Help! I'm new to church, what should I know?

Help! I'm new to church, what should I know?

If you're going to a church for the first time, or the first time in a long time it can be very daunting. There are a number of people who have decided (or been invited) to go to a church and have had to really pluck up the courage to go. Some have got there and not been brave enough to go in. If you recognise this, then this page should help you.

The first thing to remember is that St Andrew's Church really wants you to come. All churches are trying very hard to attract new people.

The next thing people are concerned about is getting things wrong! Like standing up when everyone else sits down, not knowing what to say or do,etc).

Here's a few tips:
Never judge a book by its cover but.. use it to get some clues. You can get some idea from the outside of the building. Many people who have visited St Andrew, say they didn't realise how nice it was inside, although they have passed it many times. Look at the notice board, web site, Parish Magazine or even ask someone to find the times of the services and you can usually find out something about the congregation. There are other activities, which say more about a church than most realise. You can get a feel for the church before you go. Young children are more than welcome, we have 'family friendly services' and'all age worship'.

St Andrew's is not large and grand, but it is in good repair and has a big heart. Remind yourself that you must not judge a book by its cover. we would love for you to be comfortable in worship here. Even so, it is worth trying to assess what you can before you come for the first time. If nothing else, you can ensure that you arrive on time, and not draw attention to yourself by arriving after the service has started.

Remember, though, that you can't know whether you will be happy in the pews of a particular church just from one visit, or two. If you are a church regular and are visiting another church (perhaps you are on holiday or similar) you will already have an idea of what to expect. Sure, all churches are unique and have a different 'feel' but you will know the basic outline.

If you have never been to a church before, or maybe not since you were a child, aim to arrive at the church door 10 minutes before the advertised start time for the service. Do not arrive very early. Don't turn up late either: we won't won't mind, but you may feel self conscious at a time when you would rather not! When you arrive you will be greeted by a very friendly steward, someone who will give you the books and a news and service sheet, oh, and a warm welcome. Mention you say you are a visitor. The service book will explain what the order of the service, you can read through while you wait for the service to start.

We church want you to feel welcome. Turn off your mobile phone. Join in with the hymns. Just be you. Many newcomers are worried about the service order. They worry about standing at the wrong time, or not knowing when to sit down. If you are, we can say this to you: in many services, the leader will tell you when to stand or sit. Sometimes directly ("Let us stand and sing....." or "please be seated") sometimes less directly. This is why you're sitting near the back, but not right at the back. You can see when the others stand or sit. Easy!!

Another source of worry is at communion/eucharist/mass. Many newcomers do not go forward at communion time. If you feel happier, remain in your seat and just enjoy the atmosphere. No one will criticise you for doing this. However, do not be put off going forward if that is what you want to do, or if you take Communion. The whole reason the Church exists is because Jesus commanded "go and make disciples of all people" He also said " Let them come to me" (he was talking about children, and we are all His children). No church worth it's name will sneer or criticise you if you go forward. In fact, in many churches the leader will say something like "we welcome ALL who want to find Jesus to come forward and share in this sacrament, but those who don't wish to may either remain seated, but came forward for a blessing if you don't want to receive communion". Money at collection time is a source of worry or embarassment, we no longer hold collections for this very reason. If this is so, there will be a collection box or bag near the door. If you wish to give do so. Do not give much: if you feel you have to be seen to be generous you will feel uncomfortable and the church will too. Give as you are minded. We really just want you to be comfortable visiting and being in a place of worship.

Sometimes people are concerned about other people at the church judging them or looking down upon the visitor. The church is not like that. ALL people are completely equal before God, from the Pope, right across to the down and out who sleeps on the park bench. Most normal people who go to church (actually, is there one 'normal' person at church!). They are all just like you. Visit St Andrew's Church. Go anyway. Enjoy going - you will be welcome.

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