How to Receive Communion, Part 2: A Practical Guide

By |2018-10-05T11:53:07+00:00October 5th, 2018|Categories: Anglican Life|Tags: , |20 Comments

My last post discussed receiving communion by faith, and was more about our understanding of the spiritual aspects of communion.

This post is just plain practical.

We all want to reverently receive communion, not get in anyone’s way or spill anything, and to not have any surprises. But the surprises and spills will happen. Even though we intend to avoid it, be ready for anything, and it’s okay.

It’s okay!

How to Receive Holy Communion

Come forward

Come forward to stand for communion, if there is no altar rail.

If there is a rail, people will usually kneel to receive unless they are physically unable.

Extend your hands

Kneeling or standing, place your hands flat, and in a cruciform shape, palms up, as pictured above.

Receive the bread

The minister will say the words of administration, which often are, “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven.”

Your response is “Amen.”

You can bow your head if you would like to avoid eye contact, and that is fine.

You can choose to make eye contact, and that is fine as well.

Lift your hands to your mouth (not using your fingers to hold the bread), and eat the bread.

Make the sign of the cross (optional)

Many people make the sign of the cross before receiving each element (the bread and the wine).

Others make the sign of the cross after receiving both elements.

You do not have to make the sign of the cross, and you can make the sign of the cross. This is not a rule, it is a custom.

(Click here to learn more about the sign of the cross.)

Receive the wine

Next, a chalice bearer (wine person), will approach. (If you’re kneeling at a rail, that is. If you’re standing, then you should walk over to the chalice bearer.)

This is where you need to be ready. As they approach (or you approach), put out your hands to guide the chalice to your lips, and drink.

The chalice bearer is supposed to keep hold of the chalice with you, so that neither of you spills the wine. However, sometimes they will completely hand you the chalice. Either way, just try to make sure that the chalice doesn’t get dropped.

After drinking, allow the chalice bearer to take the cup back from you.

The chalice bearer will also say the words of administration, which often are, “The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation.” Your response, either before or after drinking, is “Amen.”

Other Considerations

Intinction (dipping)

What about dipping the bread? This is called “intinction.”

If you choose to do this, or if the church you are in requires it, you receive the bread as stated above. Then, you take the bread between your fingers, and dip it slightly into the wine, before placing it in your mouth.

Receiving a blessing instead of Holy Communion

Adults who are not baptized, or who are not going to receive, can come forward to receive a blessing.

If you would like to do so, cross your arms as pictured below as you approach the minister.

arms_crossed

Children receiving Holy Communion

Baptized children are welcomed to receive communion in most churches, but in some they take a preparation class before first communion.

No parent is required to allow their child to receive. If your children are not baptized, or will not be receiving, they can receive a blessing, by crossing their arms as pictured above.

One Last Thing…

After you have received, follow the crowd back to your seat. Most folks will then pray silently, or sing.


Please let us know if you have any questions!

Better yet, please feel free to ask someone at church. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to guide you.

If you’d like to learn more about Holy Communion, check out the following posts:

This post originally appeared on 2013-06-06. Updated on 2018-10-05.

Greg is the founder of Anglican Pastor. He is an Anglican Priest of the Anglican Church in North America. He served in a non-denominational church before being called into the Anglican church in 2003. He has served as an Associate Pastor, Parish Administrator, and Rector. He currently serves as the Canon to the Ordinary for the Anglican Diocese of the South.

20 Comments

  1. image source October 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Baptism Quotes – Baptism is subsequent to conversion rather than a saving ordinance, but an external sign of an inward function. Baptism is not elective for the believer, but an order of our Master to be obeyed. Just before Jesus returned to paradise, He told His followers to preach the gospel to all individuals and to baptize christians. Baptism is a sign to everybody watching which he or she’s accepted Christ as Savior and that he or she plans to mind Christ and live to please Him. Everyone who is sorry for his or her sins, repents, and believes in Christ as Savior ought to be baptized. There is absolutely no age limit for baptism. Comprehends what baptism means and when a person is preserved, he or she needs to be baptized. As quoted from the Holy Bible.

  2. Kate April 8, 2016 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    After you take the bread (body of Christ), do you then use your right hand to put in your mouth? Or do you bring your hands up to your mouth and take it without using the other hand? Does it matter? We attended our local Episcopal church last week and although we could have received communion, I wasn’t completely sure how and I didn’t want to seem as though I was staring as others received so I elected to get the blessing instead.

    • Greg Goebel April 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      Hey Kate. Customarily you would bring the bread to your mouth using the palm of the right hand rather than grasping with your fingers. However that is just a custom not a rule. Many people do take the bread with their fingers. Not a problem.

