Don’t worry – we were all new once! Please click here if you would like to fill in our Newcomers Connect Form.
We know that coming to any Sunday Service in a Church for the first time can be really quite daunting! So here’s some of the things you can expect to see, hear, and experience at St Mary’s, as well as some answers to FAQs….
Can I really just turn up to St Mary’s Church on a Sunday?
Yes – we have a friendly Welcome Team who work hard to spot people who are new, and make sure they feel relaxed. If you come to the 10am Service, you’ll be given a Service Sheet that has some readings and responses that will be used during the Service, as well as a hymn book. Don’t worry if you don’t know the hymn tunes, just try and sing along – we were all in the same boat once! If you want to, you can give us your contact details, so we can get to know you better.
What happens in a normal Sunday Service?
Using the Service Sheet, we say some things together about why we’re gathered; we sing to, and about God; we pray together; we listen to, and read the Bible together; and we usually listen to a talk (called a Sermon) that’s about what it’s really like to follow Jesus every day, and what the Bible has to say about it. Then we celebrate the Eucharist together (see below!) It all lasts less time than your favourite movie, and we all get together afterwards to catch up with each others news and stuff over tea and coffee.
Will I be asked to ‘do’ anything?
No – although you will be invited to take part in the Eucharist (see below) which may mean getting out of your seat, and walking up the front with everyone else (if you can). So, no – you won’t be asked to do or say anything that isn’t entirely optional. We know it can be scary, so we’ll let you blend in. But expect to be welcomed and have a friendly conversation or two!
Eucharist / Communion – what’s that all about?
Services at St Mary’s usually include a celebration of the Eucharist (sometimes called Communion) where we all eat and drink some bread and wine, just as Jesus did at the last meal He had with his friends. One of the Team will tell you when to walk up to the Altar at one end of the Church, where you’ll be invited to take the bread (usually a small wafer) and drink the wine. (Or if you are unable, the bread and wine can be brought to you.) If you’re not baptised then come anyway and get a special prayer of blessing from one of the Ministers!
What should I wear?
You can wear anything you like. Some people dress down, others dress a little smart. We don’t really think God minds what we wear. He’s far more interested in the shape of our hearts!
I have children, and they are a bit fidgety!
Great! The 10am Service will be best for them. God gave children their energy and curiosity. Please don’t suppress it just because you’re in church!
Sit near the front – children get tired of seeing the backs of other people’s heads. Explain to them the actions of what we’re doing, and let them wander and explore if they need to – it’s no problem. Sing the hymns, pray, and voice the responses – children learn by watching and copying you. Let them know they are at home here. How we welcome and respond to children directly affects how they understand what church is.
We have a Group time for Children under 11 during the 10am Service where they can learn about God with their friends. It’s run by volunteers who have DBS checks. And the first Sunday of the month, we all stay together to worship. Read more about our Groups for children here.
The most important thing you can know is that we believe Church is supposed to be like a family, and so we are very realistic about children’s needs, and how they can be. So please relax, let the children be part of the wider family, and model to them how you expect them to behave.
What is BCP?
The Sunday 8am Service uses some beautiful olde worlde language that some people still like to use and find comforting, sometimes because it’s what they grew up with. The structure of the Service comes from the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ (BCP). It’s all spoken (no hymns to sing) and there are books for you to follow the words and responses (called ‘liturgy’). There’s Bible readings and also a short message / talk.
Will I be asked to give some money?
We usually have an ‘offering’. It’s completely up to you if you wish to give. Because the Church only has this one means of income, most regular members give to the Church by Standing Order, and some by using Gift Aid envelopes. It all goes to the life and work of St Mary’s Church by means of a yearly Budget agreed by the Church Council.
Is the church wheelchair / disability friendly?
As far as our historic building allows us to be! There are wheelchair users at St Mary’s, and we hope you will discover that you are really welcome! There are large-print Service Sheets and a Hearing Loop.
I’ve got loads of difficult questions about Christianity and faith…
Great! We love questions (we’ve got some of our own!), and we’d love to explore them with you. Sometimes we run short Courses where you can explore faith, and ask all your questions about being Christian; who Jesus is; why God allows suffering; and stuff like that. If you’re new, get in touch to find out more.
What else goes on at your Church?
St Mary’s building is open most of the week, but Church is really happening wherever our congregation are – at work, school, or home. That’s because we believe Christian faith is about living it out in the world – through the work of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives.
There are also Small Groups that meet during the week, and various other groups and activities to get involved in (see below). Some of them are about living out our faith (social justice, worship, getting to know Jesus better, etc) and others are social and fun!
How do I get more involved?
We have lots of different ways to be involved at St Mary’s. Here’s just some of them:
Small Groups; Choir; Welcome Team; ‘The Refectory‘ Volunteers Team; Mission Partnerships Group; Bell Ringers; Fundraising Team; Pastoral Care Team (likely requires DBS check); Children & Youth Team (always requires DBS check); District Church Council (by election); St Mary’s Community Christmas Lunch; and more.