Welcome to Trinity Cathedral - A Guide for Newcomers



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Many years ago, The Rt. Rev. Noel Porter, Bishop of this Diocese, wrote a booklet of simple outlines for new members of the Episcopal Church. Following his example, we at Trinity have prepared this updated version to help newcomers feel at home with our history and traditions. We hope that the information in this booklet will be of such interest that you will join our confirmation/inquirer's class which is held each year....

The Revd Grant S. Carey, Canon Precentor


Content listed below:

• The Episcopal Church

• Cathedrals

• A Historical Note

• Worship

• Membership

• The Prayer Book

• The Sacraments

  • Baptism
  • The Holy Communion
  • The five other commonly called Sacraments
  1. Confirmation
  2. Unction
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Holy Matrimony
  5. Holy Orders

• The Creeds

• The Ten Commandments

• The Lord's Prayer

• The Bible

• What it means to be a member of the Church

• The Master's Way of Living

• The Church Building

• Visiting Trinity Cathedral

• Some Church Customs

• Participating in Holy Communion

For a printable copy of this guide, please click here, and you will see this article in pdf format.



The word that describes this branch of Christ's church is "Episcopal" which simply means "having bishops." The Episcopal Church in the United States is also a part of the Anglican Communion, a world-wide fellowship of independent churches with a membership of more than 70,000,000. These churches are in communion with one another, all sharing a common origin: the Church of England. The word "Anglican" has taken on an international meaning. While Anglican Churches share a common heritage, their worship is expressed in a variety of languages and customs. All accept Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments as "containing all things necessary to salvation;" the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds as sufficient statements of the Christian faith; the two great sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as instituted by Christ himself, and a ministry comprised of the laity, deacons, priests and bishops whose succession reaches back in time to the Apostles. In this sense, Anglicans share a heritage which includes both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Although these three great communions remain separated, all are working toward understanding and cooperation. By seeking the middle way ("via media"), Anglicanism bridges both protestant and catholic traditions and is often referred to as "the bridge church."

The Episcopal Church in the United States became the continuing Church in America following the American Revolution. Certain changes in church governance had to be made, however, since Americans could no longer pledge allegiance to England and English bishops as had been formerly required. It was no accident that the governance of the Episcopal Church followed that of the United States Government since two-thirds of th signers of the Declaration of Independence as well as George Washington were committed churchmen. The first bishop of the Episcopal Church, Samuel Seabury of Connecticut, was consecrated in Scotland by three Scottish Episcopal Bishops who were not subject to the Church of England. Our next two American bishops, however, were consecrated in England because the laws were changed. This led the way to what was to become the Anglican Communion of Churches throughout the world.


A Cathedral is a church that contains the Bishop's Chair or "cathedra" which is symbolic of the bishop's teaching ministry. A bishop is the chief pastor in a diocese which is made up of many churches within a geographic area. The cathedral has a staff of clergy presided over by the Dean and assisted by clergy called Canons. Together with the laity, they carry out a program which includes worship, pastoral work, teaching and outreach. The cathedral is also available for many diocesan activities and is the principal church in which the bishop presides on special occasions.


The Episcopal Church in Northern California traces its history to the first services held in Sacramento in 1849. While other Episcopal congregations pre-dated Trinity Cathedral, the first of our three church structures was constructed 1898. The building we now occupy was completed on 1954 with extensive additions and improvements made over the years.


Worship in the Episcopal Church is "liturgical." The word "liturgy" means "the work of the people together" or "common prayer." Although it has been revised several times during the past 500 years, the Book of Common Prayer is the basis for Episcopal worship, providing for beauty and dignity in which all persons may take part. More than two-thirds of the Book of Common Prayer is from the Holy Bible. The worship of the church relies greatly on music to lift up our hearts to God's presence.

Central to our worship is the regular celebration of Holy Communion and the receiving of the sacrament. All persons who have been baptized are invited to partake, and those who are not yet baptized are encouraged to come to the altar rail or communion station to receive a special blessing. In this way, all of God's children are included.


To become a member of the Episcopal Church one must first be baptized with water and with the words: "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Baptism brings us fully into the life of the family of God. Throughout the year, Trinity Cathedral holds regular "Newcomer Classes" where one may learn more about the Episcopal Church and Trinity Cathedral, meet other members of the church community, and, at an impressive ceremony, become formally affiliated with the congregation. As an Episcopalian, one becomes a part of the Anglican family of churches throughout the world, "The Anglican Communion."