    • Greg Goebel April 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      And I know that feeling! I’ve been Anglican for 13 years now, but vividly remember wanting to watch people and feeling weird about that!

  3. martinez March 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    What prayer do you pray after the host when go back to your seat

    • Greg Goebel March 24, 2017 at 7:47 am - Reply

      Great question. We have no one set prayer that I’m aware of.

  4. 21stcenturyanglican April 14, 2017 at 7:20 am - Reply

    I have two comments: First, there’s also the option of receiving directly on the tongue. At any given mass at my parish, between a third and half of them receive this way. Second, in many churches, (the last two I have served at and the one I attended before seminary, as well as my seminary chapel) self-intinction is not allowed. If one wished to intinct, one left the host on their hands, and the deacon administering the chalice dipped the host and placed it on the tongue of the communicant.

  5. Jill April 26, 2017 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for this article. I always wanted to know if Anglicans celebrated communion, I had no idea they did and do the exact same thing as we do, I am Catholic. So much of our tradition is the same, Its just some doctrine that differs. Only difference with us is that not everyone can take communion, you have to have made your “first holy communion” and you have to be catholic. I enjoy learning about other faith backgrounds as it helps me to strengthen in knoweledge and understanding of my own. Thank you.

  6. Zach December 26, 2017 at 5:58 am - Reply

    I suppose I get the concept behind Open Table so as long one is baptized. One concern especially troubles me around belief and baptism, as there was a specific individual visiting my parish for Christmas Eve who I know is a Oneness Pentecostal (UPC affiliation.) They don’t believe in the Holy Trinity thus is equated to believing in a false god and/or unbelief. And they are adamant that Trinitarians are in error; unless his is just an unthinking and blind following, which is also dangerous, and according to the Laws of the Church, his “baptism” is invalid. I didn’t see whether or not he received the elements.
    It really troubles me that one who is either affiliated with heretics or not baptized may be partaking of Holy Communion without realizing the dignity of the Sacrament. I know it may be the case with many baptized believers as well, I likely have myself all too many times. But when heresy, sin, or unbelief is known to someone, is it not their responsibility to ensure parishioners or visitors are “rightly” (for lack of better word) receiving Holy Communion? Without judgement, of course.
    The more I learn, there are times when Open Table has been a stumbling block, and I hope you can help in clearing some concerns; I will be speaking with my rector in the weeks to come and I think I may include this subject in our conversation and receive further instruction and understanding.
    Thanks for the article.

  7. Nev February 13, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    I am allergic to alcohol. Is communion therefore barred from me?

    • Greg Goebel February 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Hey Nev. to receive in one kind is to receive in both. So you can receive he bread only. Blessings!

  8. Virginia March 5, 2018 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Can you provide some more practical details of how to go about receiving in one kind (bread only)? Does one simply stand up and leave the rail before the chalice bearer approaches, or does one signal the chalice bearer in some way…?

    • Greg Goebel March 5, 2018 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Great question. Most people will either place their hands on the chalice, and then bow the head OR cross their arms over the chest when the chalice comes to them.

  9. Brian Caldwell March 7, 2018 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Greg. For the information of our Lady communicants, if they are kneeling for communion please don’t wear wide brimmed hats! The person serving the chalice has no idea where your mouth is. Trust me: a chalice bearer of many years.
    Brian Caldwell

  10. Megan March 9, 2018 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post. I have never been sure of the protocol for eyes. That is, during the liturgy and before going up to the altar rail, should you have your eyes buried in the BCP (seems to be what most folks do), or prayerfully closed, or watching the priest? It seems like there are many instances of the priest intending to show things to the congregation (such as when breaking the bread), but I just don’t know what is appropriate.

    • Greg Goebel March 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Some suggest you should look toward the bread and wine.

      • Megan March 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

        Do others suggest otherwise? 🙂

        And why?

        • Greg Goebel March 10, 2018 at 6:47 am - Reply

          There really aren’t any solid guides. I can say as a celebrant myself that it is helpful when people either bow the head or look to the table rather than make eye contact.

          • Megan March 10, 2018 at 8:46 am

            I think this issue was highlighted for me when I attended a Roman Catholic Church with a friend. No one used a prayer book because they all had everything memorized. So during the Eucharistic prayer, they all continued to do what they had done the whole time – looked toward the altar.

            It was so strikingly different from my Episcopal church where people are reading along (even though I’d bet they have it all memorized, too) or have their eyes closed and head bowed. It made me wonder if there are guides or at least expectations.

            Thank you, Fr. Greg.

          • Greg Goebel March 10, 2018 at 9:13 am

            I’ve noticed that too. Thanks for the comments!

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