I’m New, Visitors FAQ
Visitors are always welcome at St Peter and St Simon’s, but we know not everyone may be familiar with how Anglican services work. Here are some questions you may have coming to an Anglican church or SPSS for the first time or after time away.
How do I get there? See our contacts page for directions by car or transit.
“Is the building accessible?” Yes! Our north entrance (Bloor Street) is accessible, and an elevator will take you to all floors except the choir room.
Does it cost money? No! Services usually include an at-will offering where plate is passed, and you may choose to give as you are able and comfortable; you are not required to give money to attend religious services.
When do I sit? When do I stand? The bulletin will give you directions on when you are to sit, stand, or kneel, provided it is safe and comfortable for you to do so. It is fine to simply remain seated and communion can be brought to your in your pew.
Is seating assigned or reserved? No! Seating in the main church is open to everyone unless there is a special event such as a baptism, in which case a few front pews may be reserved.
Is there space for children? Can my kids stay for the whole service? Yes! We have a Sunday School for children ages 3 to 12 at the 10:30 service each Sunday. Children are, of course, welcome to stay for the whole service if you prefer; there is a small table and chairs with colouring materials and children’s books at the north end of the church so you can let little ones entertain themselves without missing the service.
Do I have to be a member to take communion? All baptized Christians regardless of denomination or church affiliation are welcome to take communion. Those who are not baptized and young children may also come forward and receive a blessing.
Do I cross myself? Do I bow before sitting? Both crossing oneself and acknowledging the altar by bowing or genuflecting before sitting at your pew are left to the custom and comfort of individuals. Many people at SPSS cross themselves whenever someone uses the words “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” but many do not.
Where is the washroom? Washrooms are a few steps farther below. There is an elevator to both levels for those who are unable to use the stairs.
Where do I hang my coat? There is a cloak room with plenty of hangers and rubber mats to store muddy or snowy boots at the base of the stairs from the narthex (lobby). Please keep your valuables with you, however.
There was a time when churches had strict dress codes. Most Anglican churches in Toronto have done away with that kind of thinking. At SPSS, many people do still wear nice clothes on Sunday, similar to what you might see in an office (“business casual”), wearing button down shirts or blouses with slacks or a skirt. But many come as they are, wearing whatever they have and feel comfortable wearing. We aren’t here to examine each other’s clothes, so the most important thing is that you feel comfortable.
The church itself dates back to the 19th century and doesn’t have air conditioning in the summer, just cross ventilation and small fans, so it’s a good idea to dress light on warm days. In the winter, it usually stays warm enough, but many people prefer to have a wrap or warm sweater if it gets a bit chilly. In the summer we serve cold drinks after the 10:30 service, and in the winter hot drinks, so if you mis-judged the weather, there’s a way to get comfortable quickly!
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What happens at the 10:30 Choral Eucharist?
At SPSS we have two types of services on Sundays at 10:30, Choral Eucharist and Choral Mattins. The more common service, Choral Eucharist, is celebrated the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Sunday each month, and the 5th on months that have five Sundays. There are also some variations depending on the season of the church year, but these are printed in the bulletin.
The first thing that happens when you come to a 10:30 service is that someone from our sidespeople team will greet you and offer you a bulletin. This is your guide to the day’s service with all the prayers and readings in it, as well as the numbers of the hymns found in the blue Book of Common Praise in the pews. All the lyrics to the hymns are in this blue book. The bulletin also has directions for when you are to sit, stand, or kneel, but this is only if doing so is safe and comfortable for you. Responses to be said aloud by the congregation are printed in boldface. Directions are usually in italics. Bulletins are typically available on the church website the Thursday prior to the Sunday service.
When you come into the church itself, you may sit anywhere you like unless there is a special service reserving the first few pews (this is rare). If you come early enough, you will hear the choir practicing. Shortly before the service starts, one of the servers will ring the church bell, and then there will be some organ music. During this time, we ask that people speak only in low voices to allow those who wish to time to pray. You may also wish to light a candle in the stand on the north side of the church.
At 10:30 the processional hymn starts the service, and everyone will stand as they are able. The crucifer (the person holding a cross on a staff who leads people up the aisle), acolytes (people holding candles or torches just behind the crucifer), choir, servers, and clergy will process up the main aisle at the centre of the church during the processional hymn, which everyone is invited to sing along to. Children going to Sunday School will gather at the wooden carved font at the back of the church to go to the classroom downstairs. Younger children can get their wiggles out during the service at the small table with books and colouring materials by the north side of the church.
