The Offertory is the portion a Eucharistic service when bread and wine are brought to the altar for consecration into the Body and Blood of Christ by the presiding priest or bishop. The offertory exists in Roman Catholic Celebrations of Mass, as well as Orthodox and Eastern Catholic celebrations of the Divine Liturgy. Anglican Masses, Lutheran Divine Services, and many other Protestant services offering Holy Communion have similar offertory rites, though the Eucharist theology varies among celebrations conducted by these denominations.
The collection of alms from the congregation often coincides with the offering of bread and wine, and the collection of alms is is sometimes used in lieu of the offertory at non-eucharistic services. The English word "Offertory" is derived from the ecclesiastical Latin offertorium, and the French offertoire, a place to which offerings were brought.
At this point in a eucharist bread and wine are brought to the altar or communion table. In some churches it is the custom for members of the congregation to bring the bread and wine from the nave of the church to the sanctuary. The altar is prepared and, in some churches, censed.
At this point in a Roman Catholic mass, an offertory chant is appointed to be said or sung. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England includes "offertory sentences" that are to be read at this point. Current practice in Anglican churches favours the singing of a congregational hymn (the "offertory hymn") or an anthem sung by the choir. In some churches the music at the offertory is provided by an organist.
In the Roman Rite Mass the Offertory in the early Middle Ages consisted in chant verses sung by a soloist and accompanied by a refrain sung by the choir. Because the collecting of material offerings gradually fell out of use, the verses were eventually abolished. In the Roman Missal of St. Pius V (Tridentine) and already centuries before Pius V's codification, the Offertory was reduced to the singing of the refrain only. The priest recites the (refrain of the) Offertory chant privately after the Dominus vobiscum. He then proceeds with the preparing of the gifts (bread and wine) on the altar, along with incensing the altar.
Collection of alms
Collection bag used in church in southern Sweden
A collection plate is often used near the end of some Protestant worship services to gather the gifts of the faithful for the support of the church and for charity. Members of other assemblies, including some Lutheran churches, do not use a collection plate, but simply make arrangements to support their church without the temptation of using the collection plate for a public show of piety.
In the Roman Catholic Mass the collection plate is replaced by a basket which is passed among the faithful immediately following the Liturgy of the Word at the offertory. In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Mass (Pauline Rite), a family or group selected before the Mass (such as the Knights of Columbus) then approach the priest with these monetary gifts—as well as the unconsecrated host and sacramental wine—which are laid under the altar before beginning the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This spiritually unites the sacrifice of the people with the pure oblation who is the Eucharistic Christ.