Special Services

& Celebrations

Special worship services

As part of the Anglican Church, St. John’s follows a liturgical calendar, an ancient way of matching worship with the life of Jesus. 

We celebrate key moments in Christ’s life and other important feast days through special services. In addition we have services to celebrate certain passages in our life of faith. Learn about our seasons, services and celebrations below. 

The first cycle of seasons covers about one quarter of our calendar year and is focused on the incarnation—that is, the birth of Jesus—and how God’s presence with us in this world focuses our attention on mercy and justice.


Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, at which time we adorn the church for the season. Advent is a season of waiting; we anticipate the presence of Jesus in the following ways:

Family Advent Wreath Making (Sunday December 3 at 6 PM) | On the first Sunday in Advent, join us for our annual intergenerational Advent Wreath Making event so you and your family can light the candles at home throughout Advent. Kits include candles, styrofoam base, and boxwood leaves.

Advent Evening Prayer: For the season of Advent, we will hold Evening Prayer on Thursdays in December (7, 14, and 21). Each service is led by St. John’s parishioners serving as presider and preacher.

Caroling, Chili & A Charlie Brown Christmas (Sunday, December 10 at 5 PM) | We gather outside in front of the church and go caroling together. Afterwards, warm up with a chili supper at the church and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Advent Lessons and Carols  (Sunday, December 17 at 5 PM) | On the Second or Third Sunday of Advent, we have a choral service in which Advent carols and scripture readings tell the story of anticipation. The service is followed by a reception.



We hold multiple services to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The first includes our Christmas pageant. The later services include Holy Communion, a sermon, and music by the St. John’s Choir. 


The Christmas season begins on December 25 and celebrates the incarnate presence of Jesus. We celebrate Christmas Day with Holy Eucharist in the morning and, for the duration of the twelve days of Christmas, the church is adorned in white.

Christmas Eve Schedule 2023

8 AM | Advent IV with Communion

Sunday Advent IV is also Christmas Eve this year. The 8 AM service will be the final service of the Advent season before we get ready for Christmas. It will be a quiet, meditative service and an opportunity to calm your soul and still your spirit before the Christmas rush.

4 PM | Christmas Pageant with Communion & Special Music

See and hear the story of Christmas acted out and sung by all ages. This service will include Holy Eucharist and all are invited to participate in the pageant.

6 PM | Christmas Service with Communion & Special Music

This service is a festival Eucharist celebrating the birth of Christ. The service concludes with the singing of Silent Night by candlelight. A small choir will lead this music at this service.

10 PM | Christmas Service with Communion & Special Music led by the Parish Choir

This service is a festival Eucharist celebrating the birth of Christ. This service includes Christmas carols led by the St. John’s Choir. The service concludes with the singing of Silent Night by candlelight.

Christmas Morning Schedule 2023

10 AM | Christmas Service with Communion & Carols All are welcome for a beautiful, simple service of Holy Eucharist to celebrate the birth of Jesus.


Epiphany is on January 6 and marks the day the Wise Men visited Jesus in Bethlehem. Tradition holds that this is the time for blessing our homes and worship space. We celebrate with a lively worship service on the Sunday closest to January 6th, followed by a party. The color is white.


Following the feast of Epiphany is Ordinary Time, in which we focus our lives on a world transformed by the incarnational presence of Jesus. The seasonal color of the church is green to celebrate the light of Christ’s presence that shines upon a darkened world. The following are particular dates of celebration during the Season of Epiphany:

Baptism of Jesus | On the Sunday after Epiphany we have baptisms and a renewal of baptismal vows during the service.

Shrove Tuesday | On the evening before Ash Wednesday (also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday), we have a Mardi Gras pancake supper and a Jazz concert in the Church. The concert is free, however we ask for a goodwill offering in memory of parishioner, Peter Bierrie for the Essex Oil Fund.

The second cycle covers three quarters of the calendar year and focuses on our eternal communion with the resurrected Christ.


The season of Lent anticipates Christ’s death and resurrection with a long meditation on the Cross. For forty days, the church is draped in purple, and we refrain from saying “Alleluia!” in worship. Several services and gatherings help us celebrate Lent:

  • Shrove Tuesday (February 13): We offer an intergenerational Ash “Wednesday” service in the Parish Hall at 5:30 PM for 30-ish minutes. Then join us in the Undercroft for a pancake supper at 6 PM, and then a Jazz Concert in the Church for 7 PM.
  • Ash Wednesday (February 14): Services at 10 AM and 7 PM (evening service with the St. John’s Choir).
  • Palm Sunday (March 24): Holy Eucharist service with The Liturgy of the Palms at 8 AM and 10:15 AM. At the 10:15 AM service, there is a Sunday Parade with Palms beginning in the Essex Town Park. To participate in the parade, please come 15 minute before the service. Directly following each service is a coffee hour reception in the Parish Hall. There will be no 5 PM service on Palm Sunday.  
  • Maundy Thursday (March 28): An “agape meal” at 6 PM followed by a Eucharist service at 7 PM with foot-washing and the stripping of the altar.
  • Watchnight (March 28-29): Vigil in the Church beginning after the Maundy Thursday service until the next morning.
  • Good Friday (March 29): A meditative service at noon.
  • Holy Saturday (March 30): A simple midday prayer service at noon.
  • The Great Easter Vigil (March 30): A quiet meditative service with baptisms, renewal of baptismal vows, and candles, which turns into a raucous celebration of the Resurrection. Service begins at 7 PM. This service is followed by a reception.


