Holy Communion or "The Eucharist" (which means 'thanksgiving') is at the heart of Christian worship. It is celebrated by Christians around the world as a memorial of the death and resurrection of Jesus, in response to his words at the final meal he shared with his disciples, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the Eucharist, God invites us to his table as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet which he has prepared for people of all nations and cultures.
Outwardly, the Eucharist takes the form of a shared meal of bread and wine, recalling the fact that, at the Last Supper, Jesus associated the breaking of bread and sharing of wine with his own imminent death, giving them special significance. Inwardly, we believe that the simple offering of bread and wine becomes for us the body and blood of Jesus. As we feed on him in our hearts, Jesus comes to dwell in us, and builds us and binds us into the body of Christ ourselves.
STEP BY STEP
The President (the priest who takes the service and presides over our gathering) welcomes everyone in the Name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Prayer of Preparation is said together to ask God to prepare us to worship. Again, in preparation to worship and to receive Communion, we say Prayers of Penitence, where we say sorry to God for anything we have done wrong. Then priest pronounces God’s forgiveness over us. This is called the Absolution.
After this we say or sing the Gloria, an ancient prayer of praise and thanks to God.
The Liturgy of the Word
The Bible is read to us; first from the Old Testament, and then the New Testament. Then the Gospel for the day is read out, usually from the centre of the church, and we all turn to face it. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tell us about the words, works and ways of Jesus. When we hear Scripture read to us, we hear the Word of God.
We continue to listen to a Sermon. The preacher will talk about the passages of Scripture we have just heard, and what they men to us today as individuals, and as a gathered community, and a society.
After this we stand and say together the Creed, and ancient affirmation of the faith of the church.
Prayers of Intercession conclude this section of the service. These are prayers, said aloud by a memebr of the clergy or congregation where we bring before God the needs of the Church, the world, our local community, the suffering, people in need (such as those who are unwell), those who have died, and those mourning them and finally for ourselves for God’s guidance and help through the coming week.
The Liturgy of the Word
The Peace is shared by greeting each other with a handshake.
The Collection is taken for the work of the Church which is both the day-to-day
running of the church and giving to those in need.
Preparation of the Communion Table by the Priest. The bread and the wine are placed on it.
At the heart of the celebration there is always a special prayer of thanksgiving, or ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ (eucharisteinmeans ‘to give thanks’ in Greek). This is offered by the priest who presides at the service in the name of all who are gathered, giving thanks for all that God has given us in Christ.
The Priest reminds us of what happened on the night before Jesus died:
‘While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’. (Matthew 26: 26-28)
These are the wafer and wine we receive at Holy Communion.
After his resurrection, the disciples recognised Jesus as he broke bread to share with them. Each time we share the meal Jesus shared with his friends, we remember his offering of himself on the cross, we rejoice in his resurrection from the dead, and look forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom.
In the Church of England, we attend Confirmation Classes to help us to understand how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into Christian Holy Communion. The bread and the wine that we share at Holy Communion are to us the Body and Blood of Christ.
If you haven’t yet been confirmed, you are encouraged to come up to the altar rail to receive a Blessing, when the Priest will gently touch your shoulder and say a short prayer of blessing over you. Just bring a service booklet with you to the altar rail as a sign to the Priest.