A Guide to the Church and Worship at St. Salvador’s
Every human being is a combination of mind, body and soul, united in a single person. Our understanding of God’s loving purpose for us is that He has acted – and is working still – to redeem and heal the whole person: mind, body and soul.
Our response to God in worship therefore requires us to use our whole being: mind, body and soul. At St. Salvador’s we exercise all our faculties and senses to make this full response to God. Liturgy, symbolism and ritual play a major role in our worship.
There is colour and form to be seen by our eyes in architecture, glass, floral arrangements, statuary, candles and vestments. We taste the Bread and Wine. We smell the incense and flowers. We sing, listen to music and share silences. We use holy water. We make the sign of the Cross on ourselves. We think and learn as we hear the Scriptures read and explained to us. We stand, kneel and sometimes process to express our joy or our penitence. Here the whole person – mind, body and soul – worships God.
The main act of Christian worship since ancient times is the Holy Eucharist (from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”), also known as the Mass or Holy Communion. We believe that by participating in it, we offer ourselves to God through Christ and we receive back God’s sacred gifts to us of Christ’s Body and Blood. The Eucharist consists of two parts. The Liturgy of the Word, which evolved from the Jewish synagogue, consists of Scriptural readings, prayers and teaching. The Liturgy of the Sacrament focuses on our communion with God through our sharing the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
During the Eucharist, you may notice that we stand for praise, sit to receive instruction and kneel to pray. You may also see the sign of the Cross being made as a physical response to God’s forgiveness and blessing or to mark God’s nearer presence to us at the reading of the Gospel and just prior to receiving the Sacrament. You may also notice that we genuflect or bend the knee when entering or leaving the church or our seats. This too acknowledges the presence of Him before whose Name “every knee shall bow”.
If you have not yet been admitted to Holy Communion, but would like to come forward to receive a blessing at the altar during communion time, please take a place at the Altar rail with head bowed and hands crossed over your breast.
Candles and lamps have been used in Christian worship since Biblical times. For Christians, they are symbolic of Christ’s unconquerable light. The white lamp burning all the time in the sanctuary tells us that Christ is present sacramentally in the Bread and Wine set aside in the Aumbry (next to the Altar on the north side of the sanctuary) for emergencies and for devotion. Just as we might place candles on tables at home or in restaurants on special occasions, candles are placed on or near our holy table – the Altar – at the Eucharist.
Incense has been used in worship since ancient times. It was used in the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Magi came to worship the Infant Jesus, they brought incense. In Christian worship, incense symbolises our prayers and offerings. Persons and things symbolic of Jesus, such as the Sacrament, the Celebrant, the Altar and the Gospel Book are censed as an expression of the honour we pay Him.
We ring bells to focus attention at important points in the Liturgy. Bells express joy in God’s presence, and form part of the praise that surrounds God in heaven and earth as we join with the angels and archangels in our worship.
Vestments are the robes or clothes worn by those with special responsibilities for worship. They remind us of the clothes worn by Jesus and His disciples and by the earliest of their followers. The vestments are a sign of our link with them in faith and worship. The colours of the vestments reflect the seasons of the Church Year or a particular celebration. Green – symbolic of growth – is the colour seen during the largest part of the year. Generally, white or gold is used for the most important joyful festivals.
St. Salvador’s is a highly decorated building and includes many depictions of the Lord and the Saints. These pictures remind us that they are with us as we worship. The most prominent representations of Jesus are as Saviour, on a Cross (‘salvador’ is a Latin word meaning ‘saviour’). A Cross bearing an image of the crucified Lord is called a ‘crucifix’. There are a number of crucifixes in the church, painted, situated in place or carried. We are reminded that it was on the Cross that Satan was overcome and human beings were set free from sin.
Liturgy, symbolism and ritual at St. Salvador’s are part of a very long and ancient tradition, going back to the original Apostolic Church itself. Through our liturgy, symbolism and ritual we seek to worship Jesus Christ with all that we are – mind, body and soul.
St Salvador’s uses hymns drawn from various sources including the English Hymnal, New English Hymnal, and Hymns Old and New with the Ordinary of the Mass being sung to the setting by John Merbecke. In addition, at High Masses, the Cantor sings the appropriate sentences from The English Gradual and a piece during Communion.
The splendid organ (restored in 1997) and the excellent acoustic make St Salvador’s a good venue for music, both during the services and for concerts. From time to time there is special music at the services, particularly Candlemas in February, Holy Week and Easter, Holy Cross day in September and All Saints-tide in November. St Salvador's is fortunate to have the services of organist Chris Bragg, BMus (Hons) UM (Amsterdam) who plays for the 11 o'clock Mass on alternate Sundays.