Like the early Church (Acts 2:42), we meet each Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.
Eucharist means “thanksgiving” and refers to the thanks we give to God for the gift of life, for the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit, and most of all, for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Eucharist consists of two parts: the Proclamation of the Word and the Celebration of the Eucharist.
We use two different Rites at St. Stephen’s. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which uses traditional language and The Book of Alternative Services (BAS). The Book of Common Prayer eucharist begins on page 67 (maroon cover). The Book of Alternative Services eucharist begins on page 185 (green cover). Our Hymnal (Common Praise) is blue.
The Gathering of the Community
PROCESSIONAL HYMN: We generally begin our worship with an opening hymn. The hymn number is noted on the hymn board at the front of the church and in the bulletin. The procession symbolizes the gathering of God’s people to worship.
OPENING GREETING: This Greeting reminds us why we are gathered to worship.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW: (BCP only) The priest recalls the Great Commandments of Jesus to love God and neighbour.
HYMN OF PRAISE: Usually the Gloria in excelsis or Kyrie Eleison. Again, the intent is to set a tone of praise and worship.
COLLECT OF THE DAY: The priest concludes the Gathering by leading a prayer that summarizes the spiritual themes for the day. The collect may be found on the first page of the bulletin.
The Proclamation of the Word
SCRIPTURE LESSONS: The Anglican Church uses a “lectionary” that assigns the readings for each Sunday. In the course of a three-year cycle, we read through most of the biblical text. We generally read a text from the Old Testament, the letters of Paul and the Gospels. You will note that there is a response from the people after each reading- “Thanks be to God”.
Because the Gospels provide our best picture of Jesus, we honour the Gospel reading with a procession from the altar with a special book that contains the four Gospels and we stand as we attend to their truth. A special set of responses occurs before and after the Gospel.
SERMON: Usually one of the clergy preaches a sermon on themes suggested by the readings.
THE CREED: After the sermon, we stand and recite the Creed (Nicene or Apostles’), a credal statement that summarizes the basic beliefs of the Christian faith, that was formulated early in the Church’s history. “Credo” literally means to “place your heart”. As followers of Jesus, we place our very hearts and lives in commitment to the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE: Prayer is an essential part of the Christian’s life. Our liturgy frames our prayer by reminding us of dimensions of our existence. In our prayers, we often name members of our parish who are ill, as well as parishoners who have recently died.
CONFESSION OF SIN: Each week, we invite a General Confession of Sin in which we are reminded that we have fallen short of the glory of God. The priest then stands and offers absolution (forgiveness) for our sins through Jesus Christ. The priest reminds us of the words of scripture that assures us of God’s love for all His creatures.
THE PEACE: Following the Confession, we stand forgiven and offer a sign of peace to our neighbour. This is in line with the scriptural admonition that if you have a grievance with your brother, go and settle with him before you offer your gift at the Altar. This is much more than “saying hello to your neighbour”, but rather is a symbol of regard for each person.
The Celebration of the Eucharist
THE OFFERTORY: After the announcements a hymn is sung as we bring forth the bread and the wine for our Holy Communion. Alms basins are passed among the people gathered for worship. This offering supports the mission and ministry of our parish and beyond. Our stewardship of God’s many gifts to us is expressed in our gifts to the ministry of the Church. The tithe is the standard of giving for the Christian.
SURSUM CORDA: Holy Communion begins with the salutation between the Celebrant and the People, with the priest exhorting the people to “lift up your hearts”. This invitation asks people to place their hearts and minds on the Kingdom of Heaven where indeed God reigns.
SANCTUS AND BENEDICTUS: This text comes from Isaiah as the prophet finds himself in the presence of God and “cries holy unto the Lord”. It is a deep expression of praise that speaks to the majesty of God. This text has traditionally been set to music by some of the great composers of the church and in most of our liturgies, we sing the Sanctus and Benedictus.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER: Using ancient texts that recount the mighty acts of God, our eucharistic prayer expresses our profound thanksgiving to our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We recall the “words of institution” that scripture tells us Jesus used on his last night on Earth in the holy meal he shared with His disciples. We take comfort in the promise he made: He will be present at future celebrations of this meal.
As Anglicans, we affirm the Real Presence of Christ in our eucharistic celebration. During the eucharistic prayer, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to be present in our celebration. At the conclusion, all the people affirm the spiritual truth of the prayer by sounding a hearty AMEN.
FRACTION: The Eucharistic Prayer is followed by the breaking of bread (the Fraction), a Fraction Sentence, and the Prayer of Humble Access (BCP). Then the priest invites the people to come and share in Holy Communion.
Receiving the Sacrament
We practice “Open Communion” in the Anglican Church. If you are a baptized Christian, you are welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament with us.
A sidesperson will tell your row when it is time to come forward. We fill the altar rail from right to left. Opportunity is given to receive both the bread and the wine. To receive, simply place your overlapped hands in front of the minister. The host (wafer) will be placed in your hands, at which point you may consume it. Another minister will follow behind with the chalice of wine. Take the base of the chalice and guide it to your lips for a sip of the wine. If you do not wish to receive the wine, simply cross your arms over your chest and and the minister will pass you by.
If you cannot come forward due to infirmity, please tell the sidesperson you wish to receive and a minister will bring the Sacrament to you at your pew. Our post-communion prayer follows communion and reminds us of the spiritual graces we have received.
THE BLESSING: The traditional blessing by the priest is given, followed by the Recessional Hymn in which the choir and ministers proceed to the back of the church. This is symbolic of our leaving worship to go into the world for service.
THE DISMISSAL: The priest (or a deacon, if present) pronounces the dismissal, entreating us to go into the world to love and serve the Lord.
If you are new to Anglican worship you may find some of the customs in our services unfamiliar. You will also find some variation of customs from parish to parish. Our priest will be happy to explain to you the symbolism of our worship.
One general rule of thumb for Anglicans is that we stand to praise God, sit for listening to instruction, and kneel humbly to pray.
Worship is the prime responsibility for all Christians. Anglicans believe that the life of Christian service is possible only through a full life of worship, through which we receive God’s love and express our love to Him. Hence, we believe it is our obligation not only to worship God together every Lord’s Day (Sunday) but also to have a daily life of prayer.
Anglicans are expected to pray. When we pray in private, each of us prays in his own way (although guidance and instruction are available for those who wish to grow in the life of prayer).
When we pray together in services of worship, our “common prayers” are ‘liturgical,’ that is, they are structured. Only in this way can we truly share our worship of God. Our liturgical worship involves the whole person, body, mind and spirit. We are active participants rather than just listeners.
Worship, we feel, goes from us to God rather than from a preacher to us. We come to church to give God the praise and worship which, as His creatures, we owe Him; not to get something for ourselves.
Know that you are welcome in our common worship of God. We hope you will join us in our journey in Christ and return often to pray and worship with us.