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First time? A newbie’s guide

First Time?

A dog reading a prayer book.
Ridley (the vicar’s dog) doesn’t come on Sundays, but hopes you will make yourselves at home., as he does.

Our Sunday morning services are at 10am in Boston Spa and Bramham, and at 9.30am in Walton and Thorp Arch. Check the Services Page in What’s On for details of the services happening on a particular day. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in. If you have children, they are welcome too. People often worry that children will make noise and be disruptive but don’t worry, just come along and join in. All our services are ‘all age worship’ – that is, we aim to welcome children and adults alike, whether the service is a Holy Communion or Parish Worship.

It can seem a little daunting to go to a church service, especially if you haven’t been to a particular church before. The most important thing to remember when you come to church is to relax and not worry about the strange customs of the congregation, just make yourself at home. Hopefully this page will make some sense of what to expect on a Sunday morning.

 

Welcome

A dog, running, with the caption Yay! Time for church!We are a friendly community and do our best to recognise and welcome all first-time visitors, but if we don’t manage as well as we’d like, say ‘hi’ to someone over a coffee at the end of the service. In a small church it can be hard to stay anonymous but if you are looking for space to be on your own, we will try to respect that. Perhaps at the end of the service you will take the opportunity to introduce yourself once you’ve (hopefully) established that we are a reasonable bunch of people after all. Here are some things you might want to know, especially if you are not a regular church-goer:

 

Structure

The services follow a familiar structure each time, whether they are communion services or Parish Worship, or Evensong: every time you come to a service, whichever of our four churches it is at, the service will be similar, so over time, the shape of the service should start to feel familiar. Our clergy, Rev’d Nick and Rev’d Trish (the priests) wear robes during services. Parish Worship services are led by other members of our church communities and are less formal, but still have a structure which we keep to every time. We try to have the same pattern of services each month, so hopefully it will be easy to turn up at the right place at the right time! For details of what service is happening in which church each week, see our events diary or if you need help, please ring or email the Parish Office.

Parish Worship services are usually less formal in style to Holy Communion, but still follow a structure which is easy to join in with.  These vary in style around our four churches and, just like Holy Communion services, people of any age are welcome.

In Boston Spa, we have a team including a worship band who lead these services (usually the 1st Sunday of each month). This worship team devises activities which are particularly geared towards young people and children who remain in the church with everyone else. As with our Holy Communion services, everyone, whatever stage of life they are at (and whether they have children or not) are very welcome to join in worship.

Language

All of our main morning services use modern language so don’t expect to find Thees or Thous at these. There is usually a booklet which contains the words of the service, some of which the leader (usually the vicar) says and some in bold that we all say or sing together. You may find some of them familiar like The Lord’s Prayer, and some of them less so. It may come naturally to you or it may not. Don’t worry if you find yourself just listening to the congregation or praying inside your head, no one is judging you.

At some points in the service we stand up and at others we sit down. If you are unable to do this easily, don’t worry.

If you want more traditional language in your worship, there are weekly Sunday services following the Book of Common Prayer at 8am (in Boston Spa on the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of the month, and in Thorp Arch on the 2nd Sunday). There is also a sung service of Evensong on the 3rd Sunday of each month in Thorp Arch, at 4.30pm in winter and 6pm in summer (changing when the clocks change!). So if the poetry and rhythm of Tudor English helps you tune into God, they’re services you might like to try.

Communion

Bread and wine on an altar.Communion is where churches share bread and wine in the way that Jesus did with his disciples. This happens towards the end of the Holy Communion service.  The congregation come to the front of the church to receive bread and wine and take it by putting their hands out. Some people like to kneel, some people like to stand. There is no right or wrong: it’s up to you. If you need the bread to be gluten free, please let someone know so we can make sure it is available. For health reasons we do not ‘intinct’ (dip the bread into the wine) but eat the bread before sipping the wine. If you have any concerns about receiving wine (whether health-related, or because you are avoiding alcohol for any reason) it is absolutely fine to receive the bread only: you have still participated in communion with Jesus and received him just as much as anyone else has.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking communion, or are not confirmed, or it has not been your custom in your previous church, you are still more than welcome to come forward. If you leave your hands by your side, or bring one of the service booklets up with you, the priest will pray for God’s blessing to be with you. The priest usually places their hand on people’s head or shoulder as they do this.

