Holy Communion or "The Eucharist" (which means 'thanksgiving') is at the heart of Christian worship. Our main services are Communion Services, and this is the pattern of our regular worship.
The words and structure can seem unusual, but at St Mary's, we don't have rules, so never worry about whether you should sit or stand, just do what feels natural, or simply follow instruction. The priest who leads the service guides us through everything.
This guide will let you know, step by step, what happens in our services.
THE GATHERING - WE MEET AND PREPARE TO WORSHIP
The President (the priest who takes the service and presides over our worship) 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.
A special prayer written for that specific day is said. This is called the Collect.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD - WE HEAR BIBLE READINGS, LEARN AND PRAY
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 SACRAMENT - WE CELEBRATE HOLY COMMUNION
Christ's Peace is shared by greeting each other with a handshake, a hug or even a wave, and we say "Peace be with you".
During the Offertory, a 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, and the altar is prepared; 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’ (eucharistein means ‘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
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.
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 as a member of the church, you are invited to receive a Blessing, when the Priest will say a short prayer of blessing over you.
THE DISMISSAL - WE GO OUT IN TO THE WORLD
Once everyone has received Holy Communion, and the altar has been cleared, the president leads us in a prayer.
The president proclaims God's Blessing on us, and we are told to "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord", to which we reply "in the name of Christ, Amen!".
After our main service on a Sunday we serve refreshments and catch up with each other.