A collection of money is taken at this point. Often a piece of music is sung or played while the collection is being taken. Our offerings symbolize both our bringing of ourselves to worship and our support of the life of the community. It is fine for you to put whatever amount of money in or to put in nothing at all. (You may wonder why so many people don’t put anything in. There are many reasons, of course, but one big one is that many church members make their financial contributions in ways other than putting it in the plate, i.e. through credit card deductions, monthly checks, etc. ) The bread and wine we will use for communion and the money that has been collected are brought to the Altar Table and the liturgical ministers set the Table for Communion.
The presider prays an extended prayer. It starts with a dialogue between the presider and assembly called the Sursum Corda (literally “lift up your hearts”). The presider then praises God for God’s action in our lives. This initial section can in some cases be specific to the season we are in. This selection concludes with the Sanctus “Holy, holy, holy”, a response normally sung by the entire assembly. The prayer continues with a retelling of the story of the Last Supper and the presider asking the Holy Spirit to come into the bread and wine and into us. At the end of the prayer we all say Amen, which our way of assenting to the prayer. We stand at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. After the sanctus, you may kneel or continue standing. Different communities have different sensibilities around this; in some places most people stand, in others, most people kneel. Either one is totally fine.
At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer everyone prays the Lord’s Prayer. Then the presider breaks a piece of the bread, symbolizing Christ’s body being broken for us. After this symbolic breaking, some more practical preparations are made which might include pouring additional chalices of wine, breaking the bread into pieces for distribution, etc. Words, called the Fraction Anthem, are either spoken or sung at this point that reflect the actions taking place. Once the bread and wine are ready the presider invites people to the meal.
People generally come forward and stand or kneel at the altar to receive communion. Most places have ushers to help guide you; if there are no ushers, this is a good time to watch what others are doing and follow their example. The official policy of the Episcopal Church is that all baptized people may receive communion. Many churches have broadened that policy to invite anyone who is seeking God to receive.
If you don’t want to receive communion that is totally fine. You can remain in your seat, or you can also come forward and cross your arms over your chest. The priest will offer you a blessing instead of communion.
If you do want to receive, hold out your hands and the priest will put a piece of bread in your hand. Then another liturgical minister will come with the cup of wine (and it is wine!). There are few choices here. You can eat the bread when it is put in your hand and then take a sip of wine from the cup. It is okay and actually helpful for you to touch the cup and help guide it to your mouth. If you don’t want to drink from the cup you can also leave the bread in your hand and the person with the cup will dip the bread in the wine and then place it in your mouth. It is also totally fine to receive only the bread or only the wine; either is considered a full receiving of communion. There are many reasons people might want to receive only one so don’t feel self-conscious about that. Once you have received, simply return to your seat. Often music is sung during or near the end of communion.