St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church is a parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania of the Episcopal Church and part of the Anglican Communion. The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutierrez is the 16th bishop of the oldest diocese in the country. “We Are Revolutionary” is a statement defining our diocese. As the first diocese and place of the founding of the Episcopal Church and home of the first Presiding Bishop, Bishop White, this diocese has long been known for its leadership and witness. At St. Christopher’s, we continue to take seriously the mission to make disciples by spreading the good news of Christ’s love. #Know Jesus. #Change the World.
What We Believe
“In him you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 368).
As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, and both our worship and our mission are in Christ’s name. In Jesus, we find that the nature of God is love, and through baptism, we share in his victory over sin and death.
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 236).
It is our foundation, understood through tradition and reason, containing all things necessary for salvation. Our worship is filled with Scripture from beginning to end.
The Book of Common Prayer
“It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 9).
The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity. We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer.
“Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 298).
In the waters of baptism we are reminded that we belong to God and nothing can separate us from the love of God. We also find ourselves part of an extended family, one with Christians throughout the ages and across the world, what we call the “one, holy, catholic [meaning ‘universal’], and apostolic Church.”
The Rite of Holy Baptism can be found on pp. 297-308 of the Book of Common Prayer.
“Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 292).
A mini catechism used at baptisms and on Easter and other special occasions, the Baptismal Covenant opens with a question-and-answer version of the statement of faith that is the Apostles’ Creed and adds five questions regarding how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith.
The Baptismal Covenant
Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Father?
People: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? People: I will, with God’s help.
“We thank you … for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 366).
It goes by several names: Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which literally means “thanksgiving”), the Mass. But whatever it’s called, this is the family meal for Christians and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. As such, at St. Christopher’s, all of the baptized are welcome to receive the bread and wine and be in communion with God and each other.
“It is a commentary on the creeds, but is not meant to be a complete statement of belief and practices; rather, it is a point of departure for the teacher” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 844).
Offered in a question-and-answer format, the Catechism found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 845-862) helps teach the foundational truths of the Christian faith.
Music in the Episcopal Church can be as diverse as its worship services. Although final authority over the music used in an Episcopal service is “the duty of every Member of the Clergy” (Title II: Canon 5), our hymnal draws all Episcopalians together musically in the same way that the Book of Common Prayer draws us together in prayer and liturgy.
Most recently revised in 1982, The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church offers 720 hymns in addition to liturgical music. While some of the hymns date back to monastic chants, the hymnal offers more modern music as well. Additional hymnals including Wonder, Love and Praise, which continues the hymnal’s expansive use of music from a variety of sources including more contemporary liturgical music, and Lift Every Voice and Sing II (LEVAS II) which contains music especially from the African American musical tradition.
The Hymnal 1982 retains the best of the past and sets forth many riches of our own time. [The Standing Commission on Church Music] looked for theological orthodoxy, poetic beauty, and integrity of meaning. At the same time, the Commission was especially concerned that the hymnody affirm ‘the participation of all in the Body of Christ the Church, while recognizing our diverse natures of children of God.’ … Texts and music which reflect the pluralistic nature of the Church have been included, affording the use of Native American, Afro-American, Hispanic, and Asian material –Preface, The Hymnal 1982, Church Pension Fund, 1985.
Donna Topping was the Organist for St. Christopher’s for decades. The last time that she played a liturgy here was Christmas, 2012. Early in 2013, she suffered an injury and has not been able to return to the organ bench. We still miss her and hearing her beautiful music and are happy to be able to share the last time that she shared her gifts of music on Christmas.
Listen to Donna Topping Play the Organ – Christmas 2012
“Sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 857).
Besides baptism and the Eucharist (Holy Communion), the church recognizes other spiritual markers in our journey of faith. These include:
- Confirmation (the mature affirmation of our baptismal vows)
- Reconciliation of a Penitent (private confession) If you want to celebrate this sacrament, just contact Pastor Mary Ann+ to arrange it. Remember this saying as a guide concerning reconciliation (Penance): “All may. None must. Some should.”
- Matrimony (Christian marriage)
- Orders (ordination to deacon, priest, or bishop)
- Anointing of the Sick – “Unction” (anointing with oil those who are sick or dying)
These help us to be a sacramental people, seeing God always at work around us.
Source for some of this material: The Episcopal Church