St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh – Eucharistic Celebration

by Al Reberg
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
November 16, 2019

The Communion Liturgy at Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church is read from the Book of Common Prayer or recited from memory.

Two people bring the bread and wine down the center Aisle and gives them to the Torch Bearer Acolytes, who place them on the table (not the altar) for the Priest. Another Acolyte assists the Priest with preparations. During the Jazz Mass the children are served first. The children (and parents of the very young) proceed up the steps before the alter, form a circle and receive the elements. Some have the Priest place the Eucharist on their tongues and take a sip of wine, others practice intinction.

When the children are finished they return to their seats and the choir is served at the rail before the alter. Then the ushers begin to allow adults and teenagers to proceed to the alter, row by row. The parishioners proceed to the rail before the alter, most kneel (a few may stand if kneeling is too difficult), placing right hand on top of left hand. The Priest and a Lay Eucharistic Minister place the wafer in each person’s right hand. Some have the Priest or Lay Eucharistic Minister place the Eucharist on their tongues and take a sip of wine, other only receive the wafer, and others practice intinction. After someone sips the wine, the lip of the goblet is wiped with a napkin. After the row at the alter has been served they rise and depart to the sides back to their seats and the next group proceeds forward to kneel, etc.

Hymns are sung during the celebration.

During the Contemplative Mass there is no special circle for children, and there is no singing. Otherwise the procedure is the same.

What connected with me?

  • I appreciate the ancient Eucharistic Liturgy. We used a form of it in weekly communion in our Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Saying the same words each week (soon from memory) allows one to focus on the experience, the sense of unity with others and from time to time to encounter the ineffable.
  • I deeply appreciate celebrating with and being served by people of color. Sometimes it’s almost an overwhelming feeling – infused with wonder and gratitude. And it brings more crisply to mind the reality of the universal church.
  • It is moving to see our Grandchildren serving as acolytes, intimately involved in the Eucharistic Celebration, and celebrating with them and our Daughter and her husband.
  • They serve wine, not grape juice.

What didn’t connect with me?

  • Nothing really. But it can sometimes be a challenge to get to the right page in the Book of Common Prayer.

How could our practice be enriched by what you saw?

  • I have always said that I’d like to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday. Even if nothing else in the service connects, there’s another opportunity with a weekly Eucharistic Celebration.
  • For me consistent use of the ancient liturgy is great. But I know others (who have not had years of experience with it) think it’ll be boring and become an empty rote exercise, failing to encounter mystical moments.

What questions arose?

  • Why aren’t I there more often?
  • Couldn’t we actually serve wine at RMC?

Priest blessing children during communion at St Ambrose Episcopal Church
Celebrating Eucharist – Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh
photo credit: St Ambrose Episcopal Church
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