Welcome to the Eucharist

A Guide for Sharing in our Worship on Sundays

That’s how this service of Holy Communion is described in our Prayer Book. We hold this service at the center of our community. The word “Eucharist” actually means “thanksgiving.” But it’s hard to be thankful when one is confused by the liturgy: Which book? Whether to stand or to kneel? Which way to go? How to get to the altar? So because we have many visitors and newcomers, and because many of our parishioners were not raised in the Episcopal Church, we thought we’d offer some thoughts and suggestions about how we worship together in this community.

We encourage worship to begin quietly. Use the time before the service to reflect and pray, to look over the readings for the day (printed in the bulletin) and to get ready to meet God in worship. Try to keep conversation to a minimum. Listen to the prelude played by our organist. It is in itself a kind of prayer.

Bulletins are available from the greeters as you enter the church. There are also paper and crayons to keep children occupied (Parents should also note that care for children ages 4 and up is available during the 10:00 a.m. service during the school year. Ask an usher or greeter if you’re interested in this.)

It’s been said that the person who sings prays twice.  We invite you to take in the words as well as the music. The hymns are always chosen to reflect the theme of the day. We invite you to join in singing the hymns.

We believe in this community that God speaks to us through the reading of the scripture and through sermons. We print out the readings assigned for the day so that people can appreciate them more fully as they are read and can take them home and read, mark, and inwardly digest them.

We are people of the book. Actually, we are people of several books. We read three or four lessons from the Bible each week. We also use a hymnal and a Prayer Book. The hymnal is the blue book in the rack in front of your seat; the Prayer Book is the red one. Occasionally we use two more hymnals found in your pew, the red and black Lift Every Voice and Sing collection from the African-American tradition, and Wonder, Love and Praise, a collection of contemporary song.

You’ll notice that there’s a lot of movement in the service…sitting, standing, kneeling. It’s all meant to be helpful in acting out the different parts of the service. There are indications in the prayer book and, if you’re looking for cues, follow a neighbor. If you’re not too sure, you might not want to sit in the first row. But don’t worry about getting it right. The most important thing is that you are here.

During the Eucharistic Prayer — the long prayer offered over the bread and wine — you’ll notice that some people stand and some kneel. Either way is correct. There’s a good side to that. It allows for different expressions of worship. Standing is the early posture for prayer… a praiseful pose… an acknowledgement that we stand before God as children of grace. Kneeling has a more penitential tone which, for some folks, is more important to stress. Do what you feel like doing. Don’t worry about whether your neighbor is standing or kneeling.

At St. Paul’s all baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, are welcome to receive the bread and the wine at the altar. It is meant to be open to all who seek to follow Christ. If you do not want to receive communion, but would like to come to the altar with your family or friends, please do so… we would be pleased to offer a blessing. Children are welcome, and it’s best if young children receive with a parent or other adult supervising.

Our best advice: Follow the directions of the ushers who will indicate when you should go forward. The general rule is that you exit from one end of the row and re-enter from the other end.

You may stand or you may kneel. Rest one hand in the other, palm upward, to receive the bread. Many people receive the wine by “intinction” (dipping the bread into the chalice of wine). If you wish to do this, simply hold the wafer up so the chalice bearer will know that is your preference. If you prefer to receive the wine directly from the chalice, it is okay to take the chalice and help guide it to your lips.  Any communicant may also receive only the bread. If you prefer this, please cross your arms over your chest before the chalice bearer comes to you.

After you have received the bread and the wine, it is appropriate to say “Amen,” which is a way of saying “so be it” or “yes.” That openness is a wonderful way to expect God to work in your life through the sacrament.

After you have received the bread and the wine, you may return to your seat. If you prefer to receive only the bread, please wait until the people immediately next to you have received the wine before getting up.

Young children or others who do not wish to receive the sacrament are invited to come to the altar to receive a blessing. You can indicate this intention by crossing your arms over your chest before the bread and wine come to you. Once again, please remain there until the people next to you have received the sacrament.

If you prefer not to go up to the altar for any reason, feel free to remain in your seat.  It is courteous to make sure your kneeler is in the upright position and your possessions are tucked away so that others in your row may get through.

Please help young children to move quietly and reverently. Once back to your seat, use this time as a gift… a quiet moment in a hectic week. A hymn or Offertory Anthem is sung during the communion of the people. By all means, join in the singing!

The service will conclude with a prayer we all say together, with a blessing offered by the priest, and with a closing hymn. There is then a dismissal, one of the most important parts of the service, because what the dismissal is all about is being sent out into the world to do the work God has given each one of us to do. You will want to remain at your seat until after the dismissal has been spoken.

We believe that this service we celebrate… this sacrament, is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. As a grace, it is a gift from God… nothing we can earn or merit. But we are invited to pray for God’s grace to come to us and through us. So we close this document by offering these two prayers. We invite you to use these prayers as a way of opening yourself to God’s action in your life. They come from our Prayer Book (found on page 834, along with many other wonderful prayers):

Before receiving communion:
Be present, be present, O Jesus, our Great High Priest, as you were present with your disciples, and be known to us in the breaking of the bread; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen.

After receiving communion:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who in a wonderful sacrament hast left unto us a memorial of thy passion; Grant us we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

We hope you have found this document to be helpful. We know we haven’t answered all questions. Please feel free to ask the clergy or others if you have questions. You can also call 413-532-5060, or email us at office@stpaulsholyoke.org.