The Book of Common Prayer goes back to the Lord's Prayer. "The disciples asked Jesus, `Lord, teach us to pray...'"

Throughout the history of the church, there have been a number of service books required for the conduct of worship: one for Holy Communion, another for Daily Prayer, and on and on. In England in the 16th century, these were mostly in Latin. It was difficult for people to participate fully in the worship of the Church. The first Book of Common Prayer was introduced in 1549 and it and its successors rank with both the King James Bible and the writing of Shakespeare in shaping English language and literature.

The Prayer Book is called "Common Prayer" because through it ALL may take part in the worship of God. Furthermore, the Prayer Book is a great spiritual guide, As Bishop Porter wrote: "It's round of services presents the great events of the Master's life in logical sequence. Its creeds express the faith of Christendom. Its canticles lift the soul to loftiest praise. Its Psalter, in portions for daily use, sweeps the whole range of experience. Its catechism instructs , in the elements of religion, and its various offices, fitting the changes of life, carry solace to the sick, the aged, the troubled, and sanctify the varying conditions of human existence. It is a great treasury of devotion, an incentive to right living and right thinking."


"The old Roman soldier had his `sacramentum' or oath of loyalty and allegiance to the Emperor. As Christians and members of the Episcopal Church, we have two great Sacraments in which we pledge loyalty and allegiance to Jesus Christ, namely Baptism and the Holy Communion." [Bishop Porter]


Baptism is often referred to as Christian Initiation. It is the door through which one enters into full membership in a participation in the Church of Christ. It is important to remember that one is baptized a Christian not an Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic. Children as well as adults are baptized in the Episcopal Church, a practice that dates back to the earliest days in Christian history, Regardless of age, all are children in the faith, growing "into the fullness of the stature of Christ." If baptism is the door, then the Church provides a path to follow, through Christian education, fellowship and worship. Sponsors or Godparents as well as the whole family of God are committed to do all in their power to support those who are baptized in their life in Christ. (Prayer Book, page 303).


Whether we call it The Holy Communion, The Holy Eucharist, the Lord's Supper or the Mass, this sacrament is at the heart of our life as a Christian community. It recalls Jesus' offering of himself for the whole world. It is a feast through which we believe Christ continues to nourish and sustain us with his life-giving Presence (his Body and Blood). Moreover, it is a "family feast" - - the gathering of the community, the sharing of the love of God in communion with one another and with God. The more we come to the Eucharist (which means "thanksgiving"), the more we grow together with Christ and with one another).


The Prayer Book teaches that a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.There are many ways in which God's grace is imparted to us, but five have been traditionally called sacraments:

• CONFIRMATION: rite through which one renews the promises of baptism and, through the laying on of hands by the Bishop, receives strength from God to live the Christian life as a responsible adult.

• UNCTION: healing has long been a part of Christian ministry and is biblically commended. Special healing services are held regularly at the Cathedral, and the clergy frequently anoint and pray with those who are ill. Unction is not only provided for healing of the body, but healing of the soul.


• RECONCILIATION (also called Penance or Confession): As Episcopalians, we make our confession during most worship services and we receive priestly absolution (the assurance of God's forgiveness). There are times, however, when people desire to make a specific confession, and a Prayer Book service is provided which may take place either in an informal or a formal setting. There is an old Anglican adage regarding private confession: "All may. Some should. None must."


• HOLY MATRIMONY: Two persons are joined together within the community of the Christian family, pledge faithfulness to one another, and receive God's blessing pronounced by a priest of the church.

• HOLY ORDERS: The setting apart by the church of men and women called to serve as deacons, priests, or bishops is commonly referred to as ordination. Only a bishop can ordain, and three bishops are required for the consecration of another bishop.


There are two creeds in the Prayer Book: the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. In a simple and direct way, both state the belief of the Church. The Creeds bear witness to the Holy Trinity, that is, God has revealed himself in three ways, as "God the Father, maker of heaven and earth," as "Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, God working through history in the lives of men and women, strengthening, inspiring, and helping.

When we recite the creeds of the church, we are expressing the faith of the whole Church as held through the centuries. Some of the language of the creeds is symbolic rather than literal ( "...the right hand of God", for example) since figurative language is often the only way to express spiritual concepts).


Modern life often glosses over the Ten Commandments, yet they are the basis of morality in our Judeo-Christian culture. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God: obedience, honor and worship. The last six concern our relationship with others. Jesus summed up the meaning and intent of these commandments when he said: "Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength ...", and " love your neighbor as yourself." While the Ten Commandments take on a negative form ("You shall not") Jesus says: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another."


Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer to his disciples in response to their request that he teach them to pray. It is the great prayer of the Church and is used at every service. Besides serving as a perfect prayer in itself, it is also a guide to prayer, expressing petition, adoration, confession, and thanksgiving.

Prayer is central to our life at Trinity Cathedral. Not only is every service one of prayer and praise, but opportunity is given for personal prayers for healing and other needs. Names of persons in need are placed on a prayer list which is distributed to those who pray during the week. The Cathedral Vestry members are committed to praying for every member of the congregation.

Prayer is more than asking; it is the basis of a relationship with the God who loves us. "Every sincere prayer is answered," writes Bishop Porter. "It may not be answered in the way we wish, for our Heavenly Father knows what is best. At the time we may be disappointed, but when we get the long look - - a proper perspective - - we realize that He is wise and loving and good, and that all things work together for good to those who love God. In addition,true prayer helps to make us more efficient in our daily tasks; it enables us to rise superior to needless fears and anxiety; and it gives to us a sense of inner joy, serenity, and peace."


The Episcopal Church is "Bible Centered." In addition to full and complete scripture readings at its services, two-thirds of the Book of Common Prayer is taken from the Bible.

The Holy Bible is a library of books reflecting every aspect of life, and while they were written and compiled over many centuries, they reflect life as we live it today, with all of its joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. Principally, the Bible reflects mankind's search for God and God's response. Through the stories of real people, we can discern our own need to experience God in our lives, especially in the supreme act of God's entering the world and dwelling among us.

The Book of Common Prayer provides a guide to reading the bible on a daily basis (page 934-995), and the Cathedral offers many opportunities for Bible study and discernment.


When one becomes a member of the Episcopal Church he or she becomes a part of the whole Church, the parish (in our case, Trinity Cathedral), the Diocese of Northern California, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), and the world-wide Anglican Communion. Each member is also called to mission, to reach out to others wherever we might be. This concept is so central to the thinking of the Episcopal Church that each baptized member automatically becomes a member of the church's foreign and domestic missionary society.

Unlike a club or society which is an organization, the church considers itself a living organism of which each individual is a part and bears certain responsibilities which include regular worship, individual prayer, and stewardship of time, talent and treasure. As in any family, each family member has a part to play in the totality of family life.

It has been said that the Church exists principally for those who are outside. Our concern is not so much for ourselves as for others.

Here are seven suggestions for those who want to enter fully into the life of Trinity Cathedral:

1. Cultivate the habit of praying - - for yourself, for others, for the world. Set aside a time each day for reflection, Bible reading and prayer.


2. Worship regularly. Our motivation should be from love of God, not guilt. God wants us to come to him so that he may give us his gifts of love and strength.


3. Enter as much as possible into the life of the Cathedral. There are many opportunities for service at the Cathedral and all are important - - hospitality (coffee hour, for example), teaching in the church school, serving as usher, choir member, altar guild, assisting in the bookshop or in the office. It seems that the more we give the more we receive!


4. Give toward the work of the church by making a yearly pledge. There is no requirement as to the amount one should give, but the Biblical standard is tithing (10%), and many members of the Cathedral are tithing, working toward a tithe, or exceeding that amount.

5. Keep learning about your Church and what it mans to live a Christian life. Many opportunities are provided for intellectual and spiritual growth. Thursday Night at the Cathedral runs from September through May each year and offers a variety of programs for young and old alike.

6. When you travel, plan to visit an Episcopal (or Anglican) Church and make yourself known (don't be afraid to take the initiative in introducing yourself). Meeting others from the same family increases our awareness of who we are - - and a deeper appreciation of what we have been given. While there are many similarities in worship styles, there are also differences ranging from very formal to very informal.


7. Let the love of God shine through, remembering that we represent Christ in the world by what we say and do, not just on Sunday morning, but every day. Bishop Porter suggests this simple prayer: "Dear Lord, if there is anything that I can do to help you in the work you are doing here, count on me."


Bishop Porter offered five characteristics that stand out in any study of the life of Christ. These, he believes, are worthy of cultivating.


1. SIMPLICITY. In every aspect of life, ... art, science, mechanics, education, religion, - - simplicity is strength ... putting emphasis on things that are really worthwhile. In Jesus' life we see the simplicity of his birth and childhood. His teaching was simple, and his whole life was characterized by a sunny simplicity.


2. SINCERITY. Jesus possessed a fearless simplicity. He practiced what he preached. There is no influence greater than living the Christ-life in spite of the fact that it is not always easy.


