A&HT is part of the Episcopal Church in the United States which is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
We believe in the goodness of Creation, made by God. We believe the Bible is the Word of God and contains all things necessary to salvation. We believe in the Holy Trinity - God the Father (who creates all things), God the Son (whose life, death, and resurrection set us free from sin and death), and God the Holy Spirit (whose power of love moves within us in mysterious and unexpected ways). We look forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of God's kingdom. The sources of authority of our faith are scripture, tradition, and reason.
Our worship service is divided into two halves:
The Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Table (also known as the Great Thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist, or the Holy Communion)
The Episcopal Church is liturgical - that is, it has formal rites for public worship, drawn from past ages as well as from the present. The Church utilizes three central texts: the Bible (read regularly throughout the Church year), the Book of Common Prayer (contains services, prayers, a calendar of the Church year, and more), and a Hymnal (contains hymns and chants).
In the Episcopal Church, we take part in certain regular acts of worship called "sacraments." Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist are the two primary sacraments. These sacraments were instituted and ordained by Jesus Christ.
Holy Baptism is administered once to each person, usually as an infant, in the Episcopal Church. Water is poured on the head to symbolize the washing away of sins. A&HT offers Holy Baptism on certain days throughout the year - Easter, the Day of Pentecost, All Saints' Day (or the Sunday following), the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, and during the Bishop's visit. If you or a member of your family would like to be baptized or have any questions about baptism, please call the church office.
Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the reenactment of the Last Supper Jesus Christ shared with his disciples before his death on the cross. During Holy Eucharist, ordinary bread and wine become the sacramental vehicle for Jesus Christ's presence with us, as he promised. In the Episcopal Church, and at A&HT, all baptized persons of any Christian faith are welcome to share in this meal of bread and wine. If for any reason you cannot come to the altar to receive, you may speak to an Usher so that we may come to you. If you do not wish to receive communion, you are invited to come forward, cross your arms over your chest, and receive a blessing.
Five other sacraments celebrated in the Episcopal Church are Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, Ordination, and Unction. These were neither directly commanded by Christ, nor applicable to everyone.
Confirmation is conferred by a bishop and strengthens the commitment made to Christ at Baptism. At A&HT, both youth and adults are invited to make a public affirmation of their faith and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop. Confirmation classes are available for youth from September through May. Adults wishing to be confirmed, received (if baptized in another Christian faith), or reaffirmed should contact the church office for more information.
Holy Matrimony is the sacrament of marriage, the sacramental rite of the church in which two persons "enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows" (BCP, p. 861). Adults wishing to be married at A&HT should contact the church office as soon as possible.
Reconciliation of a Penitent is a private confession of sins. While it is not a requirement in the Episcopal Church, anyone may request an appointment with the Rector at A&HT to receive reconciliation of a penitent from a priest and receive assurance of God's forgiveness.
Ordination is the sacrament consecrating Christians in service to God. Spiritual power and grace are given to help them devote their lives to the good of the community which includes teaching, administering sacraments, and governing the Church.
Unction, or Ministry of Healing, is the continuation of Christ's work among the sick. It may involve the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and praying for physical and spiritual health.
All are welcome at God's table. There are more ways to participate in the Worship Service as a lay person.
If you are interested in deepening your experience, these include:
Altar Guild: prepare the church for each service.
Ushers: welcome people to the church and aid congregants as needed.
Tellers: conduct the offertory.
Lectors: read the Daily Office during the service.
Eucharistic Ministers: offer the chalice at the altar or at the station.
What is the Altar Guild?
The Altar Guild is the liturgical partner of the Priest. As one Altar Guild manual puts it, "We are the ones chosen to prepare for the meeting of the people with God." [Working Manual for Altar Guilds, Dorothy Diggs] We care for the objects used in worship. We handle them carefully and respectfully because these objects have been dedicated in prayer for use in worship for the glory of God. We also care for the sanctuary of the church. The work of the Altar Guild is to ensure that our sanctuary reflects the holiness and the joy that we all create together in our worship.
The Altar Guild is not a social group. We don't have potlucks, and we are not involved in the business of the church. We don't take votes or make momentous decisions. Most of what we do is invisible to the congregation and is meant to be that way. The work we do facilitates and enhances our worship, particularly the Eucharist, and should never distract from it.
The Rewards of Serving on the Altar Guild
The members of the Altar Guild are part of an unbroken tradition reaching back to the faithful people who provided for Jesus during his lifetime. (Mark 15: 40-41; Matthew 27:55). We follow our patron saint, Martha, partly because of her practical life of active service, yet also because she was among the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (John 11:7-29).
Joining the Altar Guild means learning many fascinating aspects of Church tradition, including the esoteric names for all the various vessels, vestments, linens, and paraments we use in worship. Most importantly, serving on the Altar Guild is a spiritual exercise. Caring for the Altar is a way to act out our relationship with God. It is quiet, prayerful work.
Ushers are the official greeters to the Sunday Service, who also provide guidance, hospitality, and information to the congregation. They are often the first contact with new individuals to our worship, ensuring their comfort and introduction to our Rector and distribution of information about A&HT.
Ushers also facilitate the continuing order of the weekly Service by issuing the printed programs, presenting the elements to the Alter, gathering the offerings of the people, and guiding the congregation to an orderly receiving of Communion. The additional duties of the ushers include counting the congregation in the Service for an official tally (sent to the Diocesan Office), being an emergency checkup for the Nursery and Sunday School staff, and aiding with the operation of the handicapped chair lift between floors. After the Service, the Ushers offer a quick clean-up of the Church, set worship books in order, recycle leftover worship sheets, etc.
We welcome all baptized young people from fifth grade and up to join us as acolytes. Serving as an acolyte provides an opportunity for all young people to be involved in active worship. Their presence both enhances our worship and gives those serving a chance to learn the traditions and liturgy of the Episcopal Church.
Each acolyte serves about every three weeks. One acolyte serves each Sunday at 8 AM and three acolytes serve each Sunday at the 10 AM service. Ongoing training for those currently serving is an essential element of developing effective acolytes. An annual renewal training and hands-on training take place throughout the year.
The Videography Ministry was born out of the necessities of the pandemic. Implemented to provide live streaming of services to parishioners, its ability to reach current, former, and new parishioners as well as those who have moved away or cannot attend in person allows Ascension & Holy Trinity to connect with the widest possible audience.
Participating in the ministry is pretty easy. Ministry members will be streaming two services every four to six weeks. We always schedule new or inexperienced members with veterans to provide guidance and training. One volunteer is in charge of "producing" the stream. They pick what cameras or still pictures are in use and add any titles that are needed. The second volunteer handles moving the cameras if that is required. We also have periodic training sessions where any volunteer can get a refresher course in how things are setup and run. The goal is not to produce the slickest streaming church service but to provide access to those who seek it.
Moving forward with in-person services the videography ministry will continue to adapt. We've added additional sound equipment to try and improve the sound quality and we will continue to look for ways to improve. The goal is to continue to provide live streaming while disrupting the in-person service as little as possible.