What Episcopalians Believe
The word “Episcopal” refers to government by bishops - from the Greek episcope, meaning oversight. The historic episcopate continues the work of the first apostles in the Church, guarding the faith, unity and discipline of the Church, and ordaining men and women to continue Christ’s ministry.An Episcopalian is a person who belongs to The Episcopal Church, the branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion in the United States and 13 other countries. As Episcopalians, we believe:
- The Holy Scriptures are the revealed word of God, which inspired the human authors of the Scripture, and which is interpreted by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- The Nicene Creed is the basic statement of our belief about God. It was adopted in the 300s by the early church founders and is said every Sunday in Episcopal and Anglican churches around the United States and the world.. (http://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm)
- The two great sacraments of the Gospel, given by Christ to the Church, are Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. At Baptism we affirm the Baptismal Covenant: Found in the Book of Common Prayer, it is the pledge we make (or that is made on our behalf by parents, godparents, and all members of the congregation) at baptism. The operative phase that qualifies the promises is "I will, with God's help." In the Holy Eucharist, the center of our worship life, we remember and participate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ until his coming again.
- Catechism: (http://www.bcponline.org) The teachings and beliefs of the Episcopal Church are articulated in this "Outline of the Faith." It is designed in a question and answer format.
What does it mean to be an Episcopalian in Maine?
In the fall of 2010 we asked Maine Episcopalians a bunch of questions like: What would you say to welcome someone to your Church? What is the worship like and why would anyone want to join us? Who are Episcopalians involved in their communities in service and mission?
We received a LOT of answers. Learn what real Maine Episcopalians say about their churches, why they love them, and why you should visit.
How Does the Episcopal Church Differ From Other Denominations?
Historically, bishops oversee the Church in particular geographic areas, known as dioceses. In the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who oversees the Diocese of Canterbury, occupies a special position by virtue of history and tradition but he does not hold a governing position over the 39 national churches. We are a confederation of equals. Collegiality among bishops is the substitute for authority, and communal discernment is the substitute for decision-making power.
Each bishop, the clergy, and the lay representatives of each congregation in a diocese, operating through an annual diocesan convention, determine the character of life and work in that diocese. The Diocese of Maine's convention is held each October. Each diocese lives within a set of general decisions made by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church as a whole. The 2015 Convention will be held in Portland. These decisions are formalized as canons—rules that govern—by The Episcopal Church and subsequently by each affected diocese. Each diocese elects and sends clergy and lay representatives—deputies—to the General Convention which meets every three years. The General Convention will meet in July 2015 in Salt Lake City.
The Episcopal Church celebrates diversity. We are young and old, male and female, gay and straight, single, married, divorced and widowed, Anglo, African-American, Latino, African, Asian, CEO and unemployed, student and teacher, rich and poor. We worship together, study and ask questions as we move more deeply into the mystery of God.
We honor tradition and strive to live by the example of Jesus Christ, welcoming the stranger and the outcast, helping our neighbors and offering love and forgiveness. We want our communities to be better because The Episcopal Church is here.
We are known for our engaging and beautiful worship services. For those who have grown up Roman Catholic, the service, known as the Mass, Eucharist or Holy Communion, will be very familiar. For those of reformed tradition or no religious tradition at all, we think you may find a spiritual home in a church that respects its tradition and maintains its sense of awe and wonder at the power and mystery of God. Some services are more contemporary, some more traditional but all follow the same form found in the Book of Common Prayer.
There are no prerequisites in the Episcopal Church … Everyone is welcome.
We walk the "middle way" between protestant and catholic traditions. We often talk about the Episcopal Church as following the “via media” or middle way in our theology and discussions because we believe that, whether or not we agree on a particular topic, we all are children beloved by God and we can have thoughtful and respectful discussions.
The Episcopal Church has between 2.1 million members in about 7,500 congregations in the United States, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Europe and other areas in North, Central, and South America. The Diocese of Maine, which encompasses the entire state, is home to 60 year round congregations and several other communities of faith. We are also home to 18 summer chapels along the coast. Since 2003 we have partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti as a Companion Diocese. More than a dozen Maine congregations have permanent partnerships with particular parishes and schools in Haiti.
adapted from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas website
Welcome to the Episcopal Church in Maine!
We are 59 year-round congregations – from York Harbor to Presque Isle, Rumford to Eastport – filled with people who seek to love and serve God with gladness and singleness of heart, and to seek and to serve Christ in all persons. That the simple answer, straight from the Baptismal Covenant found in the Book of Common Prayer.
Recently we decided to ask Maine Episcopalians how they would answer questions about their church community and the ministry we do together. We also asked what they would say to people who were interested in finding out more about God and the role a faith community might play in their lives.