3. SYMPATHY. Sympathy is thoughtful concern for others in all their joys and sorrows. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength, Jesus entered into the lives of others, sharing their concerns, and by his love and understanding, was able to lift them up.


4. STRENGTH. Jesus was strong physically, mentally, and spiritually. He prepared thirty years for his short ministry. His example of strength can enable us to become faithful in our prayers, patience, generosity and good- will.


5. SELF-SACRIFICE. Jesus' life was centered in God the Father. In his death on the cross, he gave himself sacrificially for the whole world. Lifted up, he was able to draw all people to him.

The best way to discover Jesus is to read the Gospels. One might do well to begin with Mark, then Matthew and Luke, saving John for the last since it is more of a reflection of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, that it is biographical.


There are many styles of church architecture reflecting different periods of Church history.

Buildings built exclusively for Christian worship came late in the history of the Church since for more than 300 years, Christianity was outlawed in the Roman Empire. Early Christians met in private homes or, in times of persecution, in underground cemeteries called "catacombs." When Constantine became Emperor and Christianity became legal, buildings began to reflect the religion they were designed to serve. Many were constructed in the shape of a cross and are called "cruciform." Trinity Cathedral has such a design. It is meant to call attention to the outstretched arms of Jesus.


The entrance to the cathedral is called the Narthex or "porch," and symbolizes the entrance to the Christian life. The doors of the narthex are adorned with stained-glass symbols representing service, faith, courage and hope as well as the twelve apostles.

The Nave extends from the narthex to the area where the altar is placed. The word "nave" comes from the Latin and means "ship." The ship has long been a symbol for the Church ("the ark of salvation") In Christian life, the nave stands for the gathering of the faithful.

The Transepts are what make the ground plan of the building cruciform; they form the arms of the cross reminding us Christ's sacrifice and his words: "Take up your cross and follow me."

The Sanctuary is that part of the church where the altar is located. Behind the altar is the Choir.

Be sure to note the windows. Those on the west side portray some of the parables of Jesus as well as "Service" and "The Great Commission." Windows on the east side tell of Christ's miracles. The lower panels in the nave are scenes unique to Northern California. The windows in the east transept are of Saints Peter and Paul and the Holy Trinity. Those in the west transept depict the seven sacraments. The round window over the High Altar tells of Jesus the Lamb of God, and the one above the main entrance came from the former Cathedral and symbolizes Baptism and the Holy Communion.

The hallway on the east side of the nave leads into Saint Andrew's Chapel which contains a hand-woven tapestry called "Saint Andrew's Consolation."


The general custom in most Episcopal Churches including Trinity Cathedral is to "stand for praise, sit for instruction, and kneel for prayer."

On entering or leaving one's pew, we usually acknowledge God's Presence by bowing toward the altar. This simple act helps to remind us that we are in a holy place dedicated to prayer and worship

The congregation is encouraged to use the time before the beginning of a service for quiet prayer and meditation. For this reason, people should not engage in conversation which may disturb others.

Many people bow as the processional cross passes. The cross is the supreme symbol of Christianity, reminding us of how much God loved the world. Making the sign of the cross is one way of expressing one's thankfulness when receiving a blessing, hearing the Gospel read, or accepting God's forgiveness in the words of absolution.

None of these customs is required, but many worshippers find them to be helpful means of deepening their spiritual awareness.

Following the service is the time to greet friends and members of the church family and to extend a warm welcome to newcomers and visitors.

Feel free to ask the clergy about anything you want to know about the services or the customs you observe. Much of the deeper meaning of an Episcopal service is found in a rich symbolism that has developed over two thousand years of devotion.


All worshippers are invited to come forward and receive Communion. Adults are asked to consume the break and take a sip from the chalice (cup). Children may receive in the same manner if they and their parents desire. If you do not want to drink from the chalice, leave the bread on the palm of either hand and the chalice bearer will dip the bread in the wine and place it on your tongue. If you don't want the wine, cross your arms over your chest after consuming the bread. If you do not want to receive Communion, please cross your arms over your chest and you will receive a prayer of blessing. It is the expectation of the Church that those regularly receiving Communion will commit themselves to God through receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. Communion may be received kneeling at the altar rail or standing at the communion station. Please return to your pew by a side aisle. After receiving Communion or a prayer of blessing, those desiring prayer for healing or personal concerns may go to the side altar area in the East Transept for individual prayer with our Prayer Ministers.

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