Guide to Holy Communion at St John the Evangelist, Washingborough

Holy communion, sometimes called the Eucharist, is a celebration of the Last Supper, the meal that Jesus shared with his closest followers before he was arrested and crucified. At that meal, Jesus explained that the bread which they shared represented his body which would shortly be broken for them and the wine represented his blood, which was poured out as he died.

Christians believe that Jesus' death, as the only sinless man, broke the bonds of death and that his blood washed away peoples' sins so that they might be able to enjoy eternity with God after their own deaths.  Early Christians, from about the year 150 AD, used a form of communion which our present service is based upon.

There are eleven parts to the service, nine lead up to the actual communion and a blessing afterwards is the last part.

In the text, the person 'running' the service is known as the President, because she or he presides.
There are usually four hymns, it's quite alright to not bother with the titles of the hymns but in order they are the Processional, the Gradual, the Offertory and the Recessional.

If you take communion and have a problem with gluten, we have some gluten-free wafers. Please let someone know before the service begins. If you are a tax-payer, you can gift aid your donation today in a yellow envelope.

Page 1

The gathering. Words of greeting are exchanged and the Prayer of Preparation is said by all. This prayer reminds everyone that nothing is hidden from God and that we come to the service for a holy purpose, putting aside thoughts of the world outside.

Page 2

At this point various excerpts from the Bible can be spoken. Some of them are given in full in the service booklet between pages 40 and 50. Usually, Jesus' summary of the law is used. Then an invitation to confess is said. This is a time in which we reflect on anything that we have done, said or thought that might not be acceptable to God.

Page 3

One of two confessions are used. The Anglican church doesn't usually go in for private confession but if there is anything troubling you please feel free to talk in private with the Rector or one of the church officials after the service.

Page 4

During Lent we sing the Kyrie eleison. These two Greek words mean 'Lord, have mercy'.

The president pronounces absolution, meaning that your personal sins are absolutely and permanently forgiven by God. If the president is an ordained minister, the actual words as printed are used. If the service is being taken by a Lay person, one who hasn't been ordained, the you is changed to us.

Page 5

The Gloria in Excelsis is the Latin for the words of the first line. This is an hymn of praise and worship. It too, is very ancient, dating from around 200AD. The first two lines are the words of the angels to the shepherds.

Because the church likes to use special and sometimes confusing names, the special prayer for the day is known as The Collect. It is printed in the pew news if you wish to follow it.

Page 6

Readings. Sometimes a section of the Old Testament is read followed by part of the New Testament. Usually, though, we just have a New Testament reading here. This is the first part of the service that a member of the congregation is responsible for.

The Gospel reading. The Gospel tells of the life and work of Jesus and is so important that the book is brought into the middle of church to be read from. Customarily, people turn to face the book during the reading as a sign of respect.

The Gospel is returned to the altar and a sermon is preached, usually based on the Gospel reading. The readings for the day are on the pew sheet if you want to follow them or read them when you get home.

Page 7

The Nicene Creed is used here. The Nicene Creed was adopted in the city of Nicea (now isnik in Turkey) in 325 AD. An alternative, the Apostle's Creed, is on Page 44.
This is a statement of belief about Christianity..

Page 8

Intercession. These are 'prayers of asking' written to be topical and read by a member of the congregation.

Page 9

The Peace. Please feel free to shake hands with as many or as few people as you wish.

The preparation of the table. Bread, wine and water are taken up to the altar and the collection is taken.  The president and the server mix some water with the wine. This is done for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was always done. Two thousand years ago, wine was very strong, almost syrupy, and had to be mixed with water. Secondly, we can be reminded of the blood and water which flowed from Jesus' side when he was pierced by the spear (John 19, 34). Thirdly, it is symbolic. Jesus is the wine and we are the water and once mixed, cannot be separated. Fourthly, also symbolic, it represents the divinity and the humanity of Jesus.

There now follows one of the Eucharistic prayers (A to H). Usually, the prayer is shown on the hymn board. All the prayers are similar but of different lengths and have different responses for the congregation to say.

After 'Holy, Holy, Holy' has been sung the congregation sit or kneel. This part of the service has to be conducted by a ordained minister and if one isn't present, this part of the service is omitted.

During the prayer, the president touches the communion wafers and the cup(s) of wine. From this point they actually represent the body and blood of Jesus and are treated with great respect.

Page 12

The Lord's prayer. Two versions are given, a modern version and a traditional one.

Page 13

With the wafers is a larger wafer, which is here broken to symbolise the time that Jesus broke and shared bread at the Last Supper.

Another bit of Latin - 'Agnus Dei' means Lamb of God.

The president invites the congregation to share the communion

Page 15

These prayers used to have the rather wonderful title of 'The Prayer of Humble Access' and is a prayer stating that we are not worthy to take part in the communion except by God's mercy.

People are invited up to the altar. If you are not confirmed, you may go up for a blessing. Please take the service booklet with you to show this.

After everyone has received communion, any wine or wafers left over are consumed. Occasionally, small quantities are kept in case someone in hospital or who is housebound wants to have a home communion.

Page 16 and 17

The service draws to a close with a few last prayers.

We hope and pray that your time with us today is a time of blessing. If you have any questions or find something confusing, please talk with someone. We love to talk about our faith and our worship.