Frequently Asked Questions
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What is Christianity?
Christianity is a faith that is shared by over two billion people, worldwide. It is the largest religion in the UK. St Stephen's church is part of the Anglican community - otherwise known as the Church of England.
What do Christians believe?
We believe in one God, who is manifested in three ways:
God the Father created all things. He sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life.
God the Son, Jesus, was born on earth, crucified, died and, three days later, he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.
God is alive and continues His work on earth today through the Holy Spirit
One God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, known as 'The Trinity'.
As Christians, we share the love of God with as many people as possible, through worship, prayer, pastoral care and outreach work, promoting Christian values and service. Our aim is to enable ordinary people to live out their faith as part of our Parish community, developing their knowledge and trust in Christ Jesus.
Rather than explain everything about God, Jesus and the church on these pages, we invite you to click on the link below to the Christian Enquiry Agency Website where you will find lots of articles about different aspects of the Christian faith.
I've never been to church before - what is it like?
Every church is different but there are a lot of similarities in what happens during a church service.
When you first come into church you will be welcomed by some of our congregation who will give you a service book and hymn book. You can choose anywhere to sit. There are no reserved seats. You might like to sit part way back in the church so that you can follow what the people in front of you are doing. Our congregation is very friendly and welcoming so let someone know that this is your first time in church and they will be happy to help you understand what's going on.
Our Eucharist/Communion service begins with a hymn, during which the Priest and Pastoral Minister come into church and the service begins. You will follow along in your service booklet which tells you how to respond and what to do. There are times during the service when we stand, sit or kneel. The service book will tell you when, but you can also keep an eye on the rest of the congregation and follow them. It doesn't matter if you don't know what to do at first - we've all be there. It won't be long before you get used to it.
The service will include readings from the Bible, and prayers, and the Priest will give a talk (sermon) based on what the Bible readings have been about.
Half way through the service there will be another hymn, during which money that has been donated will be taken to the altar for blessing.
The second part of the service is the communion. The Priest will read special parts of the service which explain how Jesus blessed the bread and wine and gave it to his disciples. We follow Jesus' example by blessing our bread and wine. The priest takes communion first, then it is given to the people in church. Following the Covid pandemic, we are currently only receiving the bread and not the wine. Anyone who usually takes communion in their own church can take communion at St Stephen's. However, if you have never been to church before or you don't usually take communion, we encourage you to go up to the altar with the rest of the congregation for a special blessing. If you keep your hands below the altar rail, the Vicar will know that you are not taking the bread and wine.
The final part of the service is giving thanks.
After the end of the service, we usually have refreshments available and this is a chance for you to get to know some of the people there. We are a friendly congregation so you will soon get to know people and feel at home.
If you have any more questions or you would like someone to meet you and take you into church for the first time, click here to contact us.
What is prayer and how do I do it?
Prayer is simply a way of talking to God. You don't have to be in church to pray. You can pray anywhere - at home, outside, even in the supermarket. You can speak out loud or you can simply say the words in your mind. God will hear you.
Just like speaking to family or friends, you can tell God anything, thank him for the good things in your life or in the world, ask his forgiveness when you have done something you regret or seek his blessing on yourself or other people, who may, perhaps be ill or in some kind of trouble.
There is no right or wrong way to pray but Jesus taught us a special prayer which combines praising God with asking for the things we need, seeking forgiveness for our sins and asking for God's blessing in the future. This is called The Lord's Prayer.
In our church we use a traditional form of words for this prayer but in some other churches, the language used may be more modern. Both versions can be seen below:
THE LORD'S PRAYER (Traditional)
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kindgom come
The will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive them that trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
For ever and ever
THE LORD'S PRAYER (modern English)
Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
Now and forever
The Church of England website publishes lots of ideas for prayers for different situations. These tend to be more formal but remember that you can also pray using your own every day language. Their website also has lots of other information that you might find useful or interesting.
Who can take communion?
If you are a visitor to St Stephen's, you are welcome to take communion if you usually do so at your own church.
Regular members of our congregation will only take communion after they have been confirmed. If you would like to know more about preparation for confirmation, see our Nurturing Our Faith group details.
Even if you are not taking communion, you are very welcome to come up to the altar for a blessing. If you keep your hands down below the altar rail, the Vicar will know that you are not taking the bread and wine.
Occasionally, the priest will offer unconsecrated bread to children who come to the altar for a blessing so that they do not feel excluded.
As there are steps up to the altar, disabled visitors may take communion at the bottom of the steps or in their seats. Please let any of the helpers know if you would like to do this.
What clothes should I wear?
In the past, people used to wear 'Sunday Best' clothes to church. Nowadays we tend to be less formal. There is no 'dress code' for church. Please wear whatever clothes you feel most comfortable wearing. You may like to take into account that the church is an old building and, although we have heaters, it can become quite cold in winter months in some parts of the church.