Worship at St. Philip’s
Worship at St. Philip’s
Worship at St. Philip’s is reflective of our history and culture as a church founded by African Americans but in the Episcopal/Anglican tradition. As Episcopalians, our form of worship is liturgical, which is to say that it follows an ordered sequence of prayers, scripture and hymns, based upon ancient patterns. Nevertheless, we continually strive to build upon those ancient roots and take into account our cultural history and legacy as we work to make our worship relevant to our contemporary context and diverse needs as New Yorkers in the Village of Harlem. At St. Philip’s Church, music plays an integral role in our worship and is inextricably linked to and seeks to work with all other components of the liturgical life and worship of our faith community. Sunday worship is the central activity of our common life. At the celebration of the Holy Eucharist we come together as a community of faith to give joyful thanks and praise to God; to be reinvigorated through the proclamation of holy scripture and receipt of the sacrament of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ; to renew our relationships with one another, and to be strengthened and sent out as actors in God’s mission in the world.
During the programmatic year, September – June, St. Philip’s offers two worship services each Sunday morning.
At 9am, we offer a said service of Holy Eucharist; that is, a spoken worship service of Holy Eucharist (Communion) with prayers and a sermon but without hymns or music. This service is often attractive to those who prefer and/or who wish, from time to time, to experience a more contemplative service of prayer and reflection.
At 11:15am, we offer a choral Holy Eucharist, which features hymns led by one of our choirs, and which periodically includes the use of incense and communal chanting of certain sections of the worship service. Specifically, worship is led by the Chancel Choir on the first, second and fourth Sundays and by the Voices of Praise contemporary choir on the third and fifth Sundays.
A lay reader is a member of the congregation who reads passages from Holy Scripture or leads the congregation in the Prayers of the People during the worship service.
The acolyte ministry is open to both youth and adults of the parish. Acolytes assist the clergy in leading worship by lighting the candles in the sanctuary and nave, carrying the cross and torches in the procession and helping to prepare the altar for Holy Communion. Serving as an acolyte provides participants with an opportunity to enrich their lives and their faith by deepening their liturgical experience while also helping the church service to run smoothly.
A Chalice Bearer, or Lay Eucharistic Minister, assists clergy with distributing the wine during Holy Communion. It is also expected that Lay Eucharist Ministers will take Holy Communion to sick parishioners after the service, from time to time.
the Altar Guild is a group of laypersons entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the altar for all services and of caring for the communion vessels and elements for Holy Communion.
Ushers warmly greet our worshipers and also assist in the smooth operation of the liturgy by managing seating, the offertory and the flow of the congregation during Holy Communion.
Our team of Greeters extend a warm welcome to visitors and newcomers and serve in a ministry of hospitality after services offering an informal orientation to the church and answering questions during our coffee hour following the 11:15am service. For more information, please contact Joan Arnold.
“Music at its best ushers us into the holy, deepens our prayers, heightens our praise, provides an aura of beauty that reflects the nature of God, lifts us into God’s presence, and strengthens our bonds with all creation.”
~ Dr. William Bradley Roberts, Virginia Theological Seminary
From centuries’ old traditional Christian hymnody to Anglican chant to Negro Spirituals or to more contemporary Gospel hymns, the music at St. Philip’s strives to be “music at its best”. Currently, our music program consists of the Chancel Choir, the Voices of Praise Contemporary Choir, and the Handbell Choir.
The Chancel choir of St. Philip’s sings on the first, second and third Sundays of every month, from September – June. It is a group of faithful volunteers who lead the worship service singing traditional hymns, anthems and choral mass settings. At present, the Chancel choir rehearses on Thursday evenings from 6:00 – 7:30pm, in addition to a morning rehearsal preceding the 11:15am Eucharist. If you wish to join the Chancel choir, you may contact Erik Carlson at 212-862-4940.
Voices of Praise Contemporary Choir
The Voices of Praise Contemporary Choir leads the congregation in singing on the third and fifth Sundays of each month. As their name suggests, this choir performs a varied musical selection of both traditional gospel as well as contemporary gospel and Christian songs.
The Voices of Praise Choir rehearses on Friday evenings at 6:00pm. If you are interested in singing with the V.O.P. choir, please contact Mr. Charles Lovell at the church office, 212-862-4940.
The Handbell Choir
The handbell choir is comprised of an enthusiastic, intergenerational group of children, teenagers and adults that serve as bell ringers for our three octave set of Malmark handbells. The unique sound of handbells provides a beautiful accompaniment to the liturgy. The Handbell choir performs at festival services, such as the annual service of Advent Lessons and Carols, the Easter service and on other special occasions.
The historic Aeolian-Skinner organ, designed by the legendary G. Donald Harrison and installed in 1952, is the foundation for the music ministry of this church. It was considered by organists and organ-builders alike to be quite a unique and fine instrument upon its installation, and many noted performers have been featured in recital at St. Philip’s. Its classic tonal design provided for a fine ensemble of voices which today remain perfect in this great space, designed for fine music.
The placement of the 39 ranks and four divisions of the organ (Great, Swell, Choir and Pedal) in two acoustic chambers to the right and left above the Chancel strongly supports congregational singing. In addition, the sounds of the instrument so perfectly fill the church that if one is in the Choir Room, below the main church and quite far from the organ, the delicate, bright sounds of just the 8′ and 4′ flutes in the Choir Division can be clearly heard-almost as if they are in the room!
As well, a Trompette-en-Chamade speaks dramatically from the rear of the nave. This elegant stop is considered by many to be the first set of such pipes installed by Mr. Harrison in this country.
This wonderful instrument has faithfully served St. Philip’s Church for over 50 years but is now in great need of repair and restoration. YOU can help! In order to help restore this great organ and continue a tradition of great music at St. Philip’s Church, please consider making a donation. Please make any checks payable to “St. Philip’s Church” and write “organ restoration” in the memo.
Beyond the music that is sung and performed as part of our worship, St. Philip’s also offers special concerts and musical events, such as Jazztree, at various times of the year. For general information on Jazztree, see below. To stay current on other special concert and musical events, see “Special Events”.
St. Philip’s Jazztree arranges for several performances during the year by outstanding jazz vocalists and instrumentalists on Sunday afternoons in the undercroft. Concerts are given four or five times per year. Recent performances have included such top-flight performers as Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, Valerie Capers, Barry Harris, Jazzberry Jam, La Familia with Willie Martinez, Steve Turre, Ray Vega, the late Earl May and Irene Reid just to name a few.
St. Philip’s Jazztree was created in 1988 to take up the challenge of bringing jazz back to Harlem. Harlem’s major jazz clubs closed during the 1960’s with the demise of the ‘big band’ era, and the growing popularity of rock and roll. Today the Jazztree enjoys the loyal support of numerous jazz fans in the community. Concert tickets are $20. For more information on upcoming Jazztree concerts, check our calendar.