Chapel, held daily for St. John's students, provides an opportunity to inspire students to consider how they lead lives of service and integrity. As an inclusive, Christian community, St. John's welcomes all individuals and communities. Chapel encourages our community to join together in encouraging one another.
Gathering together for daily prayer is one of the formative pillars of the St. John’s experience and an expression of our Episcopal identity. These times of worship draw from both ancient roots and more modern expressions of the Christian spirit, as does all Episcopal worship, and are designed to serve all community members regardless of their religious affiliation.
Joyful singing, interactive reflection upon Holy Scripture, and participation in communal ritual and prayer have been shown to build character, instill good values, and even help counter anxiety, depression and malaise. Thus while conforming to the language and structure of Episcopal worship, our chapel gatherings serve all students regardless of their faith background.
Our 2020 revised Chapel Book includes a restructured daily chapel service, new options for Holy Eucharist utilizing more modern texts, and an option for Choral Morning Prayer when Holy Eucharist is not possible as the weekly central service of our community. Our services conform to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and supplemental worship materials approved by the Episcopal Church, and highlight several aspects of our calling as children of God through baptism:
- our responsibility to care for and steward the natural world as God’s creation;
- our vocation to work and pray for justice and to care for all people of the world, especially those marginalized for any reason;
- and our invitation by God to celebrate and honor the diversity of the human family in all its forms.
When social distancing restrictions are not in place, parents and others connected to the school community are welcome to join us for our services. We pray that both the children and adults who participate in chapel may be moved by the Spirit to deepen their relationship with the Divine, live a joyful life of virtue, and take their part in building the better world our hearts know is possible.
Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper) is the central service of the church and is typically held weekly for both Lower Division and Middle Division students. Forms of this service go back to the beginnings of Christianity. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of the “heavenly banquet,” and so has an orientation toward the future. The Holy Eucharist also has an aspect of remembrance—remembering Jesus’ Last Supper with his closest followers before his death, when he identified the Bread and Wine shared among them as his Body and Blood. We say that the Bread and Wine carry the “Real Presence” of Christ, and as such allow us to have an intimate engagement with that Presence in a deeply embodied way.
In addition, many aspects of the Holy Eucharist can be traced back to ancient Jewish temple worship, and connect us with our roots in Judaism. Therefore, the scriptural lessons read during the Eucharist include both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the Christian New Testament. Connected to this relationship with temple worship, the celebrant (presider) of the Holy Eucharist must be an ordained priest or bishop. However, there are many roles for others to fill, as our students do at St. John’s: reading lessons from the Scriptures, serving as acolytes, leading the Prayers of the People, etc. Holy Eucharist is not “done” by the priest or bishop, but rather is the work of the community as a whole.
Note: During these times of social distancing, we are not celebrating the Holy Eucharist in order to ensure the greatest safety for our students. Instead, our weekly central chapel service will be a fuller expression of Morning Prayer. Using Morning Prayer as the central service of a worship community represents another very old tradition, and so still continues to connect us with our Christian and Anglican (Episcopal) heritage.
- What does “Eucharist” mean?
- Why do we read from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) during Holy Eucharist, and not only from the Christian New Testament?
- What’s up with all the standing, kneeling, and sitting?
- Why does the priest wear special ritual clothing?
- Can I, or my child, receive Communion during the celebration of the Eucharist if I’m not an Episcopalian?
- Should I take the Bread, the Wine, or both?
- What if I choose not to receive Communion during the service?
- Isn’t Holy Eucharist a “Catholic” service?
- Who chooses the readings?
The clothing (vestments) worn by the priest or bishop presiding at the Eucharist are another longstanding church tradition. These vestments can be traced to both Jewish and Byzantine origins, and designate the “office” of the presider. They are signs of the presider being in service to the community and also serve to highlight the role of presiding over the personality (or fashion choices!) of the presider.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist goes back to the early centuries of the church, well before there was any separation into “Catholics” and “Protestants.” Therefore, it is part of the heritage and history of all Christians. It is not a service particular to the Roman Catholic Church, and has continued to be celebrated in the Anglican (Episcopal) Church before, during, and after the Protestant Reformation.
The readings from Scripture selected for Holy Eucharist follow a repeating three-year cycle, ensuring that a diversity of texts are experienced through the years. This cycle is called the lectionary. Many churches align with the Revised Common Lectionary, including the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, various Lutheran churches, Methodists, and others. This means that many of our Christian sisters and brothers are engaging the same readings we are, even if they are of a different denomination. We use the Revised Common Lectionary at St. John’s.