Church for beginners

Many people, on their first visit to a church, are a little worried about how to behave. This page is a short guide to some of our common customs intended to reduce anxiety in new visitors.

Standing, Sitting and Kneeling

Because the chapel lacks kneelers, we don’t kneel as a general rule. The service booklet generally notes when you should stand or sit, the celebrant will usually invite you to stand or sit at the appropriate time either verbally or with a gesture.

Before the start of the service, you should sit (or if you prefer kneel) to meditate or pray quietly.

At the beginning of the service as the celebrant enters, the people stand to mark the beginning of the service. At the end of the service, as the celebrant moves to the front of the altar to depart, the people stand to mark the end of the service.


In some services, there is a section in which the celebrant may invite discussion on a particular topic. Take care in this case to be respectful of the other participants, take your cue about when to stop from the celebrant and try to stay mindful while speaking.

In general, though, a service is not a time to chat. Because an important part of the benefit of a service is an atmosphere that supports prayer and meditation, it’s appropriate to remain silent unless participating in the words of the service.

At the same time, a big part of being a church is about being a community. If you’d like some time to catch up with people before or after the service, linger outside the chapel room and talk there, then prepare yourself to enter silently into the prayerful environment of the chapel.

The Sign of the Cross

A common custom in all Christian communities is to make the sign of the cross at particular times. If you’re not comfortable doing so, don’t worry. If you’d like to adopt the custom (in one of its various forms), it is typically done:

  • Whenever a priest makes the sign of the cross over the people in a blessing or absolution
  • Whenever the name of the Blessed Trinity is said (we have several of these formulae such as “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”, “In the Name of the Pleroma and The Logos and the Pneuma Hagion” and so on)
  • At the end of the reading of the Gospel
  • After taking Communion

Taking Communion

Many churches restrict who is able to share in the bread and wine at a Communion or Eucharist service. The AJC welcomes anyone who wishes to join us in communion to share.

Common practice is to kneel to receive communion. Because our chapel has no communion rail or kneelers, this is a challenge, so the people usually receive communion standing. The priest will bring the consecrated host and the cup (or chalice) to you where you are standing. If you have no fear of hard floors and you’d prefer to kneel, feel perfectly free to.

The priest will stand in front of you with the chalice. He or she will dip the host into the consecrated wine and hold it before you saying, “Be what you see, receive what you are.” You should respond, “Amen” and then open your mouth. The priest will place the bread on your tongue – close your mouth and allow the bread to dissolve before swallowing it.

Once you have received communion, feel free to either kneel or sit and pray or meditate on the gifts of the Eucharist.

Forms of Address

Priests and other clergy are ordinary human beings with normal human strengths and weaknesses. When the community of the church chooses individuals to serve in the Major Orders, they take up an ancient office with heavy responsibilities on behalf of their community. Having said all that, we honour our tradition and the dignity of the offices of the Church by using particular terms when addressing ordained people:

The Patriarch — Your Eminence

Bishop — Your Excellency (or Your Grace, if an Archbishop)

Priest — Father (male) or Mother (female)

Deacon — Deacon


The celebration of liturgy is an occasion for joy because we draw closer together as a community, we draw a little closer to the Divine and we offer ourselves as agents for the ongoing life of the world. If you’re unfamiliar with attending services, all these guidelines might seem a little overwhelming, but don’t worry – it’s not hard to follow, there’s people there to help and we were all new once.

The important thing is being open to the mystery of liturgy and present to the other human people working with you. If you can do that, everything else falls into place.

Welcome to Saint Uriel’s!

Membership & Service

Many regulars at Saint Uriel’s attend one of more gatherings or events in the parish without feeling a need to develop a stronger bond with the church and that’s just fine. There’s no requirement at all to formalise membership in order to be a part of the community.

Some people are interested in deepening their connection to the Johannite tradition. This can take several forms: membership, service and religious vocations.



You can become a member of the AJC by baptism, confirmation (if you’re already baptised) or being received into the church (if you’re already confirmed). You stay a member as long as you share in the Eucharist with us at least once a year. Membership does not involve fees of any kind.

Before becoming a member, you would typically attend a few services, meet with Bishop Tim and discuss your spiritual journey and investigate the church a little. If you’re interested, drop in.



Some members and regulars are moved to volunteer time to help out with organising gatherings and events assist in services or start new initiatives.

If you can see a way you’d like to help, or something you’d like to improve, or you just feel you’d like to help but aren’t sure where, talk about what you’re thinking either with people in your group or with Bishop Tim.

We always need help to get better at what we do!


A religious vocation is a recognition in yourself that you feel called to serve the community as an ordained person. This is different from an ambition to serve or a decision to serve, a calling is recognised in the self, but also seems to come from somewhere deeper or somewhere beyond the self.

The AJC ordains people to three different kinds of vocation: minor orders, major orders and monastic orders.

The Minor Orders embody a practical service to the community as well as a dedication to inner growth explored in the world and in community. There are four stages to the Minor Orders: doorkeeper, reader, healer and acolyte – each carries responsibilities for some parish functions as well as requiring a programme of study and work.

The Major Orders (deacon, priest and bishop) embody a responsibility to maintain the community and the church as a whole, to serve all people and to ensure the community’s access to the sacraments (baptism, confirmation, eucharist, unction, matrimony, reconciliation and ordination). Candidates for the Major Orders enrol in a distance learning curriculum via the the AJC seminary to undergo the process of Formation which may take several years. Successful candidates must make their way to the annual AJC Conclave in the USA to receive ordination from the Patriarch.

Monastic Orders involves entering a religious order as a monk (a term used these days for both men and women). Entering an order involves taking vows to undertake spiritual practice and service. The AJC currently sponsors the Order of the Temple and Saint John.

