The Liturgy of the Word
The congregation begins by praising God through song and prayer, and then listening to readings from the Bible; usually one from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the Epistles, and (always) a reading from the Gospels. Next, a sermon interpreting the readings appointed for the day is preached. The congregation then affirms their beliefs through the words of the Nicene Creed, written in the Fourth Century. Next, we pray together—for the Church, the World, and those in need. The presider (e.g. priest, bishop, lay minister) concludes with a prayer that gathers the petitions into a communal offering of intercession. In certain seasons of the Church year, the congregation formally confesses their sins before God and one another. This is a corporate statement of what we have done and what we have left undone, followed by a pronouncement of absolution. In pronouncing absolution, the presider assures the congregation that God is always ready to forgive our sins. The congregation then greets one another with a sign of “peace,” professing their right relationship with one another.
The Liturgy of the Table
Following a sentence offering our life & labors to God, the priest stands at the table, which has been set with a cup of wine and a plate of bread or wafers, raises his or her hands, and greets the congregation again, saying “The Lord be With You.” Now begins the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the presider tells the story of our faith, from the beginning of Creation, through the choosing of Israel to be God’s people, through our continual turning away from God, and God’s calling us to return. Finally, the presider tells the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, and the night before his death, on which he instituted the Eucharistic meal (communion) as a continual remembrance of him. The presider asks the Holy Spirit to enter the bread & wine to make it holy. The congregation recites the Lord’s Prayer as the prayer Jesus taught us. Finally, the presider breaks the bread and offers it to the congregation, as the “gifts of God for the People of God.” The congregation then shares the consecrated bread and the wine, with the people coming forward to receive. At the end of the Eucharist, the congregation prays once more in thanksgiving, and then is dismissed to continue the life of service to God and to the World.