We got some awesome answers!
Below you'll hear what real Mainers – people actually go to church – have to say about the Episcopal Church in Maine and why you should join them.
Question: What would you say to welcome someone who might be interested in spiritual things and perhaps interested in trying church but who doesn’t know much about the Episcopal Church … or any church … or even God?
Welcome to the Episcopal Diocese of Maine where faith and reason converge, a place where you will find the love Christ, and where you will feel accepted regardless of where you are on your personal and faith journey.
The thing I like best about our church is its openness. I feel I can explore Christianity and my spirituality without fear of being required to conform in any way.
No matter who you are or where you came from, this is a place where you will be accepted. Please come and sit down. Let us get to know you as you get to know us.
Ancient worship, modern thought in a church that respects reason and a diversity of people and thought.
Question: What is our worship like and why would anyone what to join us?
We are not stuffy! We open our doors to everyone. The book of Common Prayer we go by has been around for a long time but many of our thoughts our new. We find God in the way that we come together on Sundays. We do this through prayer and this coming together is central to our life together with God and Jesus’ teachings.
Our style of worship is flexible. The Book of Common Prayer has services and prayers for many occasions during the day and is useful for personal prayer and scripture reading. The beauty of the liturgies in the prayer book surpass anything I have experienced and when we join in corporate worship there is a sense of power and union from the Holy Spirit. Worship is at church’s core and all good works flow from that experience.
Because we share a commitment to a sacramental form of worship, that means that we bring all our differences to a sacred space where the differences are put to the service of our common belief.
Question: Who’s in charge? How do we make our decisions? How do we share responsibility for our life, worship and mission?
We don’t expect the priest to take care of everything. Those who attend church step up to the plate and donate their time to activities such as visitations, Sunday School, and other activities. The priest guides the people toward an end point, but the people help decide which path to take depending on the needs of the church.
The local church is part of the diocese which is part of The Episcopal Church. Each “level” makes decisions about its life together in its community with the Rector, Wardens and Vestry handling the business affairs of the local church. At the diocesan level, representatives from each congregation make decisions that affect us all. The national church meets in General Convention every three years to deal with issues in our country and in the greater worldwide church. The body of Christ is alive and well in the Diocese of Maine in its local congregations, which carry out the work of the diocese, as voted and approvied by delegates from each parish, and overseen by the Bishop. The intent is to be collegial in all matters excepting the doctrine of the church.
No large group of people ever comes to consensus on anything! But in the Episcopal Diocese, we make our decisions after careful conversations occur; everyone has an opportunity to contribute; and while the final decision may not be completely perfect for every member, we choose the fairest solutions to issues that we can come to, making sure that we are informed by kindness, love, and the example set by Jesus Christ.
Question: How do we serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world around us? In our local communities? Within the state of Maine? Across the wider world?
We serve as the hands and feet of Jesus everyday in our homes, our work and our place in the world here in Maine. We serve our communities as volunteers in our schools, our hospitals, our town governments and that in turn affects this state. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love….” That call to serve originates within each one of us, sometimes prompted by the influence of God and his saints. Our work in the world as representatives of God and our church is what defines us in the world.
In Houlton, we collect for the local food pantry weekly, and it is not only food. We realize that people need shampoo and toilet paper, which can not be gotten on food stamps. The Sunday School also picks a cause, such as world hunger, which they collect their change for and donate. It helps the children learn the importance of giving.
Our worship service ends with a call to go into the world to love and serve the Lord. Each church figures out how to do that in its own way. Most churches get involved in helping those in need in their own communities through soup kitchens, food pantries, and other assistance. We have a partner Diocese in Haiti and we visit each other often and assist when we can.
Our invitation to you
If you are hungry for good and caring friends,
If you are hungry for deeper connection with the Holy and all of creation,
If you are hungry to pose questions and be open to new answers,
If you are hungry to find meaning in your life,
If you are hungry to serve others,
If you are hungry – come, join us for the feast in the Episcopal Church!
I began my search for a new religion after wandering in the desert as a young person, and it only took walking in the door of the local Episcopal Church for me to know I had come home at last. Your search may not be that brief or decisive, yet there is a world of discovery and meaning and love awaiting you if you will dare to go exploring!
Come and visit us on Sunday for our service of worship and for coffee and goodies afterward. We offer friendship, support, and a haven; we strive to embody God’s love in the world.
We Episcopalians have been around, doing more or less the same thing every Sunday, for almost 500 years. We may not have everything right — do you know any one who does? — but we keep on trying. Why not join us and see for yourself?