Seasonal Services

St. Stephen Episcopal Church
 
Check our church calendar for information about dates and times for this year's services.

Advent Services:
  • Advent Evensong
  • Advent Taizé evening prayer
 
Christmas Eve service
Lent:
  • Ash Wednesday
  • Taizé evening prayer on Wednesdays during Lent
  • Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent
 
Holy Week and Easter:
  • Palm/Passion Sunday
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • The Great Vigil of Easter
  • Easter: Festival Eucharist with flowering of the cross
 
August - Annual Beach Eucharist and Picnic
October - Blessing of the Animals

 
Advent Services
We observe the season of Advent with two kinds of special services:

Advent Evensong is a traditional, candlelit service, using the Service of Light and the liturgy of Evening Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. The church is lit with candles, and nearly all the prayers are chanted by the choir and/or the congregation. The congregation sings traditional Advent hymns, and the choir and musicians offer special music appropriate to this season of waiting and preparation.

Taizé Evening Prayer is a contemplative service. A cross and candles provide a focal point at the front of the church. In this service there is no choir. A reader and the congregation say the prayers, spend time in silent reflection, and quietly sing brief, repeated refrains that focus our hearts and minds on God's presence with us and the depth of God's love for each one of us.

Christmas Eve Service
Our Christmas Eve celebration begins with the congregation singing Christmas carols for half an hour, followed by Eucharist in a church festively decorated with poinsettias and candles. Children carry the figure of baby Jesus forward to his place in the creche, and the whole congregation delights in the wonder and joy of this night. The service concludes with "Silent Night," sung by candlelight.

Lent
We begin Lent with the Ash Wednesday service from The Book of Common Prayer. The service invites us to reflect on our mortality and to re-center our lives on God. In this service we come forward to the altar twice: first to be marked with the sign of the cross in ashes as the priest says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”; and a second time to receive communion as members of the body of Christ, united with our risen, living Savior.

On the remaining Wednesdays of Lent we have Taizé Evening Prayer. This contemplative service invites us to continue the re-centering process that we began on Ash Wednesday. We hear short scripture readings appropriate to the season, pray together, spend time in silent reflection, and quietly sing brief, repeated refrains that focus our hearts and minds on God's presence with us and the depth of God's love for each one of us.

On Fridays in Lent we offer Stations of the Cross. In this brief service we circle the worship space, stopping in front of each artistic depiction of a stage in Jesus' journey to the cross. At each station we pause for reflection and then join in brief prayers.

Holy Week and Easter
Palm/Passion Sunday: Our observation of Holy Week begins with the Palm Sunday service. We process around the church singing and waving palm branches to commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Then the whole congregation participates in reading the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion from the Gospel assigned for that year. The service continues with a sermon and holy communion.

Wednesday: Taizé Evening Prayer (a special version for Holy Week). Candles, a cross, scripture readings, chants, and prayers all call us to contemplate Jesus' love for us as he laid aside power and accepted torture and death as one of us.

Thursday: On this day we use the Maundy Thursday liturgy from The Book of Common Prayer, with foot washing and Eucharist. Our service focuses on Jesus' command to love one another as he has loved us. According to the Gospel of John, on the night before his death Jesus washed his disciples' feet and commanded them to do as he had done. Washing each other's feet reminds us of Jesus' unconditional love for us and unites us in loving service to each other. Everyone is invited to participate in this ritual act, but we won't think less of you if you choose to remain in your pew while others wash feet. After we share in holy communion, we strip the altar bare while a lector reads Psalm 22. We leave in solemn silence.

Good Friday: We observe Good Friday in front of a bare altar in a church stripped of all decorations, using the liturgy from The Book of Common Prayer. The congregation participates in reading the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion from the Gospel of John. We pray the solemn collects together, some of the earliest known forms of the Prayers of the People. The biddings, (invitations to pray about a particular topic), date to the third and fourth century and the collects to the fifth century. We remember Jesus' death by bringing a rough wooden cross into the sanctuary and spending quiet time contemplating it. We receive communion from the reserved sacrament and then leave in silence.

The Great Vigil of Easter: The Great Vigil is the single most important service of the Christian year. It is our Passover, when we pass from death to life. Our service begins outside after sunset, with the lighting of the new fire from which the Paschal candle is lit. In a dimly lit church we hear the story of God's love across time through creative readings and re-tellings of great passages from the Old Testament. We renew our baptismal covenant (and sometimes baptize people!), and then the mood changes from Lenten solemnity to joyous celebration. All the lights go on, bells ring, and we join in singing the first Alleluia! of the Easter Season. Everyone helps to decorate the church for Easter, and then with songs of joy we celebrate the Eucharist together.

Easter Sunday: Easter Day is a joyous celebration of Jesus' resurrection and God's triumph over evil and death. The service begins with the flowering of the cross, where everyone is invited to put fresh flowers on the bare wooden cross that we used on Good Friday, transforming it from a symbol of death to a celebration of life. We celebrate a festival Eucharist together, and after the service we have an Easter Egg hunt for the children.

Annual Ona Beach Eucharist
The Annual Ona Beach Eucharist is held on the 4th Sunday of August at Ona Beach State Park (mp 149 on Hwy 101). St. Luke and St. Stephen join together to worship in a beautiful setting, with Beaver Creek as the backdrop for our outdoor altar. Pets are welcome to come to the service! After the Eucharist everyone is invited to a potluck picnic, with more than enough food for all. The children burn off their energy by playing games such as ladder ball, bean bag toss, and freeze tag. We have a wonderful time enjoying each other's company and the beauty of God's creation.

The Blessing of the Animals
In early October on the Sunday nearest to St. Francis' Day we have a special brief service in the afternoon to celebrate and give thanks for the animals that grace our lives. St. Francis is remembered for finding God in nature and for loving and communicating with animals. All kinds of animals are welcome at our service, from the smallest to the biggest that you can figure out how to transport. We gather, enjoy getting to know each other's pets, say a few prayers of thanks and blessing, and then Judith+ prays an individual blessing prayer for each animal. At St. Luke, where we have plenty of room for the animals, we meet in the church parking lot. St. Stephen's service is held at the Agate Beach dog park, 185 NW 60th St, Newport.