What's the idea?
Our worship at St. Stephen’s is liturgical and sacramental. At its core this means we believe God acts through his physical creation. We believe that God created all of material creation and called it good. We also believe that God became a material human being in Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead in a material body and ascended into Heaven in that same body. Because salvation is not an escape from the material world, we believe God works though it to give us grace. Therefore, not only can physical objects and places be holy, but in the sacraments God has given a sure and certain means to know that he has acted in grace. We also worship God with our whole bodies, and thus engage in material acts of worship such as using incense like in the Old Testament, and making the sign of the cross. In general we stand to sing, kneel to pray and sit to listen. Just follow along with other actions such as making the sign of the cross, and don’t worry about making mistakes!
Making the Sign of the Cross
Tracing a cross on yourself is an ancient Christian practice dating to some of the earliest days of the Church when we were still under persecution. It's easy to make and reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our salvation. Just touch your forehead, chest, left shoulder, and right shoulder marking a cross over yourself. Some Christians use all five fingers for the five wounds of Christ, and some hold their fingers in other symbolic ways, such as pointer, middle, and thumb together for the Trinity. Either way it's the same practice. It's made at different times, usually at the word "blessed" in a few places, or when receiving a blessing to mirror the priest who makes it over the people. Just follow along, our Sunday booklets will help you know when!
All about Kneeling (Genuflecting)
Another action we commonly make is to kneel or genuflect ("bend the knee") as a sign of respect, reverence, and humility before God. Kneeling is simple and our pews provide kneelers for those times. This is typically done as a posture of prayer. Genuflecting is a simple drop to one knee. It's done when entering and leaving the pew, and also seen by the priest and others when crossing the Altar. The best way to think about all of this is to see the Sanctuary as God's royal throne room. We make these actions as would would be before Jesus seated on the throne of glory.