Our Liturgical Tradition
Over the years since Old Saint Paul’s humble beginnings in the late 17th century, our worship styles have evolved from secret prayer meetings in an old wool store to something enriched and developed by history across the centuries.
Today we enjoy a rich tradition of liturgy in the high church, Anglo-Catholic style, marked by austere beauty and rich symbolism. Liturgy at Old Saint Paul’s is fully participatory – whilst the congregation is represented by the choir in the chancel and the servers round the altar, individual members of the congregation also share in reading from the scriptures, leading the prayers, and taking the bread and wine to the altar. Space is provided at several points during the liturgy for personal devotion and reflection. Liturgy is the offering of the entire assembly of God’s people.
The Mass (or Eucharist or Lord’s Supper) is at the heart of Christian spiritual life.
Liturgy is also an offering of all the senses, offering back to God’s praise and honour the collective talents we have received – the beauty of visual art, and the harmony of music, together with the offering of incense and lighting of candles. Early morning and mid-week Masses, celebrated in one of the small chapels, are quiet and reflective. The main celebration, at 10.30 on Sundays, takes the form of High Mass – when the priest is assisted at the altar by deacon and subdeacon, servers lead the procession, and provide light and incense, and the choir leads the worship with glorious music. A dedicated Mass book is provided to assist those attending to follow and take part in the liturgy. Normally, the service lasts around 90 minutes.
On festival days, High Mass begins with a procession in which the entire congregation joins. Processions are joyful expressions of praise and symbolise our common journey of faith.
On Sunday evenings at 6.30pm we offer Solemn Evensong and Benediction. Evensong follows a form of readings, music and prayer which has resounded through English-speaking cathedrals and churches for over 400 years; it is based on the ancient monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. It is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in which we give thanks to God for his sacramental gift to us. During the winter months Evensong begins with the ceremony of Lucernarium – the lighting of the lamps of eventime. Normally, the service lasts around 60 minutes.
Old Saint Paul’s is part of the Edinburgh diocese of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Baptised members of all churches are welcome to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion; all are welcome at the altar for a blessing.