Sacraments

SACRAMENTS

WHAT ARE SACRAMENTS?

Our Anglican tradition recognizes sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 857)

In the Episcopal Church we take part in certain regular acts of worship. These are called sacraments or reenactments of Christ’s ministries on earth. The two primary sacraments are Baptism and Holy Communion.

We believe that God is actively present in the world and in us. In the sacraments we realize his presence and his favor towards us. Through the sacraments, which are freely given to us by God, our sins are forgiven, our minds are enlightened, our hearts stirred and our wills strengthened.

These sacraments are contained in the worship services found in the Book of Common Prayer, a book used for worship and as a guide for Christian life. A complete outline of the Episcopal faith can be found on pages 845-862 of the Book of Common Prayer. 

Your questions are encouraged and always welcome. 

The Sacraments

 In the case of Baptism, the outward and visible sign is water, in which the person is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; the inward and spiritual grace is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit. In the case of the Eucharist, the outward and visible sign is bread and wine, given and received according to Christ’s command. The inward and spiritual grace is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith.

Besides Baptism and the Eucharist (Holy Communion), the church recognizes other spiritual markers in our journey of faith. These include:

These help us to be a sacramental people, seeing God always at work around us. 

HOLY BAPTISM

​Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Body of Christ.  In the waters of baptism, we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, which we call the Church, and given God’s own life to share and reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Holy Baptism, which can be performed through pouring of water or immersion in it, marks a formal entrance to the congregation and wider Church; the candidates for the sacrament make a series of vows, including an affirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, and are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are marked as Christ’s own for ever, having “clothed [themselves] with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

The Episcopal Church baptizes infants, children and adults into this new life of grace in the risen Christ.  Preparation for baptism differs depending upon the age of the person seeking the sacrament. If the candidate is an infant or child, it is important for the parents to meet with the priest to discuss the sacrament and the promises they will make to raise their child in the Christian faith and life. If the candidate is a youth or adult, we recommend being part of our catechumenate process. The catechumenate is:

  • a time of preparation and discernment
  • a time of learning about the basic elements of the Christian faith

The catechumenate is for youth and adults desiring to be baptized as well as youth and adults who are preparing for confirmation. 

All people of any age are welcome to baptized; we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as the “bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 298).

HOLY EUCHARIST

It goes by several names: Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which literally means "thanksgiving"), the Lord’s Supper, the Mass. But whatever its formal name, this is the family meal for Christians and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. As such, all persons who have been baptized, and are therefore part of the extended family that is the Church, are welcome to receive the bread and wine, and be in communion with God and each other.

Before we come to take Communion together, “we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 859).

CONFIRMATION / RECEPTION

Confirmation marks the point in the Christian journey where a person affirms the faith into which they have been baptized and states their intention to live a life of committed discipleship. This affirmation is confirmed through prayer and the laying on of hands by the  bishop. The Church also asks God to give you power through the Holy Spirit to enable you to live in the way of Jesus.

Confirmation is for persons who have been baptized as young children and who wish to grow in their discipleship. Reception is for those who have previously been confirmed by a bishop in another tradition who now wish join the Episcopal Church. The journey to confirmation or reception begins with ​formation classes, regular worship and a life of prayer, and mentoring by other lay members of the church.

PENANCE

While private confession of sins is not a requirement, anyone may request the reconciliation of a penitent from a priest and receive assurance of God’s forgiveness. In the sacramental rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent, penance is a task assigned by the priest to the person who has confessed his or her sins. It is something to be said or done as a sign of penitence and an act of thanksgiving for God's forgiveness (BCP, p. 446). The penitent may be assigned a psalm, prayer, or hymn to say, or an act of reparation to make. It may be assigned in light of the sins confessed and their context in the life of the penitent. It is assigned to the penitent before the priest or bishop pronounces absolution. Although a penance is not required in the rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent, it may be assigned as part of the "advice and counsel" given by the priest after the penitent's confession (BCP, p. 446). See Penitent; see Reconciliation of a Penitent.

HOLY MATRIMONY

Holy Matrimony in the Episcopal Church is considered a sacrament - an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. As such we take very seriously the responsibility for supporting a couple who wish to be married in the Church.

The Episcopal Church requires that one member of the couple be a baptized Christian and that the couple receive premarital counseling. This generally involves 4-6 sessions with the priest. Premarital counseling is intended to help couples explore their relationship within the context of Christian marriage and to discuss any areas of concern with the priest. Persons who are divorced may remarry in the Episcopal Church, but special attention will be given during premarital counseling regarding the obligations to any children or family members from a previous marriage.

The wedding ceremony is conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer. Because marriage is a sacrament and sacraments are public, weddings are public events in the church (receptions are invitation only). We encourage the congregation to come for the ceremony to support the couple being wed.

ORDERS

Holy Orders or Ordination is the sacrament whereby God empowers trained persons for special ministry as deacons, priests or bishops. The service always includes the laying on of hands by bishops.

UNCTION

Unction is a special blessing for those who are sick or desire special prayers. A sign of the cross is made on their forehead with blessed oil.

  December 2019  
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