Now the service is started. The priest leading the service will open with prayer, and then there are four readings from scripture. Everyone sits down and one of the members of the congregation (also called parishioners) comes to the lectern at the front to read. The first reading is from the Hebrew Scripture (or “Old Testament”), then comes a psalm sung by the choir. You are welcome to sing along. Sometimes this is call and response, where a cantor sings the first line, and the congregation reads aloud the second. Sometimes the cantor will sing part of the psalm and then everyone sings back a response. The bulletin will make clear what is happening that day, and if you prefer, you can simply sit and enjoy the music. Then comes a reading from the Greek Scripture (the “New Testament”), usually one of the letters of the Apostles. Finally, there is a reading from the Gospels, one of the first four books of the Greek Scriptures. Everyone stands if they are able, and this is read from the centre of the aisle running through the centre of the church, led out by the crucifer and acolytes to music. If you are standing, you should turn to face the gospel reader.
After the readings, there is a homily. This is the sermon about the readings of the day, meant to help people reflect on what they have heard and apply the lessons to their own lives, bring them comfort, or inspire them to action.
After the homily, people stand and recite one of two creeds, the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. These are basic statements of faith used by Christian churches around the world. After the creed, a parishioner will lead the Prayers of the People. These are intercessory prayers, prayed as a group on behalf of the church, the world, the local community, those in need, and those who have died. If you wish to have someone’s name read aloud during these prayers, there is a binder at the back of the pews you can write in before the service starts.
One Sunday a month, the prayers will be followed by anointing with oil for healing. This ancient practice is not a replacement for medicine, but it is a special form of prayer for healing from ailments, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. The anointers (usually at least one priest and one parishioner) will stand by the St Peter’s altar on the south side of the church, and people will line up to have a small cross of oil made on their forehead and have a prayer said over them. An anointer will also come to you in the pew if moving to the side altar is too difficult.
Next comes confession and absolution. The congregation makes their confession aloud as a group, reciting the same words together. (You may arrange with the priest to make a private confession outside the Sunday service if something is weighing on you, but this is not considered necessary.) The priest recites the absolution and invites everyone to stand and show a sign of peace.
At the peace, people greet each other and say “peace” or “peace be with you.” They may offer their hand to shake, but if you prefer not to shake, a smile and bow/head nod/peace sign (two fingers) is perfectly polite. Usually at SPSS some people will get up from their pews to go greet people they know sitting elsewhere in the church, but you can stay where you are. Now the crucifer and acolytes are back to lead the bread and wine to the altar. People remain standing for a hymn, and the sidespeople will take collections by passing brass plates down the pews. You may give or not as you are able and comfortable. If you wish, you can also give donations online through this website. There are small envelopes hanging from hooks at each end of each pew that you can use to hold the donation and to give your name and contact information if you would like to be more involved or receive a tax receipt (only for donations over $25). The priest says a brief prayer over the offerings, and then the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, starts.
During Eucharist, the people remain standing as the priest leads them in a prayer called the Great Thanksgiving. There is a brief sung portion ending with the words “Hosanna in the highest;” after this you may sit, kneel, or remain standing as is your preference. The priest will continue, then all will sing the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”) together. The servers, acolytes, crucifer, clergy, and those assisting with the Eucharist will take turns having a sip of wine and a piece of bread. Then the choir, and then the congregation. A sidesperson will stand in the centre aisle; when they step back to be behind your row, you may go forward to take communion.
All baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, are welcome to take communion. You may also receive a blessing if you are not a Christian or not yet baptized (or if the baptized person is an infant or young child). To indicate that you would like a blessing, approach the altar (either the main altar up a few steps or the St Peter’s Altar at the side, barrier-free), kneel on the cushions or remain standing, and placed your arms crossed over your chest. You may also wish to take only bread and not wine. After receiving the bread, cross your hands over your chests, and the chalice bearer will pass by you. The bread by itself is considered full communion. At SPSS, we use wafers, and we also offer gluten free wafers, stored separately. If required, simply quietly ask the person with the wafers for gluten-free. After the bread is the chalice of wine. If you are taking the wine, you may touch the bottom of the chalice to gently guide the cup to your mouth. The chalice bearer will tip a sip into your mouth. We do not allow dipping wafer into the chalice, as this is considered a greater risk of spreading germs. Of course, if you think you have a cold or other transmittable illness, please refrain from taking the wine.
