Holy Eucharist is the central and public act of worship of the church. The community gathers to hear the Word of God in scripture and sacrament, seeking to draw the community nearer to God by creating an atmosphere in which people become open to God’s love. We can think of liturgy as sacred theater in which the community can become attuned to God’s presence and be changed by the experience of the holy. It is an opportunity for God to disturb us. All are welcome at God’s table which is open to all.
The service, using the form in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 has two principle parts – the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table.
Liturgy of the Word
The emphasis is on hearing what God has to say to us through prayer, scripture, and preaching. For this reason we do not approach the altar during this part of the service because it would detract from the focus on Word. Worship begins with the praise of God, followed by the opening collect, which sets the theme for the day. Scripture is read with special emphasis being placed on the proclamation of the gospel which is, for Christians, the most important of the readings. Following the sermon, the congregation responds to the Word with prayer for the world and personal repentance for having fallen short of God’s love in our daily life. Absolution is pronounced and the congregation rises to share in the peace – the act of reconciliation made possible by God’s forgiveness of our sins.
Liturgy of the Table
The focus now changes and the second part of the liturgy begins. Bread and wine are offered at the table. Gifts are presented from the congregation to emphasize that all of our lives are offered to God for service. Now the community gathers around the table for the consecration of the bread and wine. Our salvation story, the story of the community, is recalled, the words of Christ are repeated, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts is invoked, the Kingdom is anticipated, and the glory of God proclaimed. Bread is broken and, with the wine, shared for our nourishment and transformation.
After communion the community offers thanks for what it has received and is sent out into the world to do the work of the gospel in daily life.
Liturgy is our Sunday work to prepare us for the time ahead. In the act of self-giving in worship our lives are caught up in the great story of human redemption. God comes to us in love. We give thanks as one Body in Christ, commissioned and strengthened for the service of the world.