Everything Changes – Christmas, Easter and…. Lots of other times

We follow the pattern of the church year so there are lots of times for celebration or preparation. This will often come with a change of colour to the furnishings in the church and different things happening during the service. It isn’t just Christmas Day or Easter Sunday when this happens so if you happen to venture into a festival, all sorts can happen. Take it as it comes.

Collection

Prince Adam aka He Man saying Go in peace to love and serve the LordA collection is taken in every service of worship. The four churches of The Bramham Benefice have a big impact upon their villages through a variety of ministries, activities and community involvement. We are part of the Diocese of York in which hundreds of churches are doing the same, some in areas of deprivation and in more isolated rural communities where it is hard to access what most people take for granted. This is only possible because the people who worship in our churches care so much about their villages and the other communities of York Diocese (which stretches as far as Middlesbrough to the north and to Hull and Bridlington in the east) that they generously give money to enable church to happen. It would be fantastic if you could give generously as it is only through this that all this is able to continue. There is no financial state support for churches: we keep going through what people like you give to their churches. However, if you do not wish to contribute, just let the bag or the plate pass by. Many members arrange their giving via standing order, so a significant proportion of the congregation will not be putting anything in the bag. No-one will think anything of it if you don’t pop anything in. If you would like we can take donations by card or contactless payment. Just ask about it.

Music

All four of our churches have organs which are well-maintained and are played at most services. In Boston Spa, St Mary’s Church has a robed choir, an organist and an assistant organist, and also a worship group (who lead the music at Parish Worship on the first Sunday of the month). There are some parts of the Communion service which we sing. These have the same music throughout each season of the Church year so should be easy to get the hang of. Our congregations have a wide range of musical ability – so if you can’t sing or don’t know the tune, you won’t be the only one!

Children

Where possible, we try to involve the children who come to church in the service, so we don’t send them off to Sunday Schools. They are part of our worshipping congregations, and children are always welcome in church. We have an area for small children to play with a range of activities in each church. Just ask someone as you arrive for help if these are not obvious.

Children make noise and ask questions. That’s ok – so do a lot of us, including the vicar!

 

 

 

Will I really be welcome?

Short answer: yes. More specifically…

  • We don’t care about your gender or sexuality, and this is no barrier to your participation in our worship and the life of our churches. It will not preclude your volunteering in any aspect of our ministry. God loves you, and we aspire to love you just as much.
  • If you are disabled, please tell us if there are ways we can improve our welcome to you. Thorp Arch and Boston Spa churches have flat access from the road and you are welcome to drive right up to the church door if that helps you. There is flat access from the far east end of Bramham churchyard. Walton church is built on a massive, prehistoric mound of rocks left behind by the last Ice Age which makes access less convenient, but let us know you are coming and we’ll get creative! There is information about other accessibility issues on the individual web pages of each church, but we know that everyone is different, and we may not have catered for your specific needs. So please let us know if there’s something we could do to address your needs and enable you to flourish here.
  • We wholeheartedly accept the ministry of all ordained priests with permission to officiate in the Diocese of York, however their chromosomes are configured!  Women as well as men take active roles in the leadership and ministries of all the churches of The Bramham Benefice, including priests.
  • We’d love to know about where you are from if you hail from overseas – tell us! We want to welcome you and will do our best to overcome language barriers.
  • We don’t care about your age. That is to say, you really are welcome to be part of our worshipping community whatever stage of life you are at. Nobody is ‘past it’, as God repeatedly reminds us in the Bible when God calls folk late in life to do amazing things. And nobody is too young to have a ministry and share God’s love with others – God told Jeremiah off for saying he was “just a lad” and too young to be called!