Holy Communion is also called The Holy Eucharist, The Great Thanksgiving, The Lord's Supper, Mass, and no doubt by other names as well. Call it what ever you want. At. St. James you are likely to hear all of these names at some point.
Since the beginning of the church shortly following Jesus' resurrection Holy Communion has been the main form of Sunday worship. The service has an easy to follow structure that has four parts. A small bulletin is provided with notes that explain the flow of the service.
So what is Holy Eucharist? It is a sacrament. It is the way that God has chosen to feed our souls and encourage our faith as we journey though life together. In some mysterious way that we experience but do not fully understand, Jesus is present to us as we receive the bread and wine. Here is a more scholarly explanation of what Anglicans and Roman Catholics agree and disagree on about the meaning of Holy Communion.
The official teaching of the Anglican Church is that anyone who is baptized as a Christian is welcome to receive communion in an Anglican Church. It does not matter if you were baptized in a Baptist, Lutheran, or any other Christian Church. You are welcome to share in Holy Communion.
How to Receive Holy Communion Like a Pro.
Relax. There are so many different ways to receive communion that it is unlikely you can think up a new one. Seriously. But if you really want to look polished it is easy. There are only a couple of instructions you need.
When you come up to receive the bread, place the back of one hand in the palm of the other and hold them at a height that is comfortable for the pastor to reach. At St. James almost everyone stands as there is no place to kneel. Kneeling is also good and we encourage you to do what feels right and prayerful for you. If you have bad knees, please stand.
The Wine is served in a silver cup called a chalice. We share a common cup, like Jesus did with his disciples. Very few germs can survive in alcohol. If you have one that can you are likely too sick to read this let alone go to church. If the common cup bothers you, don't worry. You have two choices. First you can dip the bread you just received into the wine. This is called intinction. If you drop the bread into the chalice as you go to intinct its ok to be a bit embarrassed but don't worry, relax, you're not the first to do this. There is a spoon the chalice bearer can use to remove it. Your second choice is to prayerfully eat the bread and go without the wine. This is typically signified by crossing your arms in front of your chest and placing your hands on or near your shoulders after receiving the bread. The chalice bearer will pray something like "may the blessing of this cup be upon you". Receiving only the bread or only the wine is called "communion in one kind". Some people with allergies to the wine or bread or who are in recovery receive in one kind, as do others who just don't like sharing a common cup.
Communion in one kind is sometimes practiced during pandemics like the swine flu in 2009 & 2010 in order to reduce the risk of spreading the flu and also to not detract from the prayerful act of communion.
Now there are a variety of practices done by people according to their personal preference. Some, like Fr. Ed, cross themselves before receiving Communion. Some genuflect as they exit their pew on the way to receive Communion. These acts of devotion help many people to concentrate their attention on God as they open their hearts to Jesus' presence.