What happens in Church?
The core of many Anglican services is Holy Communion, also known as Eucharist. This is a ceremony derived from the supper which Jesus held with his followers on the night before his arrest and execution. Christians believe that this ceremony creates a special sort of contact with God, which helps to strengthen us as Christians.
What actually happens?
Holy Communion involves the giving out of bread and wine which has been consecrated, or made holy, with special prayers. In some parishes real bread is used; others use special wafers which look like slices of glue-stick. Normally the congregation walk up to the front of the church and kneel at the altar, receiving the bread from the priest in cupped hands. The chalice, the ceremonial goblet containing the wine, is usually taken round by an assistant.
Won't I catch horrible diseases from sharing a cup?
Probably not, as alcohol is a disinfectant and the rim of the chalice is wiped between uses. If you are concerned, you may receive just the bread, which is also perfectly acceptable and is considered complete.
Does anything weird happen when you receive Communion?
Mostly, no. People do have mystical experiences, but they are not a normal part of Communion in most churches. (Some branches of Christianity actively encourage them; the Anglican Church tends to be suspicious of this sort of thing.) In general, Communion strengthens your relationship with God in the same way as you can get to know people well by spending a lot of time with them over many years.
Can anyone take part in this ceremony?
Officially, you have to be baptized in order to receive Communion. It doesn't have to be an Anglican baptism; any branch of the Christian Church will do.
The ceremony of Confirmation (a deliberate reaffirmation of the vows of baptism, made when we're old enough to know what we're doing) still exists in the Anglican Church, but it's no longer necessary to go through this process before you can receive Communion.
Will I go to Hell if I don't receive Communion regularly?
We sincerely hope not! Holy Communion, like most of the Church's activities, is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. However, the Anglican Church believes that Communion is a valuable component of our relationship with God.
What else happens in a church service?
Anglican services are extremely varied and flexible. Set forms of words are available, in the Book of Alternative Services as well as several older equivalents, but the use of these is optional. There is much variation in style between individual parishes, and some parishes use different services on different Sundays.
There are specific words to accompany Communion, and the Lord's Prayer will normally find its way into a service. There will often be a Creed, a formal statement of basic Christian beliefs. Most services include hymns, which may be either traditional or modern. There will be prayers; some of these will be in set words, but we also pray about current issues. Services also include readings from the Bible.
And a sermon?
Quite often. We're fully aware that sermons have a reputation for inducing sleep. This doesn't have to be the case. Some preachers are very good speakers, adept at making Christianity relevant to everyday life.
Yes, we admit it. There will normally be a collection. We need to meet running costs and pay salaries, and the Anglican Church is also a major social service organization. No one will pay attention to how much you're dropping in the basket, and you don't have to make a contribution at all. If you see any value in what we're doing, you'll probably want to help if you can. We collect money because ministry costs money.
We don’t believe people give to the church—they give through the church to touch the lives of people in need.
Why do priests wear funny clothes?
Like many of the details of our worship, this is a historical accident. A priest's robes are based roughly on the garments worn by Roman officials in the early days of the Church. We've added Christian symbols to them, but (being Anglicans) we haven't actually changed anything much.