Each Sunday the service includes some Bible readings. We follow a three year cycle, so we hear much of the Bible read to us in that time. Members of the congregation read the readings, though in a communion service the Gospel reading is read by the vicar. Most sermons will follow the Bible readings and explain them. We follow the same Bible readings as the majority of Christians around the world. This is the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used my many Methodists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics amongst others. .
The holiest place in the Church is called the sanctuary. The vicar leads the second half of the communion service from the altar or communion table, and the people receive the bread and wine or a blessing from the altar rail. They may either kneel or stand to receive the bread and wine. The altar rail was originally placed there to stop cattle and dogs from getting in to the sanctuary.
The people present bread and wine and the collection during Church services. The bread is placed in a special vessel called a ciborium (it is like the chalice but with a lid), the priests wafer is bigger and is placed on the silver plate called a paten. The wine is mixed with a little water and placed in a silver cup called a chalice. The vicar says a prayer over the bread and the wine, in which the words of Jesus at the Last Supper are remembered. The bread and wine are then shared. This service is called the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist. Roman Catholics call it mass.
The altar is made of wood and coloured material cloths are placed on it. These change in design and colour according to the Church year. The vicar may wear robes to match the altar frontals.
In front of the altar, are stone grave slabs, marking the burial place, of people such as former priors who were either considered devout enough to be buried before the high altar, or who had the right to be buried there. Like Kellington Church, there may be a crypt under the altar as there is a vaulted area under the Stapleton Chapel with it’s own grates in the walls below ground level for ventilation.
See the silver cross and candlesticks behind the altar. They look as though they are actually on the altar, but they are in fact behind it on a raised platform.
When the communion service is finished the left over bread and wine may be eaten by the vicar or another person he asks, or the bread may be set aside in the special wall-safe called an aumbry. It is then taken to the sick and housebound who cannot get to Church themselves - Church goes to them. A candle is permanently lit by the aumbry as a sign of the presence of God in the consecrated bread.
The Paschal Candle
On Easter Day each year a new candle is lit and prayers are said to remember that Jesus has risen from the dead. it is lit at every service between Easter day and Pentecost - a period of seven weeks. itis also lit and put by the coffin at funerals and lit and put by the font at baptisms or christenings.
The word ‘paschal’ means ‘sufferings’ to remind us that Jesus suffered before he died on the cross for us.
The piscina is a stone sink without running water, but with a drain hole where the vicar washes his hands before handling the bread and wine at the communion service.
The vicar gets a comfortable seat, but because he doesn’t get to sit down much the seat lifts up so he can lean against it. In the middle ages there were no pews in Church and only a very few seats. The elderly would have leant against the walls. The wooden chairs in the sanctuary are called misericords. The seats have beautiful carving on the underneath.
The Credence Table
Bread and wine and water may be placed on this table for use in communion services. This table was given in memory of William Arthur Lodge.
The Ten Commandments
Every service used to start with the 10 commandments, and they were carved in stone on the wall facing the congregation. These are now covered with plaster.
The Crusader Cross
On the wall is an old stone cross which is more like an Orthodox cross than an English one. it probably dates to the times of the Crusaders who fought to get Jerusalem back for Christians in the Middle Ages from Saladin. York was a major centre of recruiting for the Crusades, and it is no accident that local Churches have connections with crusaders. Look at the kneelers and you will see that many of them have this cross on them as a symbol. Kneeling has gone out of fashion a little in our Churches, possible due to ill health or old-age. it is okay either to sit or kneel when invited to by the minister. It is better to kneel to confess your sins and to receive communion as a sign that we don’t deserve God’s goodness to us, but there are more important things in life like how we live our lives and how we relate to others.