There seems to be quite a diversity of ideas as to setting up a credence table or shelf depending on custom in the parish or desires of the current clergyperson. As I travel around to different churches, I take note before the service begins of how things are done in our parish churches. Some churches use a chalice veil, some use only a purificator and pall on the chalice. Pita, or baked bread requires a different presentation than wafers. So, in the end- there are no hard and fast rules. Consult your parish priest for preferences. There should, however, be a clean white cloth on your shelf or table, the chalice should have a purificator across the top and a white pall to cover the top of the chalice at the least. When placing your water and wine cruets (or flagon), make sure the handles are at 12 ‘o’clock-in other words- pointing away from the altar server. When the server grasps the cruet by the neck, then pivots to face the priest, the handles will be convenient for the priest or deacon to grasp.
In some churches, I have observed the corporal is already spread on the altar at the beginning of service, with a vested chalice center altar as a time-saving convenience. It is a particular desire of our bishop that this not be done. The Liturgy of the Word should take place without communion metalware on the altar. The portion of the service devoted to the Holy Communion is the time for the deacon (if there be one) to “set” the table for the Eucharist, beginning to do so at at the Offertory. The chalice(s) should be resting on the credence table or shelf up until that time. Some parishes have the custom of oblationists or gift bearers to bring the gifts of wine and bread up the center nave aisle to the foot of the chancel where either the Master of Ceremonies, head acolyte, deacon, or sometimes the priest will step forward to receive them. Once again, make sure the handle of the wine cruet is facing away from the bearer so as to be ready to grasp by the receiver.
After the service of Holy Communion is completed and the vessels emptied and wiped clean at the altar, everything should be returned to the credence table. I have noticed that many priests, after rinsing the chalice with a little water, wipe out the bowl with a purificator and leave the purificator in the chalice, then place the pall and veil on top. This purificator usually has a lot of wine stain on it and should be carefully washed out with the wash water going in the piscina or in the earth. Don’t forget to take the corporal out of the burse, shake any little particles of bread over the piscina to be washed away-the same for the paten or dish which contained baked consecrated bread.
It is always convenient to place the lavabo towel over the lavabo bowl, in readiness for the ablutions. I find most clergy appreciate a good-sized towel and not a tiny “fingertip towel”. A hand towel of linen, about the size or slightly smaller of a regular hand towel we use at home is much-appreciated. The lavabo towel is the one small linen which does not have to be blessed. You can make up lovely lavabo towels out of linen or cotton scraps, pieces cut from worn fair linens which still have some remaining good fabric left, or fine linen napkins or tablecloths. You may embroider a neat whitework or redwork cross on it when the edges have been hemmed.