Once everyone who wishes has had a chance for taking communion or receiving a blessing, the servers will tidy up the altar and the choir will sing a song. Many people will be in quiet prayer now, others enjoying the music. Once this song is done, the priest will again address the congregation, say a closing prayer and lead the doxology, a short traditional statement of praise, and then bless the congregation. Often at the blessing the priest will say “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” and you will notice some people cross themselves while others do not. Either practice is fine.
Next are a few brief announcements. These may be made by parishioners looking for volunteers for events, thanking volunteers for recently performed work, letting the congregation know about upcoming events, opportunities, or issues.
Finally, everyone who processed in at the start of the service processes out to a final hymn. Everyone stands as able and sings along to the hymn. Then a priest will dismiss the crowd, and you may either sit down and enjoy a final organ piece or go shake hands with the priest and leave or get a coffee or tea at Coffee Hour.
This entire service takes a little over an hour. Many people stay for fellowship and treats at Coffee Hour, and sometimes there are sandwiches and other more substantial food. All told, by 12:30 things are usually wrapped up and people off to lunch.
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What happens at the 10:30 Choral Mattins?
On the second Sunday of each month, SPSS celebrates Choral Matins at 10:30. This morning prayer service does not include Eucharist, instead focusing on prayer, scripture, and song. It’s a great service for fans of choral music, people who aren’t used to taking Eucharist weekly, and those who remember this type of service from years ago when it was more common. The language and form of this service comes from the Book of Common Prayer, so it may be a bit unfamiliar to those who did not grow up with it, but many people find the early modern English very poetic and “churchy,” like what maybe our grandparents would have experienced in church. Much of the service comes from tradition predating the Reformation, pulling from the prayers and liturgy used by monks and nuns in medieval Europe. It’s okay if it seems unfamiliar and odd at first, try to listen and enjoy as you would a play, poem, or music, and you may find it speaks to you in unexpected ways. It’s easier to understand than the average Shakespeare performance, we promise!
Much like the other three Sundays of the month, on the second Sunday you will be greeted by a member of our sidespeople teams and given the day’s bulletin. This will guide you through the service, with most of the lyrics and music printed in the bulletin itself, but you will also note hymn numbers printed in boldface on the left-hand side with the title of the hymn in italics. These are found in the blue Book of Common Praise in the little shelf built into the pews. The bulletin also has directions for when you are to sit, stand, or kneel, but this is only if doing so is safe and comfortable for you. Responses to be said aloud by the congregation are printed in boldface. Directions are usually in italics. Matins has a lot of sitting for one bit, then standing, then sitting again. It’s okay to just stay seated!
When you come into the church itself, you can sit anywhere you like unless there is a special service reserving the first few pews (this is rare). If you come early enough, you will hear the choir practicing. Shortly before the service starts, one of the servers will ring the church bell, and then there will be some organ music. During this time, we ask that people speak only in low voices to allow those who wish to time to pray. You may also wish to light a candle in the stand on the north side of the church.
At 10:30 the processional hymn starts the service, and everyone will stand as they are able. The crucifer (the person holding a cross on a staff who leads people up the aisle), acolytes (people holding candles or torches just behind the crucifer), choir, servers, and clergy will process up the main aisle at the centre of the church during the processional hymn, to which everyone is invited to sing along. Children going to Sunday School will gather at the wooden carved font at the back of the church to go to the classroom downstairs. Younger children can get their wiggles out during the service at the small table with books and colouring materials by the north side of the church.
This is where the service starts to differ from the Choral Eucharist of most Sundays. The priest leading the service will open with what is called the opening sentence and exhortation. This is an invitation for the congregation to make a public confession, which is then recited aloud as a group (you won’t be asked to openly confess specific things). After the confession, the priest will pronounce the absolution, reminding the congregation that God loves and forgives and that we are to try our best to remain holy.
After the confession and absolution, we say the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) together, then sing the versicles and responses (short sung call and response, e.g. “O Lord open thou our lips; And our mouth shall show forth thy praise”), and the Venite, which is Psalm 95 used as an opening to morning prayer.
Next is the first lesson, usually a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Then we sing another psalm, hear the second lesson, usually from the Greek Scriptures (New Testament), and sing together the Te Deum, a hymn that dates back to the early Christian church. The third lesson is a reading from the Gospels, but unlike in Choral Eucharist, this is read by a member of the congregation instead of by the clergy, just as the first and second lessons were read. After the gospel reading, we sing together the Benedictus, also known as the Song of Zechariah, which comes from the Gospel of Luke.