If you feel a yearning to become involved in a life of deeper service through the Orders, talk to Bishop Tim. Further information about the St. Raphael the Archangel Theological Seminary or the Order of Saint Esclarmonde is available from the main AJC website.


Once a month (usually on the fourth Sunday but check the parish calendar), the parish gathers in the chapel at the Unitarian Centre, 15 Francis St, Darlinghurst.

Our current format goes like this:

5:30pm Contemplation
6:30pm Eucharist service
7:30pm Dinner

Anyone is welcome to any part of the evening. If you’d like to come early and meditate, but you’d rather go for a walk instead of the Eucharist and then rejoin us for dinner, that’s just fine. If meditation makes you want to reach for a sharp object, but you want to come to the service, we’re delighted to see you. If you just want to join us for dinner because conversations like this are hard to get, bring a plate and join in!


centering prayer

Many parish members practice Centering Prayer – a method of entering into contemplative prayer or meditation which has become popular in the last 20 years – but any style of silent meditation is welcome. The session will usually start with a brief talk about meditation and some basic instruction for new people, then 20 minutes of meditation, followed by a short discussion and some opportunity to discuss any difficulties with meditation practice.

Eucharist Service


A Eucharist is sometimes known in other churches as “Mass” or “Holy Communion”. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an ancient type of gathering in which the members of the community assemble, offer praise and give thanks, share in the word through reading scripture, offer prayer on behalf of those in need, commune with the Divine Presence and offer ourselves in service to the world. The Eucharist draws us to each other in community and love and draws us into the love of the Divine.

We celebrate open communion: anyone is welcome to share the service and take communion with us regardless of background, religious belief (or lack of) or affiliation.

If you aren’t familiar with Christian-style church services, you may find it helpful to read “Church For Beginners” which gives a few tips.


Sharing food is one of the oldest and most enjoyable human rituals. One of the things that made early Christians remarkable was their dinner tables – women eating with men, slave next to free woman, Jew next to Gentile, tax collectors and saints, apostles and sex workers. Bread and wine – the material form of spiritual nourishment in the Eucharist – are also the material nourishment that bring the community together.

At St Uriel’s, we’ve always tried to share food – either a well-stocked snack table or a full meal. We find that some kinds of discussion only start when people can relax and when we all contribute something to the table, no matter how small, we share yet another sense of being a household together.

Guests are always welcome at our table. If you can bring food to share, please do, but if times are tough or that’s too hard, come anyway. No-one will ask questions and we always seem to have too much.

Ascension Sunday

This Sunday 16 May is the Sunday after Ascension. Ascension is the moment in the Gospel story where Jesus, having died, risen and kept on teaching his core disciples for several weeks, finally leaves them ascends to heaven.

It’s a dramatic point in the story and concludes some very stark and vivid teaching (the Gospel of John, in particular, spends a lot of time on this period).

In the mystical tradition, Ascension represents the non-dual reality of the Divine. Beyond the well-trod path of epiphany, purification, illumination, union with the Divine (in which there is still a Self and a Divine Other), stands a further stage in which the Self is surrendered.

Bernadette Roberts, a Catholic non-dual mystic, talks about this phase as losing the sense that there is even an inside and an outside. She says that at the Ascension, far from simply disappearing, Christ “disappears” into all living reality in a union of the formless with form.

In the Acts, the disciples continue to look to the sky seeking after Jesus until an angel tells them to stop searching for Him “up there”.

In the Eucharist we celebrate this deepest of mysteries: that the Divine is never absent, that She is as close as our very breath, as intimate as the dearest lover. We cultivate this understanding through the sacrament until, in our own journey of discovery we are able to realise it in ourselves.

Come and join us for a chapel service this Sunday to dwell in the mystery and to give thanks.

Readings for the week

I’m away from next Friday for a couple of weeks at the AJC global conclave in Wisconsin, so there won’t be a service while I’m away. That’s the reason for the change in service date.

I’d love a chance to see you before I go and ask for your blessing on my journey.

Fr. Tim+

Eucharist Service – 6pm, Sun 16 May
15 Francis St, Darlinghurst

The service this Sunday will be a “Sophianic Eucharist”. The service praises Sophia or Holy Wisdom as the immanent, feminine face of the Divine and celebrates the sacred marriage between the immanent and transcendent aspects of Spirit. The service features prayer and chant and the sharing of the Body and the Blood in the form of bread and wine.

Please stay for a light supper after the service.

Future of Christianity II reminder

A quick reminder from Ben Burke, who has been organising the “Future of Christianity” series:

Just a reminder of our get together tomorrow (2nd May) for Part 2 of the Future of Christianity Documentary and talk.

We’ll be meeting at 3:00pm for a 3:30pm start.

This event takes place at the Unitarian Church, 15 Francis Street Darlinghurst.

After the documentary, John O’Neil will be giving a talk based on the following:

The talk that I’m preparing for May 2 is about Raimon Panikkar, a very interesting Catholic philosopher and scholar, aged 92, living in Spain, with Spanish Catholic and Indiann Hindu heritage, who brings together in his life and work ” the marriage of East and West” . He’s written over 40 books and hundreds of articles. I’m starting to make a study of his work and the similarities between his thought and Wilber’s. Ken mentions in Integral Spirituality Page 199 that “the work of Raiomon Panikkar is provocative in many profound ways” I’ll be focusing on his book Christophany which came out in 2004. He said it
sums up 50 years of work Ken sent Rollie Stanich over to dialogue with Panikkar soon after both books came out. My talk will be very much a work in progress with lots of quotes from Panikkar’s book which resonate with Wilber’s philosophy. Hopefully it will be of some interest.

Tim will be performing a Eucharist afterwards in the chapel, around 6pm. Come along for both events if you can!