Q and A
• What kind of church is this?
St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley is an Episcopal Church, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion of churches that have grown out of the Church of England. Arising from both catholic and protestant roots, we see ourselves as both and are often called a “bridge church” that reaches around those and other differences. We are also known as a “mainline” church that has both a deep history and a strong scholarly practice that is intended to ground our lively current experience of God and community in sound thinking and practice.
• Will I fit in?
Most likely. St. Mark’s intends to be a spacious church that welcomes an ever-broadening group of people from differing cultural and racial backgrounds, all age groups, and varied identities and life perspectives. Episcopal churches generally seek to be “comprehensive” – able to extend our embrace around what often divides groups of people or our culture generally. In an increasingly global culture, we are all challenged to grow and recognize God’s presence in the other person – and we typically discover that we are richer for having risen to the call.
• Can I take communion?
Yes. We are clear that the altar is God’s Table, not the property of any individual or group (including the church to which it is entrusted). We do not come on the basis of specific thoughts or temporal commitments but on the foundation of God’s love of all human beings and God’s desire to feed every person with God's presence and love. All ages (including children) are invited to receive and most everyone does. Resources to reflect on various understandings and meanings of communion are widely available and may be helpful, but our participation is not dependent on what we are thinking or our past or present life experience.
• How do I take communion?
At St. Mark’s, we typically come to the altar, one pew at a time, and receive bread first, then sip from the chalice. “Intinction” is another method of receiving the wine, whereby the bread or wafer is dipped into the chalice, so that one receives the bread and wine together. It is also perfectly acceptable to receive the communion bread only. We do have gluten-free alternatives at all services (simply indicate to the priest if that is your preference). In its particulars, it is very simple and you can probably just key off of other people gathered at the service for what to do.
• Will I get lost in the service?
Sooner or later. Everyone (including the priest) does from time-to-time. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. We speak of our services as "handmade." They are made by and for human beings and are thus imperfect. Our participation is always imperfect. We get lost, drop things, turn the wrong way, bump into one another – just like the rest of life. There’s no competition or evaluation to “get it right.” We just do our best (whatever that is from day-to-day). The service leaflet makes it somewhat simpler to join in, as all the words and music for each service are in a document that starts at the beginning and goes to the end. Also, people are fine to be asked “what’s happening now?” and you may either find out or find someone else who is also lost!
• Do I have to sing?
No. You may let others do the singing for you. Just like sometimes we don’t feel like praying and let others pray for us. We do have opportunities to sing and you might consider joining in, especially if you don’t sing perfectly. Singing used to be a normal part of human experience, without any expectation of sounding like an auto-tuned recording that we hear so often these days. Singing is a way of joining into communal experience and St. Augustine used to say “those who sing pray twice.” Singing is a way of embodying prayer. As with all participation in worship, though, there is no competition or evaluation when it comes to singing.
• Do I have to stay after the service?
No. Some do, some don’t, some do sometimes, but not other times. It’s entirely your choice and there’s no expectation as our schedules and interests vary widely.
• When are the services?
Summer: Memorial Day weekend through and including Labor Day weekend, services are at 9 am and 5 pm.
Program year: the weekend after Labor Day through the weekend before Memorial Day weekend: 8 am, 10 am and 5 pm.
Special services for holy days, feasts and fasts are announced in the weeks prior (such as for Christmas, Holy Week and Easter).
• What do I wear?
Living in California and in our small town/rural environment, dress is casual. As you would expect, people wear pretty much what they want on a spectrum from business-casual through weekend-casual. Most important is not to think of dress as being a barrier for you or children in your household. Coming from or going to other activities (sports, beach, gardening) can certainly determine what you wear to church.
• What about my children?
Children are full members of the Body of Christ and have full claim on the life and ministry of the church. They both contribute to and receive the ministry of the church. Children and youth are welcome in all worship services, to serving in all special capacities at services, and to an expanding array of programs and activities designed particularly for children and youth.
• Do people come alone?
Yes, regularly. It’s not unusual for either singles or single members of couples to come by themselves.
• Where do I park?
St. Mark’s has a 70-car parking lot on the north side of the church (enter from Nojoqui Avenue) and there is also a lot of street parking around the church.
• Is the building accessible?
Yes. St. Mark’s buildings and restrooms are all accessible.
• Where are the restrooms?
There are restrooms on the Courtyard, in Stacy Hall and on the sacristy hallway in the church (ushers can direct you).