This post is borrowed from Warkworth Parish on the Northshore of Auckland, a parish of the Auckland Diocese. They have this on their website, we felt it has something to offer for one who may not have a history of our worship, the what and why. It’s not a
deep theological or effectual missiological treatise, but rather, a simpler document to
know the what and the simple first tier “why” to our worship. Be it conventional, long
standing form or a contemporary form, this bears true. We hope you find it helpful.
What follows is a thumbnail sketch of a usual communion service, often called the Liturgy
of the Eucharist or sometimes the Lord’s Supper.
Our service takes the form of a liturgy which literally means the “work of the people”.
The communion service is a mix of new and very old. It echoes the shape and language
of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but its structure is much older, dating back to the
third century. Always we draw on the 1989 New Zealand Prayer Book (He Karakia Mihinare
Together we offer thanks, pray, and sing. We greet each other with the peace of Christ,
and we share a meal of bread and wine symbolic of the meal He shared with His disciples.
This is not something we can do alone. It depends on everyone present, regardless of
how long they’ve been coming to church, or how much or how little they believe. And
we do it in with the promise Jesus made that “when two or three are gathered in My
name, I will be in their midst.” To experience that presence, we leave quiet spaces
throughout the service so we can fill the silence with our own thoughts and prayers.
Before the Service
Please feel free to find a seat (you can sit anywhere), relax and settle in. If you have any
questions, ask the person at the door. You can always ask someone near you at any
point during the service as well.
We typically use a specific form of liturgy to guide our prayers. This will either be in the
big red Prayer Book (we will tell you what page number) or sometimes in a printed sheet.
We also use the orange hymn books and blue song books for singing.
Prayer books, hymn books and song books can be found in the back of the pew in front
of you. You should also have been given a service sheet (Here in St Christopher’s, it’s called
our Pew Sheet).
The Start of the Service
The first half of the service, normally led by lay people, is called the Ministry of the Word.
It is centred on the reading and explaining of the Bible. It begins with prayers to
welcome and gather the community of faith and to prepare ourselves for the meal that
follows. We usually start by singing a hymn or song of praise together.
We stand and sit at different times during the service; it’s our way of involving all of
ourselves in our worship (it also helps to stretch our legs a little). You will be told by the
person leading the service when to stand or sit but typically we stand to sing, listen to
the Gospel (which is the second Bible reading we have), affirm our faith together and to
share the peace with each other. We sit to pray and to listen to the sermon – or just if
you want to!
We begin by giving thanks to God, even before we ask for forgiveness. This is because
we know that we don’t have to bargain for acceptance with God. It’s offered to us
unconditionally. As we say to God in our affirmation of faith, “You come to us before we
come to You.”
We next acknowledge that we have been less than the people God made us to be. Sin is
the ancient word for this. It’s not about guilt and shame. The literal meaning is falling
short of the mark, like an arrow missing the centre of the target. We are able to make
this confession because we have confidence that in Jesus there is grace and forgiveness
for our falling short.
As grateful and forgiven people we then listen to “what the Spirit is saying to the church”,
through readings from the Old and New Testament and a sermon which unpacks those
readings. As people of faith, we believe that the ancient writings of our Bible are inspired
by God as a witness to His work and so that through them His Word continues to speak to
us today. The prayers of the people follow. The liturgist leads them, inviting us to
respond and make the prayers our own as we talk to God about our lives and our cares.
Some of our responses are said or sung in Te Reo Maori, regardless of whether there are
Maori people present. This is because the Anglican Church in this land recognises three
tikanga of Maori, Pakeha and Polynesia. The use of Te Reo reminds us we began as a
missionary church, Te Hahi Mihinare, in a covenant of trust between Maori and Pakeha.
The second part of the liturgy, known as The Ministry of the Eucharist, is led by a priest.
He or she follows the pattern Jesus followed when He hosted His disciples at the last
supper before his execution. The pattern is taking bread and wine, blessing them,
breaking the bread as a symbol of his own body being broken, and his own blood being
shed, then sharing these with everyone around the table.
This communion (as it is also known) is like the family meal of the whole Church (both
here and around the world). It reminds us that we are one family, united in faith with
each other and with Jesus. The prayer of blessing uses the words that Jesus used at that
last supper and looks forward to the day when we will all be united in Christ, on Earth
and in Heaven. We also say (or sing) the Lord’s Prayer, the one prayer that Jesus Himself
taught us to pray. We come forward to the altar table to receive His hospitality.
During communion, we come up row by row to the altar rail. You can kneel and stand to
receive the bread and wine.
Communion is open to any who are baptised and is offered to all who choose to come
forward to the altar rail (you don’t have to come forward, but are very welcome). When
you receive the bread you may consume it and then take a sip from the cup or alternatively, you may wish to hold on to the bread and then dip its edge in the wine
If you would prefer to simply receive a blessing from the priest, please indicate this by
not extending your hands to receive the bread or wine and bowing your head.
After communion, the service ends with a final prayer, a blessing, a hymn and then words
of dismissal. We turn towards the door to be sent out into the world in peace to love and
serve the Lord. This is because we believe that God is with us in the world and that it is in
our daily lives that we follow Him. “Amen,” we say, “we go in the name of Christ.”
And then we are done! Except you can stay for a cup of tea or coffee and to have a chat
if you want.