Easter celebrates the resurrected Christ in our midst. On Easter morning, we celebrate with a Festal Eucharist. The church is adorned in color to celebrate Christ.

  • Easter Sunrise Service, 6:00 AM at the CT River Museum (weather permitting)

    This is a perfect service for welcoming the community and sharing the Easter celebration with our neighbors. It is beautifully timed to enjoy the first Eucharist of Easter Sunday just as the sun is rising over the river. For those attending, please bring your own chairs.

  • Easter Services, 8:00 AM & 10:15 AM

    Holy Week concludes with the greatest feast of the Christian year, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. With unbridled festivity, we pull out all the stops in our liturgy and music.

  • Easter Egg Hunt

    The St. John’s Easter Egg Hunt for children of all ages begins after the 10:15 AM service. The Egg Hunt takes place in the Amphitheater.

    *There is no 5:00 PM service on Easter Day. Those who regularly attend the 5:00 PM service are encouraged to attend either the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening or one of our other Easter services.


Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and a celebration of the Holy Spirit. We wear red on this day, have baptisms, renew our baptismal vows, and have a party with a red sheet cake after the services. Pentecost begins the season of Ordinary Time, which is focused on living our life as it will be for eternity.


The following feast days and St. John’s traditions take place during ordinary time:

Fall Kick-Off | On the Sunday after Labor Day, we kick off our program year with and celebrate the return of regular services with the St. John’s Choir, adult formation and intergenerational programming.

Feast of St. Francis | On the first Sunday of October, we celebrate St. Francis, the patron saint of animals with an animal blessing. All pets are invited.

All Saints’ Day | On the Sunday closest to November 1, we celebrate the communion of saints with baptisms and a renewal of baptismal vows. At all services, we honor all of our departed parishioners, family members, and neighbors who have passed away during the prior year. We read the necrology. 

Altar of Remembrance | During the month of October, we remember our loved ones who have passed away with an altar of remembrance on which parishioners are invited to leave pictures of their loved ones.


In the Episcopal Church, Christian marriage is a sacramental rite in which two persons, regardless of gender, enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.

All active parishioners and their family members may be married at St. John’s.  If you are currently not a member, or would like to know more about St. John’s or the Episcopal Church, we sincerely invite you reach out to us and make an appointment to visit with the clergy and get to know more about our worshipping community.

This is a place where you are very welcome, and we would be honored to be a part of your celebration of love for each other, which you have discerned the need to be grounded in God’s love for all of us.


Through Baptism, God’s children are made “members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God” (Book of Common Prayer, 1979).

It marks the initiation of a person in her or his walk with Christ. This sacrament is celebrated within a service of the Holy Eucharist on a Sunday in order that those who are gathered together can acknowledge their responsibility to help nurture those who are being baptized.

For more information about baptism, please contact the church office at (860)-767-8095, or chelsea@stjohnsessex.org, and schedule a discussion with a member of the clergy.

We look forward to visiting with you further!


Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

When a member of the parish dies or is near death, the church office should be notified immediately at (860) 767-8095. The Rector and staff are ready to be of assistance at any hour and are willing to be with the family while burial arrangements are made at the funeral home if their presence is desired.

It is highly recommended that either the family or the funeral home call the church office before a burial date and time is set and publicized so that no time conflicts occur.


Taizé (pronounced: tay-zay) is a prayerful form of worship noted for its simple yet rich and meditative character. The Taizé worship tradition finds its roots in the ecumenical French monastic community of Taizé, founded in 1940. This ecumenical community receives visitors from across the globe of many denominations and seeks to unite all forms of Christianity. 

The Taizé service is a contemplative worship experience of meditation, reflection, liturgical readings, and music. There is no preaching, and the experience comes alive through the active participation of all assembled by focusing and deepening our faith through the power of prayer. 

The heart of the body of music offered at this service often takes the form of ostinato (a simple melody that repeats over and over) and aims to center prayer. Simple in nature, Taizé music is designed to move our prayer from the head to the heart. If you have worshiped at a Sunday evening service at St. John’s, you have likely experienced one of these short chants. 

This service provides time to get away from our busy week and experience the contemplative and quieting power of prayer.

Choral Evensong

Choral Evensong is a traditional service that takes place in the late afternoon or early evening. It is a service of prayer and worship that is centered around choral music, with psalms, readings, and hymns sung by choir with support of the organ. The service typically lasts around an hour and provides a space for reflection, contemplation, and connection with the divine.

One of the most significant aspects of Choral Evensong is the focus on the beauty and power of music. The choir will provide a unique and powerful way to connect with the divine, and the hymns and choral anthems are breathtakingly beautiful.

Choral Evensong is a service that is steeped in history and tradition, dating back centuries. It provides a space for reflection and contemplation and is designed to inspire and uplift the soul.