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The service is a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, which is the Greek word meaning "Thanksgiving." In the Eucharist, we give thanks for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. It is also known as Holy Communion, for in it we commune with God and also with each other as the Body of Christ.
The service is a drama that we all enter. The first act of the drama is "The Liturgy of the Word," based on Jewish worship that preceded Christianity. God's mighty acts in history are recalled through scripture and applied to our lives in the sermon. The second act of the drama is "The Liturgy of the Table." Through repeating the words and actions of Jesus' last meal with his disciples, we ourselves join the story and make it our own. In a mystery, bread and wine become the outward signs of inward grace received.
Holy Comforter worships in contemporary language, using Rite II from the Book of Common Prayer.
The Episcopal Church authorizes many bibles for use in public worship. At Holy Comforter, readings are usually from the New Revised Standard Version. Our worship bulletin on Sundays includes the lessons of scripture for the service. Of course, you may bring a bible, but what you need for the service is in the bulletin.
Book of Common Prayer
The primary guide for worship in the Episcopal Church is the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. The page numbers from The Book of Common Prayer are usually announced by the ministers throughout the service, but do not be embarrassed to ask your neighbor for the page number if you get lost. Look for the red book near your seat.
Holy Comforter uses the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church. Service music to accompany the Holy Eucharist is in the front; these pages have an "S" prefix. Hymns are in the remainder of the book, by number. It is the custom in our church for everyone to sing hymns and service music, except for the anthem sung by the choir during the offertory. Some hymns date back to the earliest use of music in Christian worship; other hymns are modern compositions of both word and music. Usually we have piano accompaniment, but occasionally we use other instruments. Look for the blue book near your seat.
At Holy Comforter, all Christians including children and non-Episcopalians are welcome to receive communion at God's altar. Priests or lay Eucharistic Ministers will offer you the bread and wine consecrated as the body and blood of Jesus Christ. You may receive the wine from a common cup or you may "intinct" by dipping the bread in the chalice. If you wish to receive a blessing rather than the Sacrament, simply cross your hands over your heart as a signal for the priest.
Episcopalians generally stand to sing, for affirmations of faith such as the Creed, and for the reading of the Gospel. We sit during readings from the Old Testament, the psalms, or New Testament Letters, the sermon, and the choir anthems. We stand or kneel for prayer to show our gratefulness to God for accepting us as children or as an act of humility before God.
At Holy Comforter the clergy and the lay persons participating in the service follow customs such as making the sign of the cross and bowing to the altar as a way of showing their love and respect for God. Whether you follow these customs is entirely up to you.
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