After the lessons and canticles, or songs, the congregation recites the Apostle’s Creed together, sings the Lord’s Prayer, and then there is prayer in the form of a series of sentences with responses (all of the words are printed in the bulletin) followed by a few prayers by the priest called collects, one for the day according to the season and day in the church calendar, one for peace, and one for God’s grace. Finally, the choir sings a hymn, and the priest gives a sermon about the lessons of the day, meant to help people reflect on what they have heard and apply the lessons to their own lives, bring them comfort, or inspire them to action.
After the sermon, the congregation sings a hymn and the collections plates are passed around. Feel free to give or not as you are able and comfortable. There are small envelopes hanging from hooks at each end of each pew that you can use to hold the donation and to give your name and contact information if you would like to be more involved or receive a tax receipt (only for donations over $25).
After the collection, a parishioner will lead the Prayers of the People. These are intercessory prayers, prayed as a group on behalf of the church, the world, the local community, those in need, and those who have died. If you wish to have someone’s name read aloud during these prayers, there is a binder at the back of the pews you can write in before the service starts.
Finally comes a prayer of Thanksgiving and the prayer of St Chrysostom, both lead by the priest, who then also gives the Grace. After some announcements about goings-on, thank-yous, and volunteer opportunities by parishioners, the congregation sings as everyone who processed in at the start of the service processes out to a final hymn. Everyone stands as able and sings along to the hymn. Then a priest will dismiss the crowd, and you may either sit down and enjoy a final organ piece or go shake hands with the priest and leave or get a coffee or tea at coffee hour.
This entire service takes about an hour. Many people stay for fellowship and treats at Coffee Hour, and sometimes there are sandwiches and other more substantial food. All told, by 12:30 things are usually wrapped up and people off to lunch.
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Where is everything? What’s that room called? – Spaces at SPSS
There’s a lot of “church language” used by Anglicans, and this can include the spaces within our church buildings. So what are all these places? Where can you hang your coat? Where’s the washroom?!
Main floor Narthex (lobby), parish hall, sitting room, kitchen, nave (main church), chapel
Basement Cloak room, washrooms, classrooms, office, courtyard (outside).
There are entrances to SPSS at the north side of the Church (525 Bloor Street East) and the south side (40 Howard Street). The north (Bloor) side is the accessible entrance. Press the blue button by the main door, and it will swing open into the narthex. This is a main lobby and entry space, traditionally found at the west end of churches. There is an elevator that can take you up or down to any level of the church in the narthex. Down the stairs (or elevator), there is a hall with space to hang coats and stash winter boots, glass doors leading to two classrooms and the church office, where our administrator works and the rector has an office. Sunday school meets during the 10:30 service in the second classroom, a brightly painted open space. The Gerrard Resource Centre meets in the first classroom on weekdays, and a large cork board next to the double doors to this classroom has notices of community events and resources for families, parents, and newcomers. Before you reach the glass doors to the classrooms and office is a door to a small garden courtyard with a fountain. There are also a few stairs down to more space for coats and another set of glass doors taking you to the washrooms. The elevator also goes to this level.
The narthex, or lobby, also has a few short steps up to the nave, the main church space. This is where the 10:30 services and many special celebratory services take place. At the far east end, a rood screen of dark carved wood separates the chancel from the nave. The chancel is where the altar is located and where the clergy, servers, and choir sit. “Rood” is an Old English word for “cross,” and the rood screen supports a wooden carving of the cross with Mary and St John gazing up at it. At the south side of the church is the St Peter’s altar, where those unable to navigate steps can take communion. This altar was brought from St Peter’s Carlton at the time of the amalgamation of St Simon’s and St Peter’s. There is also an altar at the north side of the nave. This plainer altar is the Children’s Altar. A small votive stand and image of Mary as Theotokos, or Mother of God sit next to the altar, as well as miniature chairs ringing a small table equipped with books and colouring supplies for children during services.
Across from the St Peter’s Altar is a door to a small hall and the chapel, an addition dating to the 1950s on the original church. The chapel is also accessible from Bloor Street. This is where the 8:30 and 11:00 Wednesday services are held. The hall to the chapel has a few pegs to hang coats.
When you enter from the south side of the church (Howard), you can go up a few stairs to a small coat room and into the nave directly, or you may go down a few stairs to a door to the classrooms and office.
The narthex (lobby) also has doors to the sitting room and the parish hall. The parish hall is where the church library is located, in the first entryway to the hall, which also has a door to the kitchen. Past two large pocket doors is the main hall where coffee hour takes place after the 10:30 services. A door on the north side leads to a staircase to the choir room, where the choir practices weekly.
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