The Holy Eucharist
The principal weekly worship service for Episcopalians is called Holy Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, or the Mass. When you worship with us on a Sunday morning, this is the service you will experience.
The guide for these services is The Book of Common Prayer, a red book with a cross on the cover found in all pews. As you enter the sanctuary, you will be greeted by an Usher who will hand you an easy-to-follow paper service bulletin. The other book you will need is the blue Hymnal located in the pews.
The First Part of the Service – Liturgy of the Word
The first component, The Liturgy of the Word, is a set of Bible readings interspersed with group singing of hymns or psalms. One of the readings is always from the Gospels. Next, a sermon interpreting the readings appointed for the day is preached, and then the congregation recites the Nicene Creed, which was written in the Fourth Century and remains the Church’s statement of what we have believed ever since.
Next, the congregation prays together – for the Church, the world, and those in need. We pray for the sick, thank God for all the good things in our lives, and finally, we pray for the dead. The celebrant (the priest leading the service) concludes with a prayer that gathers the petitions into a communal offering of intercession.
The prayers end with the congregation formally confessing their sins before God and one another. This is a corporate statement of what we have done and what we have left undone, followed by a pronouncement of absolution. In pronouncing absolution, the celebrant assures the congregation that God is always ready to forgive our sins.
The congregation then greets one another with a sign of “peace.” This manifests itself by parishioners greeting those in nearby pews. This practice developed as a visible reminder to establish a right relationship with our neighbors before participating in the next part of the service…
The Liturgy of the Table
The second half of the service—The Liturgy of the Table—then begins. The priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, raises his or her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be With You.” Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the celebrant tells the story of our faith, from the beginning of Creation, through the choosing of Israel to be God’s people, through our continual turning away from God, and God’s calling us to return. Finally, the celebrant tells the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, and about the night before his death, on which he instituted the Eucharistic meal (communion) as a continual remembrance of him.
The celebrant blesses the bread and wine, and the congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, the celebrant breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.”
The congregation then shares the consecrated bread and the wine. At Trinity, we come to the altar, one pew at a time, and many receive bread first, then sip from the chalice. Intinction is another method of receiving communion, whereby the bread is dipped into the chalice, so that one receives the bread and wine together. It is also perfectly acceptable to receive communion in one kind only (bread).
All baptized Christians, regardless of age or denomination, are welcome to receive communion. Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take our baptism so seriously.
Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing. You can indicate this by crossing your arms across your chest as the priest approaches.
At the end of the Eucharist, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving, and then is dismissed to continue the life of service to God and to the World.