.  On or near the  altar there are candles to remind us that Christ is the ``Light of the  world’’ (John 8:12).

At the heart of all Episcopal worship is The Book of Common Prayer, and within it, the principal weekly service is the Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper or Mass.

Q.  What if I don’t know what to do during a service?

A.   At Trinity, as with most Episcopal churches, we provide a “service  bulletin” that guides you through the service and provides basic  instructions for participation, such as when to stand or kneel. The Book of Common Prayer,  found in all the pews, will also serve as a guide to our Sunday worship  service (sometimes called our “liturgy”), as well as a wide range of  other services for everything from baptism to funerals.

Q.  Can I receive Holy Communion?

A.  All Baptized Christians are welcome to receive Holy Communion at God's table in the Episcopal Church.

​Q.  I am unable to walk to the Altar to receive communion. Can I still receive communion? 

A.  Tell the usher or someone near you who is going to the Altar to have the Celebrant bring the bread and wine to you.

Q.  Does the Episcopal Church allow gay and lesbian persons to participate? 

A.   All of God’s children are welcome to participate in the Episcopal  Church and answer God’s call to service in a wide variety of roles and  missions.

Q.  How long are the services?

A.  Our Sunday service last a little more than one-hour.

Q.  Should I bring my Bible?

A.   Just bring yourself.  Everything you need, including Scripture  readings, is in the service leaflet, which the ushers will give you and The Book of Common Prayer is found in every pew.

Q.  What should I wear?

A.   You will find people dressed very casually (jeans, shorts, t-shirts,  etc.) more formally and a great variety in between.  Just be yourself.   You will fit in.

Q.  Where do I find a Welcome Card?

A.   In the pew hymnal rack, you will see a small ivory guest card with the  word “Welcome.”  We invite you to help us get to know you better by  sharing your name, address and contact information so that a Church  Leader can follow up with you. Just drop this card into the Offering  Plate or hand to an Usher or Greeter on your way out.

Q.  Do you have coffee, donuts, and other good stuff after services?

A.   Please join us in the Parish Hall after church for coffee and  goodies. This is a great time for conversation and fellowship.  

We’re glad to have you at Trinity Episcopal Church 

Thank you for coming - whether it's your first time or your twenty-first time.

Additional Resources:

10 Things I wish everyone knew about the Episcopal Church from onfaith.com,  the online community for faith and spirituality whose mission is to  “Connect with a community of experts, believers, and seekers in your  search for meaning.”

The Episcopal Church in Connecticut (https://www.episcopalct.org)  - For more information about what we believe and how we live our call  as Episcopalians participating in God's mission of restoration and  reconciliation

The Episcopal Church in America (https://www.episcopalchurch.org)