The Episcopal Church recognizes seven sacraments. Baptism and the Holy Eucharist are the two “great sacraments of the Gospel.” The other sacraments differ from the two great sacraments in that, while they are also means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way Baptism and the Eucharist are. Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction of the Sick make up the five remaining sacraments. The Episcopal Church maintains liturgies for all these sacraments as well as for funerals.
All sacramental rites, the funeral liturgy, and many other prayers and liturgies are found in The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (the red book in St. John’s pews). These books contain the common elements that form the core of the Anglican worship, a tradition rich in liturgy.
The Holy Eucharist, also called the Mass or Holy Communion, is the primary liturgical worship of the Episcopal Church. Our community comes together to hear the Word of God in Scripture and to receive the presence of Christ, in consecrated bread and wine (the Body and Blood of Our Lord). The Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving,” is celebrated at all Sunday services and usually at baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
All baptized persons of any age who are present are invited to receive Holy Communion. Because the Episcopal Church does not have a First Communion observance, we welcome all young children who have been baptized to receive Communion, at their parents’ discretion. You may elect to receive only one of the bread and wine offered if you wish. Those who prefer to receive a blessing from the priest instead may come to the altar rail. Please place your arms across your chest in the form of an “X” as an indication of your desire to receive a blessing.
Holy Baptism is full initiation into Christ’s Body, the Church, by water and the Holy Spirit. As a public statement of one’s intentional decision to follow Jesus, Baptism conveys your choice to live out the Baptismal Covenant in the context of an Episcopal Church community. This means taking part in the worship, mission, and ministries of the local parish. Infant baptism serves as the parents’ declaration of their intent to raise their child in the way of Jesus. Through Baptism, God establishes an indissoluble bond. For this reason, baptism is only administered once to a person.
Baptism is open to all people, regardless of age or background. If you feel called to be baptized or to baptize your child at St. John’s, please talk to a priest. In preparation for baptism, candidates may be asked to study the Baptismal Covenant, the symbolism of water, the imortance of the Trinity, and significant Scripture stories that illuminate the meaning of Baptism. It is not necessary that you fully understand every word of the Christian Creeds and doctrines prior to your baptism. Instead, we ask that you simply be ready to embark on the rich path of discovery into the way, truth and life of Jesus Christ.
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage is an expression of Christian community. A couple makes their vows before God and the Church, and the priest blesses the marriage on behalf of the Church. The clery of the parish typically preside over the celebrations of marriage in that parish. You must obtain the consent of the Rector before another minister may preside at your wedding.
Weddings within the church assert the importance of the Christian community in the marriage. So as not to diminish the role of the Church, we discourage weddings outside of the phsyical church building.
If you wish to celebrate your marriage at St. John’s, please share your decision with the Rector, who will ensure the ceremony conforms to local law and the requirements of the Episcopal Church.
While Baptism is the sacrament by which we become members of the Church, Confirmation is the rite in which we express mature commitment to Christ. Confirmation by the Bishop requires that one must first be baptized, sufficiently instructed in the Christian faith, penitent for his or her sins, and ready to affirm his or her confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In order to be confirmed, you must also attend the confirmation classes that are offered prior to the Bishop’s visit.
Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession)
Reconciliation of a Penitent is when a person who repents of their sin confesses them to God in the presence of a priest who offers assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution. The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the priest, and therefore the content of the confession is not normally discussed beyond the confession.
Unction of the Sick
Unction is the anointment of the sick with oil or the laying on of hands, by which God’s grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body. It can be administered at any time.
Ordination is the rite by which God gives authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit to those being made bishops, priests, and deacons, through prayer and the laying on of hands by present bishops.
In the Episcopal Church, a funeral functions primarily as an act of worship. We turn to the Book of Common Prayer for many of our funeral and burial practices. It is assumed that in requesting the services of a priest of the Episcopal Church, families accept the discipline and worship of the church in which the priest is ordained.
Because many modern funeral practices are completely at odds with Christian teaching, Episcopalians should call their priest before their funeral director.