Episcopal

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I address a deacon, priest, or bishop of the Episcopal Church?   

What is a Rector?

What is a Bishop?

Aren't Episcopalians like Roman Catholics?

Aren't Episcopalians also similar to the Lutherans?

Are Episcopalians Born Again?

What is an Anglican?

What do you believe?

What is the lectionary?

How does one join Trinity Church?

Can I take Communion at Trinity Church if I'm a visitor?

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How should I address a deacon, priest, or bishop of the Episcopal Church?   

This depends largely on local custom. The custom at Trinity Church is to call the Rector "Father Canan", "Father Dave" or for adults, just 'Dave'.

In other places with different customs, or to show respect when addressing visiting clergy, it might be appropriate to address the priest as "Father Jones" or "Mother Smith" or "Pastor Williams" or, if you wish, "Mr. [or Dr.] Jones" or "Ms. [or Dr.] Smith." A deacon is formally addressed as "Deacon [or Mr., Ms., Dr.] Jones." A bishop is always addressed as "Bishop Jones."

"The Reverend" is an appropriate title to precede the full name of a priest or deacon. The "Right Reverend" is used for a bishop. Reverend is an adjective, not a noun, and should not be used with a last name only, or without the article, "the", as in "Reverend Jones."

What is a Rector?

A Rector is the priest in charge of a parish. In some congregations the head priest is called a Vicar. The difference is that a congregation with a Rector is a self supporting congregation and has more say in the choosing of the priest. A congregation with a Vicar is receiving some form of support from the Diocese and the Bishop is primarily responsible for the appointment.

What is a Bishop?

A Bishop is a leader of a diocese. The word "episcopal" comes from the Greek word episcope, which means "over-sight." We are a church "overseen" by bishops. Our diocese, the Diocese of Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest and largest dioceses. It is called the Diocese of Pennsylvania because it is the original diocese in this state. It covers the Counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia. Trinity church is one of 163 congregations in the diocese. There are four other dioceses within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that were originally a part of our diocese: The Dioceses of Bethlehem, Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), Northwestern Pennsylvania (Erie), and Pittsburgh.

Aren't Episcopalians like Roman Catholics?

Well, yes and no. We profess the Catholic faith of the apostles and the early church fathers. We are a sacramental and liturgical church. If you attend worship at Trinity you may find it very similar to what you would experience in a Roman Catholic Church.  Practices like private Confession are available but not required. (Our building that burned down in 1986 had a confessional, but the new building does not.) Many practices of the Roman Catholic church are observed by Episcopalians by choice. The Episcopal Church teaches that all things necessary for salvation are contained within Scripture and therefore non scriptural beliefs and practices are optional.

Aren't Episcopalians also similar to the Lutherans?

Like the Episcopal Church, the Lutherans have a range of liturgical practices, so depending on where you have experienced worship in the Lutheran church will determine how similar worship at Trinity is, but Lutherans would easily recognize the basic form of Episcopal worship. The Episcopal Church is now in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Are Episcopalians Born Again?

Yes we are; over and over and over again.

But most Episcopalians are not "born again" in the sense of a sudden, one time experience (although some Episcopalians have had these experiences). Anglican spirituality is a mystical spirituality with ancient roots, so we tend to speak of a lifelong journey walking in the way of Jesus Christ.  We see all of our lives as a constant striving to accept and follow Christ through corporate worship, the sacraments, private prayer, and our daily living at work, home, community and civic activity, and leisure. Thus, we are constantly being born again, but not in the same way that believers in the Pentecostal or fundamentalist branches of Christianity use the term.

Another reason why we say that Anglicans are born again over and over is because of how we routinely renew our baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil, Pentecost, All Saints, and The Baptism of our Lord. At those times we renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness that separate us from God, the evil powers of this world that destroy and corrupt the creatures of God, and the sinful desires that draw us from the love of God. Moreover, we affirm that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior, that we put our whole trust in his grace and love, and promise to follow him as Lord. We are always striving to renounce evil and accept Christ and we believe that this is the work of an entire lifetime. However, this does not negate or diminish the fact that some Anglicans have, indeed, had sudden powerful conversions to Christ. But we would say that the process of conversion, having begun in a sudden and dramatic way, must continue for the rest of one's life.  It must be added that we honor and respect those who have felt a sudden and dramatic conversion. It's just that we do not require such a conversion.

What is an Anglican?

An Anglican is a Christian that is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church of England came to America with the colonists. After the American Revolution the Anglican church in America organized as the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion is made up of churches all over the world that are independent jurisdictions that are in relationship primarily through history and worship. You can read more about the worldwide Anglican Communion at www.anglicancommunion.org

What do you believe?

We are not a doctrinal church like the Roman Catholic church nor do we have doctrinal statements like Luther's Catechisms or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Anglicanism was shaped by many movements including the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, however, the 1968 Lambeth Conference (the gathering of all Anglican Bishops that meets every ten years) recommended that assent to the Articles no longer be required of clergy, but that they be understood as an historic document.

A more important question for Episcopalians is "How do you worship?" We live out our faith through worship using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It is ordered so that we focus on Baptism and Eucharist. Our beliefs are bound up in the Baptismal Covenant that is composed of

  • the Apostles' Creed and promises to;
  • continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers,
  • persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord,
  • proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ,
  • seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself, and
  • strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

We do have a catechism in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, but those questions and answers are formed by the preceding prayers and the lectionary.

What is the lectionary?

The lectionary is the church's curriculum. It is a three year cycle of Bible readings and a focus prayer that teach us the Christian faith. Each Sunday there is an assigned Psalm, two lessons and a Gospel reading. The lessons are usually an Old Testament reading and a New Testament Epistle reading. The sermon is to give us an insight or example of Christian living based on the prayer and Bible readings.

How does one join Trinity Church?

You become a member of Trinity by being Baptized or transferring your Baptismal registration to our parish. We do not re-baptize. Adults are expected to reaffirm the Baptismal Covenant through Confirmation or Reception at or after the age of sixteen.

Can I take Communion at Trinity Church if I'm a visitor?

Yes, all children of God are welcome to receive Communion. Our practice is to kneel at the altar rail if you are able. Your will observe that people extend their hands in a cupped manner to receive the bread. Some immediately eat the bread while others wait for the cup of wine to be presented. Those that have waited with the bread in their hands then dip the bread into the wine, then they eat it [this is called 'Intinction']. Others assist the cup bearer to guide the cup to their lips and take a sip of wine. If you do not wish to receive the wine, just "X" your arms over your chest and the cup bearer will pass by you.

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