This section is written to assist those who are not used to attending church. I know how embarrassing it can be to think you are standing up or sitting down at the wrong moment or not understanding all the words used. Don't worry this insiders guide will enable you to bluff your way through!
Q. Why does St. Giles say it's in the Catholic Tradition?
A. St. Giles calls itself Catholic (or Anglican or High which are the same) because its services centre on the Mass and other rituals. It is not a Roman Catholic church.
Q. What does Mass mean?
A. Mass is another name for the Holy Communion service. Holy Communion services include a re-enactment of the last supper meal which Jesus ate on the night before his crucifixion. Bread and wine is consecrated by the priest and the words used repeat what Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper. Worshippers who have been confirmed or admitted to communion are invited to go to the altar and take some of the consecrated bread and wine.
Other names used for the Mass are Eucharist or Lord's Supper.
Q. St. Giles has two Mass services each Sunday. What's the difference?
At the 8am service about twenty people attend. There is no music or sermon and most people who attend like it to be a quiet and personal experience. Some will leave without talking to anyone else!
At the 10am service up to 200 people may attend including children. There is an organist and choir and a sermon. Part way through the children go to Sunday School groups. This is called Parish Mass and is considered the main service of the week.
Don't worry if you haven't been before. Every week there are about twenty new people. Sit near the back and watch the others. If you go wrong you will not be the only one!
Q. What does confirmed mean?
A. When you are baptised, usually as a baby, your godparents take vows on your behalf. They undertake to make sure you are brought up as a church member. (OK, most godparents neglect that bit!). When you are an adult you can ask to be confirmed. This is a service when you take these vows on for yourself. The local bishop will lay his hands on you as part of the service.
A Confirmation service is usually arranged once a year and there is a short course of instruction beforehand to remind you about those vows. Traditionally you could not take communion until you had been confirmed.
Q. So some people are admitted to communion anyway?
A. Yes. In recent years it has been the custom to allow young people who are very regular attenders at the Mass with their parents to take communion and then be confirmed later when they are adults. They will first take a course of instruction. This course takes place about once a year.
Q. What if I want to start attending church but can't remember if I was baptised?
A. Just come regularly at 10am Sundays. You can follow the service and feel that you are taking part. When you see other people queuing to go up to the altar you have two choices:
i) Stay where you are and start a period of private prayer.
ii) Join them in the queue. Then when there is room kneel at the altar rail. When the priest comes to you do not take the bread or wine. Just keep your arms folded across your chest. If necessary shake your head a little. The priest will then get the message that you only want a blessing. Quite a few people do this, including children not yet admitted to communion.
You can be baptised as soon as you feel ready for it. It might be easier to wait until a confirmation service is arranged and the two things are done together by the Bishop. Talk to one of the clergy and they will arrange it. If you really are not sure you were ever baptised the the clergy person will say during the baptism service "......If you have not been baptised before, I baptise you....." Simple!
Q. Am I likely to sit in someone else's pew?
A. There are no reserved pews. Not even regular members sit in the same place every week. Therefore no-one is likely to ask you to move. Both side aisles will fill up from the back first at the 10am service usually a little later than the main aisle. So if your nervous it's a good idea to sit near the back of one of these.
Q. How do I know when to kneel down and stand up?
A. There are no hard and fast rules. No-one will look at you if you get it wrong. Every week there are new people not used to the service. Some people come every week and don't do the same as other people. Its best to sit near the back and take a view of what most others are doing. Believe me it's so variable that its not necessary to be embarrassed.
Q. What do I do when the collecting plate comes round?
A. Many people still feel embarrassed about the collecting plate. Years ago (more that 150 years) the plate was a way of collecting alms for the poor. Many people still think this is what it is for. Not so.
St. Giles Church needs money to pay for building maintenance, youth work, service expenses and the work of the wider church. Annual expenditure is over £100,000. (See the accounts if you want more details). This is serious money and regular members of the church are asked to give 5% of their income after tax to support the church. This is only a suggestion and there are no checks - its a personal thing between you and God. This means members give between say £2 and £12 a week depending on their circumstances.
Some will give through a Bankers Order and some through the weekly envelope scheme. You will see plenty of envelopes in the plate.
If you are a new member you can put cash in the plate. However if you pay tax it is better to put cash in one of the yellow envelopes left in the pews and then entering your details. Then the church can increase the value by sending up for a tax rebate.
Q. How do I find out what else is going on.
A. Every week there is a sheet available in church. Also last minute notices may be given out. Such a lot happens you have to keep on your toes!
Q. At the end of the service will people rush up to me when I'm not ready for it?
A. The last thing that happens in the 10am service is a time for quiet prayer. Then people leave their pew at random times to go to the back for a free cup of coffee. You will not be immediately identified as a first-timer. You will have to approach someone if you want to make yourself known, have a question or want to join something. At the back there is also an 'information table'. This should have someone there ready to answer questions. If not please approach one of the people who are putting away the books or giving out the coffee. They will know who you need to speak to.