Your guide to what a church is, how it works, and what is expected of you.
Church is any group of people who meet to worship God in a Christian context and the place where they meet is usually called a church too, although increasingly the meeting places can be hotels, halls, pubs and private homes. Synagogue, Mosque, Temple are some of the names which people of other faiths use for their meeting places.
Church people often meet on Sunday mornings although Sunday evenings are still used in some places too for meetings. The meetings often have the word service in them. So they can be called "services of worship" or "services" or "church services". Specialist events like weddings are called after the kind of event they celebrate, like wedding services. Nowadays some Christian groups use other days of the week for their worship services, and they often just call them meetings or gatherings. The older more traditional types of church usually stick with the word "service".
Do you have to be invited to go along?
No. The services are open to the public, like the library or the cinema, and they are free of charge. You don't have to be a member, or have any connections with a church in order to come along.
What do people do at a service?
They sing songs sometimes called hymns, there is a leader who will pray or get other helpers to pray, read the Bible, and speak about it. Sometimes there is a voluntary contribution for the work of the church called the offering, and it can be collected during a hymn or piece of music. You don't have to contribute, it is entirely voluntary. In traditional churches the leader at the front is often the Minister, or Rector, or Vicar, or Pastor or Priest. Their name depends on the type of church it is. In Scotland "Minister" is widely used.
What else goes on?
Churches often have groups who meet during the week to do things. Sometimes they have a purely social function, sometimes they have a charitable aim, and sometimes they are for helping people to study their faith using the Bible or other study material. Some groups like to have a mix of all these things in their activities. Usually these groups love to welcome newcomers.
Who runs the Church?
Different churches have different structures. The Church of Scotland has a Minister and a group of people called Elders. Minister and elders together are called the Kirk Session. They make decisions about Church life. Some Churches have a separate group to look after the property and the church's income. There are various names for such a group, "Deacons Court", "Board of Managers" and "Congregational Board" being among the most popular.
Would I be expected to do something?
No, not right away. You could come along on a Sunday and simply observe, without even joining in the singing or anything. If you wanted to keep coming on that basis that would be fine. If you wanted to become more involved then there would be plenty things you could join in with without any commitment on your part.
How do you join?
Joining happens when you feel you want to. You speak to the leader and they will explain what has to happen next. It may involve different things for different people, but will include what is called a profession of faith, which is being asked if you believe in God, Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit of God.