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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Episcopal Church?

The Episcopal Church (formally known as the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America or PECUSA) is the American branch of the Church of England. In 2006 General Convention changed the official name to The Episcopal Church or TEC to reflect our presence in 16 countries.

After the Revolutionary War, Anglican churches in this country reorganized to become politically independent of the British crown, but retained the traditions and worship of the English Church. At the national level, TEC is governed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which meets once every 3 years. Between Conventions, the Presiding Bishop, staff, and the Executive Council carry on the work of the Church headquarters located at 815 2nd Ave in New York City. TEC is organized into 110 dioceses, each of which is led by a Bishop. Within each diocese, parish and other church bodies carry out the work of the church in local communities.

Internationally, TEC is a member of the Anglican Communion, a network of over 40 independent national and regional churches around the world, all of whom trace their origins to the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

What is the Anglican Church?

The Anglican Church, or Church of England, came into existence as a church independent of Rome in the 1530s. Though Henry the Eighth’s wish for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon precipitated the division from Rome, many other factors came into play. Once established as an independent church, the Church of England quickly moved to conduct worship in English instead of Latin, and the first Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549. The Book of Common Prayer remains a unifying element across the diverse cultures and histories of churches in the Anglican Communion, which developed during the colonial era of the British Empire. Because the Anglican Church split politically but not doctrinally from the Roman Church, it is often seen as a “bridge” church between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

How do I become a Member of Grace Church and the Episcopal Church?

The Episcopal Church recognizes the validity of baptism in all Christian churches. To become a member of Grace Church, one must be baptized at Grace or have the records of one’s baptism in another church transferred to Grace. Members are expected to contribute financially to the welfare of the parish and to attend worship regularly. The parish office can assist with the transfer of baptismal records and provide pledge cards and envelopes. For recording accuracy, it is not possible to be a member of more than one parish, though Grace Church also counts many “friends” who are not official members but who still participate in the life of the parish in many ways. Only members can vote in parish meetings, and only members confirmed or received in the Episcopal Church can serve on the Vestry (church board).

How can I be baptized at Grace Church?

Baptism is the Rite of Initiation in the Christian Church, whereby adults join the Church and parents present their children for membership and promise to raise them in the Christian faith and life. For this reason, baptisms of children whose parents are not active members of the parish are rarely considered. Parents who wish to have their children baptized at Grace Church are encouraged to attend services, talk with Sunday School leaders and families, and with the Rector as they discern whether Grace Church is the faith community that can best support their family’s life with God. Baptisms take place during the main Sunday service, and are especially appropriate at Eastertide, on the Day of Pentecost, the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, and the First Sunday of Epiphany.

How can I have my wedding at Grace Church?

Couples who seek the blessing of the Church on their life together are expected to actively engage in the life of the Church community that will offer its blessing and lend its support to their new life together. Local couples who wish to be married at Grace Church are encouraged to attend Sunday worship and get to know the congregation before arranging a wedding date. On occasion, couples who live elsewhere and are active members of other Episcopal churches may wish to be married in the Berkshires. Such situations may be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. All couples, whether local or out-of-town, are expected to meet with the Rector before finalizing a wedding date, and to commit to premarital counseling and a regular practice of worship together. Further details on Grace Church’s wedding policies are available from the parish office.

What is Holy Eucharist?

The service of Holy Eucharist is a liturgy that has developed over thousands of years. It incorporates prayers and scriptures from the Jewish tradition, Jesus’ own teaching, and hymns and prayers from the earliest Christian church until modern day. In the first part of the service, we hear the Word of God through Bible readings and a sermon. In the second part of the service, we share Holy Communion, following Jesus’ request to share bread and wine “in remembrance of me.” All baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion, and people of all faiths or none are welcome to join in the service and come to the altar for a blessing. We use the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and Enriching Our Worship as well as the Hymnal 1982 and other hymnal supplements. We worship on Sunday mornings at 10:00 at Crissey Farm, Rt. 7 North in Jenifer House Commons. The midweek service is on Thursdays at 12:05 p.m. in the Grace Church Chapel at 67 State Road, Great Barrington. Both services are Holy Eucharist (Communion) and healing prayers are offered for those who wish to receive them.