HOLY BAPTISM is a bath, metaphorically called “new birth” or “dying and rising with Christ.” We are washed and welcomed. Baptism is always connected to learning what it means to be a Christian. Infants are washed first and then learn; adults normally are taught first and then baptized. One learns to be a Christian, and yet one can never learn the faith; it is always given – like a surprise, a birth, a resurrection from the dead. One is given the gift of faith and the bath, and yet that gift draws us to perpetual learning and to transformation. Baptism is our birth into a lifelong journey to life in God with God.
Baptism of children and adults is celebrated in the context of public worship on Sundays. There are special baptismal feasts during the Liturgical year. All Saints (1st Sunday after Nov. 1), Easter Vigil (Saturday night before Easter Day), Pentecost (late May or early June), and The Baptism of Our Lord, and The Bishop’s Visitation. Candidates for baptism or their parents (if young children) and their sponsors receive preparation appropriate to their age and circumstances. At least one parent presenting a child for baptism must be a baptized Christian.
Baptism is the sacrament of initiation. Through it, God adopts us as children and makes us members of Christ’s body. The candidate is baptized with water, anointed with oil, and normally receives Holy Communion at the same service as the celebration of his or her new identity as a fully initiated member of the Church. No distinction is made between a baptized adult and a baptized infant – they are both fully initiated Christians and they both have the right to receive Holy Communion in the form of bread and wine. It is as normal for infants and children to receive the extraordinary food from God’s table as it is for them to receive the ordinary food from their own biological family’s table.
CONFIRMATION is a rite in which the fully initiated makes a mature affirmation of faith through the renewal of Baptismal vows and the sacramental laying on of hands by the Bishop. Confirmation marks one of the great moments in the lifelong process of ever-deepening commitment to Christ. It in no way “completes” or supplies something missing in baptism. It takes place during the Bishop’s Visitation at the same time of baptism of an adult or in Regional Confirmations held in the spring.
Candidates for confirmation are expected to participate in an intensive preparation process known as The Journey or other offerings specifically oriented toward confirmation preparation. Confirmands choose someone as their sponsor to walk with them on this journey and to present them to the Bishop for confirmation. Persons who have been baptized in other denominations or communions who have not had the sacramental laying on of hands of a bishop and who now wish to live the Christian life in the Episcopal Church, may be presented for confirmation. Any person who has already been confirmed in another denomination may be Received as a sign of welcome by our chief pastor, the Bishop. Any Episcopalian, who has already been confirmed but may have lapsed from active participation in the Body of Christ, may make a public reaffirmation of faith in the presence of the Bishop.
HOLY EUCHARIST is a holy meal of ordinary elements, a loaf of bread and a pitcher of wine, which by God’s grace become the holy food and drink of the gathered body of Christ, the Church. We receive just a taste, just a sip. To share in this meal is to stand in continuity with Jesus who came eating and drinking, who held meals with sinners, who spoke of the kingdom of God as a wedding feast, and who interpreted his own death as a meal. For the community, the meal is the very presence of Jesus himself.
The Eucharist is the sign of our unity in Christ (communion with Christ and with one another). It is the practice of Episcopalians to invite all baptized persons who recognize our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist to share Holy Communion with us. Jesus Christ instituted this form of worship, commanded us to continue it, and promised to communicate himself to us in it under the forms of ordinary bread and wine. In the Eucharist (“Thanksgiving”), we receive and proclaim who we are – the Body of Christ – so that we may go out into the world to be the Body of Christ.
HOLY MATRIMONY is the celebration of the beginning of lifelong union of husband and wife. In Christian marriage, two persons make solemn, public vows in the presence of God and the whole Christian community. Through the Church’s prayer and God’s blessing, they receive grace to help them keep these sacred vows. It is required that at least one of the persons to be a baptized Christian, that the ceremony be attested to by at least two witnesses, and that it confirm to the laws of the State of Maryland.
When a couple decides to be married they should contact a priest at least ninety days before the contemplated date so that appropriate counseling and planning sessions can be schedule. Premarital counseling is required by canon law of this church and its object is to help the couple understand more fully the meaning of the vows they make and the importance of their continued life in Christian community.
The Episcopal Church recognizes the tragic fact that marriages, like all living things, can and do die. The remarriage of divorced persons is allows on the basis of this recognition, and with the confidence that God forgives our past failures and gives us the grace for new beginnings. If either member of the couple has been previously married, it is necessary to obtain a ruling from the bishop regarding the status of the marriage in the eyes of the Church. Since this may take some time, couples in this situation are advised to consult with the priest well in advance of the canonically required thirty-day period.
A Christian wedding is a service of the Church and a celebration of one of her sacraments. The Book of Common Prayer allows many options in the planning of a wedding liturgy, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the priest who has been entrusted with pastoral and liturgical oversight in the parish to plan the details with the couple. Each couple will be provided with the parish’s specific guidelines concerning such things, such as music, flowers, service leaflets, and fees.
RECONCILIATION OF THE PENITENT is a celebration of God’s forgiveness. This sacrament provides the opportunity for a searchingly honest appraisal of our lives. It is a chance to say to God, “This is who I really am. I know you already know. This is my chance to admit to you that I know it.” And then to experience God’s healing forgiveness. Personal sins are specific, not general, and this sacrament allows us to deal with them in a way that General Confession does not. A Priest, acting under the authority conferred at ordination, hears the confession and pronounces absolution in the name of the Church. In some cases, some act of penitence may be required before absolution is granted. The confession is made according to one of two forms found in The Book of Common Prayer (p. 447-452), or in the penitent’s own words. The priest then assures the penitent of God’s forgiveness and absolution. Celebration of this sacrament can be scheduled at any time by appointment.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK is a sacrament action that imparts God’s grace for the healing of the whole person – body, mind and spirit. It is normally offered to any member of the Body of Christ who is hospitalized or at home because of significant illness or an accident, or who is about to undergo surgery or other invasive treatment. Public services of healing and anointing are offered during Lent. Please call the Priest or Deacon if you wish to receive anointing.
HOSPITALIZATION is often a stressful time. Any member of the congregation who is hospitalized (or about to be) is asked to notify the church office. If you cannot do so, a nurse or a friend is usually glad to do it for you. The clergy cannot depend on the hospital’s own reporting system to keep them accurately informed. Hospitals rarely contact churches directly unless a specific crisis needs the immediate services of a priest.
The Church surrounds her members with prayers and the healing grace of the sacraments when they are ill. These sacraments include: emergency baptism, reconciliation (Confession and Absolution), anointing, and Holy Communion. Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) bring Holy Communion to those in the hospital or home bound who wish to receive the Eucharist. Please let the church know if you wish a visit.
CHRISTIAN BURIAL is normally conducted from the Church. When death is imminent, or as soon as it occurs, a member of the clergy should be notified at once. Special prayers are offered at the time of death and the family is encouraged to begin the grieving process.
The Church is the proper setting for visitation and the services. Funeral homes are usually very cooperative in arranging transportation of the body to the Church and then to the grave site. The remains are received in a closed casket, or ashes in the case of cremation, through the main entrance of the Church by the priest. Normally, a Eucharist of the Resurrection is celebrated. Then a Commendation of the Departed is pronounced and the Committal is made at the grave-site. Members of the congregation may place their personal wishes for their own funerals (particular readings, music request, etc.) on file in the parish office. Such information can be of significant assistance to both survivors and the priest when making arrangements for the funeral.