A sacrament is a Christian rite that is the outward and visible sign of God’s grace; that is, God’s love for all people and all creation. We do not earn God’s grace; it is given freely because God loves us. We believe that sacraments are a way God communicates grace and life to the world.
Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.
Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast.
Each candidate for Holy Baptism is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons.
Sponsors of adults and older children present their candidates and thereby signify their endorsement of the candidates and their intention to support them by prayer and example in their Christian life. Sponsors of infants, commonly called godparents, present their candidates, make promises in their own names, and also take vows on behalf of their candidates.
It is fitting that parents be included among the godparents of their own children. Parents and godparents are to be instructed in the meaning of Baptism, in their duties to help the new Christians grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church.
Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the sacrament commanded by Jesus for the continual remembrance of his life, death and resurrection. In the Eucharist, the ordinary elements of bread and wine are taken, blessed, broken and shared. Through the imagery of a shared meal, the Holy Spirit consecrates these ordinary gifts to become the body and blood of Christ in order to nourish us for our spiritual journey through this life. So empowered, we are invited to serve the world in sacrificial love. Eucharist comes from the Greek word, “eucharisteo” which means “To give thanks.”
Many in our parish are new to the Episcopal Church and are not exactly sure how to receive communion according to the Anglican tradition. As in many things in our tradition, there are few absolutes. The most important thing for us to remember, however, is that we are receiving Christ made present to us through the symbolism of his body broken and his blood shed for the life of the world. As Christians of the Catholic and Apostolic tradition of Christianity, Episcopalians believe in the real presence of Christ. This means Christ becomes truly present to us through the actions of the Holy Spirit in the context of the people and priest gathered for worship.
In the Episcopal Church the baptized, including very young children, may receive Holy Communion. While this remains the theological teaching of the Church, the Episcopal clergy do not ‘police’ who can and who cannot receive Holy Communion. Whether you do or do not is a matter between you and God. If in good conscience you desire to receive Holy Communion, yet are not baptized, the Episcopal Church welcomes you to the table of the Lord.
In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop.
Those baptized as adults, unless baptized with laying on of hands by a bishop, are also expected to make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism in the presence of a bishop and to receive the laying on of hands.
Confirmation is also a rite of entry for persons, already baptized in another Christian tradition and wishing to become members of the Episcopal Church. If a person wishing to become a member of the Episcopal Church is already confirmed within a Catholic and Apostolic tradition, they are received by a bishop, not reconfirmed.
Episcopalians are divided on whether marriage is a sacrament or simply a solemn vow. In other sacraments God is always the actor. In marriage, God is the witness to the covenant the couple makes between themselves in the presence of the community. The Episcopal Church honors Christian marriage. However, it also recognizes the possibility of relationship failure. Therefore, remarriage after divorce is permitted, but only after the priest preparing the couple has duly inquired into the circumstances of the failure of a previous marriage and then only with the express permission of the bishop.
The Episcopal Church celebrates same-sex marriage services.
We can also:
- Bless a Civil Marriage between a couple
- Bless an existing Marriage of a couple
- Conduct a Wedding following a Civil Marriage of a couple
The ministry of reconciliation, which has been committed by Christ to his Church, is exercised through the care each Christian has for others, through the common prayer of Christians assembled for public worship, and through the priesthood of Christ and his ministers declaring absolution.
The Reconciliation of a Penitent is available for all who desire it. Confessions may be heard anytime and anywhere.
The absolution in these services may be pronounced only by a bishop or priest.
The content of a confession is not normally a matter of subsequent discussion. The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken.
Ministering to the Sick / Anointing and Laying on of Hands
Unction, or anointing of the sick is a sacrament that brings healing to body, mind and spirit. It is administered during a special service, or whenever the need is apparent. Blessed oil is used to anoint an individual, and the priest prays for God’s healing grace. This sacrament is also the preparation for the Christian’s transition from this life to the next when death is soon expected. In the Episcopal Church under normal circumstances only a priest has authority to anoint. However, the laying on of hands can be offered by deacons as well as lay people as a symbol of Christian prayer.
Burial or Cremation
The funeral liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised. The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This joy, however, does not make human grief un-Christian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.