Plateau Properties Building

118 N. Main Street, Crossville TN 38555

CROSSVILLE, TENNESSEE      -     931-484-5535

How to Visit an Episcopal Church

For non-Episcopalians.


Christ Church in Rugby TN is tiny. The Washington National Cathedral is vast. But they have at least two things in common: people visit just to see them, and both are Episcopal. It is also an experience to attend a service in either. Regardless of your faith, you are welcome. (See below for more information on Christ Church).

You may be unsure because you don't know what's expected of you. Please don't be skittish. There are just two easy things: be quiet until after the service (they last about an hour), and when (and if - not all churches do) people kneel, at least slide forward a bit so the person behind can put his or her hands on the back of your seat. That's it. Plenty of Episcopalians sit like a bump on a log. No one will know or care that you aren't Episcopalian. And if you speak English, you'll understand it all. (OK, once in a while, a choir will sing something in Latin). Fancy clothes are NOT a requirement.

And that's that, but...

But the service may seem long and uninteresting unless you participate a little. Moreover, Anglican services in Canada and England are very similar, so with just a slight effort, you can learn to feel comfortable in those churches also. People complain that Episcopalians stand, sit, kneel, run up to the front, and juggle books. I won't argue about that. There's at least a hymnal and prayer book. You can reduce the confusion by just listening as the Bible is read. In the cathedral, most of the service is in the bulletin. If you are able, I'm sure you will want to stand when other people stand. If kneeling is uncomfortable for you, just slide forward until your knees touch or almost touch the kneeler pad and rest your behind on the seat or pew. Everybody does that, and calls it (with a smirk) doin' the "holy squat". In the National Cathedral, you are invited to stand if you wish when others kneel.

You will see others bow before entering the pew and cross themselves at different places in the service. Worry not. Episcopalians don't agree on much, certainly not when and where you bow or cross yourself. Roman Catholics can do exactly what they do in their home church and not look out of place, (but then so can Methodists). It is appropriate to bow your head before entering the pew, and if the cross is carried past your pew at the start of the service. When the priest or bishop makes the sign of the cross with his hand in the direction of the congregation, you can cross yourself (right hand to: forehead, center near heart, left, right, center).

You could just stay seated when others go up to receive communion (or eucharist or Lord's Supper). But don't. Go on. Just follow the others. Take your children. Roman Catholics require you to be Roman Catholic to receive communion. No exact equivalent applies in the Episcopal church. There is a rule that you are not supposed to receive if you have never been baptized in any Christian faith. (They don't check IDs.) You can obey this rule, still go up to the rail, and draw zero attention to yourself. (There was a rule about confirmation being required, but it is long gone.)

At the rail, kneel if you can. If not, stand. If you were never baptized in any Christian church or do not want the bit of bread or wafer, cross your arms with fingers touching either shoulder. (Some Episcopalians do this too. It won't draw any attention). This says "I just want a blessing." Or, hold your hand(s) palm up for a wafer. After the wafer is placed in your hand, there may be a bit of a problem. Episcopalians sip from the same chalice, and it is real wine, not grape juice. (The chalice is silver, i.e. antibacterial, and it is wiped with a cloth between people.) If this grosses you out, you have two options. Quickly eat the wafer, and cross your arms in front of you. The chalice will pass you by. Or leave the wafer in your hand. The next server will take it, dip it in the chalice and place it on your tongue. But if you wish to sip from the chalice, when the server comes, grasp at least the bottom of the chalice and guide it. If you don't help, the server will be afraid you didn't get any. Finally, wait until the next person is finished receiving wine before rising and going back to your seat. This helps prevent spilling wine.


Right now, services are at 11AM all Sundays. That's Eastern time. Rugby is about two inches from the time line. Cumberland and Fentress counties are on Central, so don't get confused. (Ha! OK, if you're in Crossville, allow an hour and a half travel time, so depart for the service in Christ Church by at least 8:30AM.) Call 423-628-5627 for information. The location is Cumberland Ave. and Hgwy. 52. Click here for more information. Call Historic Rugby for more information on Rugby or tours.

Click here to return to Cumberland County Vacation Ideas page.