What happens in a church service?
People freely go into a church either to admire its architecture and contents; to listen to a concert; to attend a social function or simply to appreciate its stillness and tranquillity. They feel quite relaxed about this even if they are not regular ‘church goers’.
It could be different if you’re thinking about participating in a church service for the first time or after a gap of a number of years. You may feel hesitant because you don’t know the ‘routine’.
What should I wear? Where should I sit? Will I know when to stand or sit? What about the collection. What do I do during communion? Can I bring my children?
If these are the sort of things that are worrying you: Relax!
Read on as what follows is designed to make it much less intimidating and will hopefully give you the confidence to make that first step.
What to wear? Regular members wear a wide diversity of styles ranging from formal suits and dresses to T shirts and jeans or possibly shorts in the summer. Nobody usually wears a hat. The heating in the Church is usually fairly good so there is no need to wear a heavy coat in the service.
Remember about your mobile telephone – please switch it to silent.
You’ll find service times on the Services / Prayer Page on this website.
Arriving about 5 or 10 minutes before the start would give you time to get the feel of the place. Stepping through the door, you’ll find someone who will wish you a smiling ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ and welcome you to the church. The entrance leads into a large vestibule.
In the morning service the vestibule is a busy area but amongst the crowd there will be folk wearing a ‘Welcomer’ badge, if you have any questions please ask them they will be delighted to help you. However we are all a friendly lot so just ask anyone for help.
The worship area is on the left of the vestibule so please enter and find a seat whenever you are ready. Normally there are no reserved seats; no-one is going to feel put out because you’ve chosen to sit in the wrong seat so don’t worry. (If there are seats reserved, for instance for baptism families, these will be clearly indicated by a notice on the seats). For wheelchair users the chairs can be moved to make space wherever needed (there is a ramped entrance to the building)
Once you’ve found a place, take a moment or two to look around. You will see that some people are quietly chatting, some people may take a moment to pray after they sit down, some just sit looking through the newsletter.
Feel at ease; you’re in God’s house and a very welcome guest along with everyone else!
Children are very welcome. Most Sunday mornings the children are in church with their families for the first 10 to 15 minutes of the service then they go out to the Junior Church activities. Many people bring colouring books or quiet toys to amuse their children. Most preachers will have a message for the children before they leave for Junior Church. Junior Church is open to all children and we hope you will encourage your child(ren) to try it. You are welcome to accompany your children to help settle them if you want to. Children need to be collected promptly from their sessions when the service finishes, they are usually in the Wesley Suite which is across the vestibule directly opposite the main doors. On communion Sundays the children are brought back into the church by the Junior Church leaders to rejoin their families for communion. Children are allowed to take communion if there parents feel that it is appropriate, or they can be blessed. There is a creche for the babies and younger children in a cosy room off the front of the worship area.
We realise that it can be difficult for parents if children start crying or become fractious or restless and want to run around. Don’t feel awkward; many of us remember being in that position and will be sympathetic and try to be helpful. If you do go out into the vestibule there will a steward who will help you.
Occasionally there is an All Age Worship service during which the children remain in the service throughout but this is a more informal service with various activities for children in the church.
These are located off the vestibule. There is a disabled toilet.
It will be quite clear when the service is about to start. At 10.30am a steward will step up to the lectern and welcome everyone. They will highlight any events in the newsletter and announce any additional items. They will celebrate any birthdays and will welcome the preacher.
The words of songs are projected but there are printed books available if you want (please ask one of the welcomers in the vestibule). The preacher will usually guide people about when to sit or stand (usually we stand to sing though there is a bit of a game as to how long you can wait through the introduction of a song before standing up) When in doubt copy those around you, but sometimes different people do different things, which might be confusing – though it also goes to show that you cannot actually go far wrong whatever you do – phew!
The Collection / Offering
This can happen at any time in the service though it will be announced by the preacher. Sometimes it is collected during a song in which case once the singing has started, the collection / offering will begin from the front of the church so you can see it coming. Sometimes the collection / offering is taken while a musical piece is played.
Contributing to the collection / offering is entirely voluntary so don’t feel you have to give a donation. Quite a few people give by direct debit nowadays so nobody will find it odd if you just pass the bag along.
When the collection / offering is all gathered it will be brought forward to the preacher. As this happens the congregation usually stand up.
If there’s a Communion Service (also known as the Lord’s Supper) on the Sunday when you’re there this will be at the end of the service. We welcome all who love the Lord Jesus, irrespective of Christian background, and all who seek Him to His Table. The service will be led by the preacher who will clearly indicate how the communion will be offered. Sometimes the elements (the bread and ‘wine’- non alcoholic) will be brought round the congregation, sometimes people are invited to go to the alter rail to receive. If you would rather not receive communion that’s fine. If you are unable to go forward to the rail you can ask one of the ushers to have it brought to you. The bread is gluten free.
After the Morning Service
At the end of the service after the final hymn is sung the service closes with a blessing.
Coffee, tea and biscuits and a light lunch are served in the hall after every morning service, just follow the crowd. This is a good time to strike up a conversation if you wish but if you prefer to leave straight away that’s fine too.
The preacher will be standing at the door and shake people by the hand as they are leaving.
We probably skipped mentioning some things, like the Peace which may happen during a communion service, when people shake hands and wish each other the Peace of the Lord, or that the sermon usually lasts between 20-30 minutes….. but we hope that, on the whole, you found this explanation helpful.
The Evening Service
This is an open contemporary-style Celebration, with emphasis upon testimony i.e. people sharing their experiences, quiet space and prayer-ministry (including prayers for healing). There is no special provision for children and young people. There is no collection. Communion is usually taken at the alter rail or as an informal group at the front of the church. Again the bread is gluten free. Occasionally there are visiting preachers. There are refreshments after the service and a time for additional prayer-ministry if required.
If you’ve read this far and you’re hesitating about taking part in a Sunday service then you might want to try the Midweek Service instead.
We celebrate Holy Communion on the second and fourth Tuesday mornings of the month at 10.00 am, and all are welcome to pop-in for this quiet and brief service. This is followed by a Prayer Fellowship at 11.00 am, but the kettle is always on by then, and you’ll be sure of a warm welcome.
The clergy are called Ministers and usually have responsibility for a number of churches. Methodist Churches in an area are grouped together in a ‘Circuit’. This means that the preacher at any service might be the one responsible for that church or one of the other churches in the circuit. Also there are a number of Lay Preachers in the circuit who also take it in turn to preach.
This can be a bit confusing for visitors since they may see a variety of preachers. Basically Rev. Catherine Hutton is the Minister responsible for Sprowston Methodist Church and preaches twice a month in the mornings, and at some evening services.