Sacraments & Milestones

The Sacraments
The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.
 
The two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church are Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Other sacramental rites which evolved in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction. These sacraments differ from Baptism and the Eucharist in that, while they are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way Baptism and the Eucharist are. In addition to having liturgies for these sacraments, the Episcopal Church also has a liturgy for burials, (funerals), and daily prayer. All of these sacramental rites, the Burial liturgy, (funeral) and many other prayers and liturgies are included in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (the red book you can find in each of the seats in the sanctuary at St. Alban’s).
 
 
Holy Eucharist
"We thank you ... for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom"       (Book of Common Prayer, p. 366).

It goes by several names: Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which literally means "thanksgiving"), mass. But whatever it’s called, 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.

The liturgy for the Holy Eucharist can be found on pp. 316-399 of the Book of Common Prayer.

The sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and the principal act of Christian worship, the term is from the Greek, "thanksgiving." Jesus instituted the Eucharist "on the night when he was betrayed." At the Last Supper he shared the bread and cup of wine at a sacred meal with his disciples. He identified the bread with his body and the wine with his blood of the new covenant. Jesus commanded his disciples to "do this" in remembrance of him (see 1 Cor 11:23-26; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:14-20). Christ's sacrifice is made present by the Eucharist, and in it we are united to his one self-offering (BCP, p. 859). The Last Supper provides the basis for the fourfold Eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. Christ's body and blood are really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist and received by faith. Christ's presence is also known in the gathered Eucharistic community.

In the BCP, the whole service is entitled the Holy Eucharist. The first part of the service is designated the Word of God. It usually includes the entrance rite, the lessons and gradual psalm, the gospel, the sermon, the Nicene Creed, the prayers of the people, the confession of sin and absolution, and the peace. The second portion of the service is designated the Holy Communion. It includes the offertory, the consecration of the bread and wine in the Great Thanksgiving, the communion of the people, and the concluding prayers of thanksgiving and dismissal. A blessing may be given prior to the dismissal.

-adapted from The Episcopal Church Glossary. Definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.

 
At St. Alban’s, Gluten-free wafers are available. Please make your needs known to the clergy or to one of the Eucharistic ministers. You may come to the altar rail to receive a blessing from the priest if you do not want to receive Communion; place your arms across your chest in the form of an “X” or cross to indicate to the ministers that you would like to receive a blessing.

We celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday morning and during weddings, funerals, Baptisms, visits to the homebound, and for special feasts and parish events.
 

Baptism
Baptism is the full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body, the church. In baptism, God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry.

Each candidate for baptism in the Episcopal Church is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons. The Episcopal Church baptizes people of all ages, from infants to adults. Sponsors (godparents) speak on behalf of candidates for baptism who are infants or younger children and cannot speak for themselves at the Presentation and Examination of the Candidates. During the baptismal rite the members of the congregation promise to do all they can to support the candidates for baptism in their life in Christ. They join with the candidates by renewing their own baptismal covenant.

Then, the water for Baptism is blessed. It may be administered by immersion or affusion (pouring) (BCP, p. 307). Candidates are baptized "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and then marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross. Chrism, (holy oil, blessed by the bishop), may be used for this marking. The newly baptized is "sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever." When all baptisms have been completed, the celebrant and congregation welcome the newly administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or another feast. The Catechism notes that "Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God." The baptismal promises are made for infants by their parents or sponsors, "who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him" (BCP, pp. 858-859). Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, All Saint's Day or the Sunday following, and the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany), and can take place during a regularly scheduled principle Eucharist, except during Lent and Advent.

-adapted from The Episcopal Church Glossary. Definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
For an audio teaching on baptism by the Rev. Barbara Briggs, click here
 
If you wish to be baptized, or have your child baptized, please speak with the Rector. A course of preparation will be arranged for you. If you are new to the Episcopal Church and have already been baptized in another denomination with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you may wish to renew your faith life, which you can do by being Confirmed or Received in the Episcopal Church (see below).
 

Holy Matrimony/Weddings
Christian marriage is an extraordinary gift of God, in which a couple are called to live in the saving grace of Christ, enriched, guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit, in communion with the community of the Church.

The occasion when couples approach the Church with the intention of being married, or seeking blessing of their civil marriage, gives opportunity for inviting them deeper into the life of Christ, and for offering clear teaching and support for their marriage.

If you wish to get married here, it is important to meet with the Rector to discuss your circumstances at least seven months prior to your anticipated date of celebration. Six or more sessions of marriage preparation, focusing on work you will do with each other in frank and honest discussions impacting your life together and the health of your marriage, will precede your celebration.

Normally, the clergy of the parish preside at the celebration of marriages in that parish. If you want another minister to preside at your marriage, you must obtain the consent of the Rector of St. Alban’s. The Episcopal Church encourages weddings to be publically announced to the local congregation. Having the members of St. Alban’s present at your marriage ceremony asserts the importance of the Christian community in the marriage. The church is your support, for the day of your ceremony, and for a lifetime of growth as a couple, through all your ups and downs, and as members of the body of Christ. Of course, you are free to limit the guest-list to your reception following the public celebration of your marriage vows and blessing.
 
Marriages are not traditionally celebrated in Advent and in Lent because these are penitential seasons during which festal liturgies, such as weddings, are not appropriate.
 
Priests within the Episcopal Church in Connecticut may provide blessing rites for same-sex couples using the form authorized by the 2012 General Convention.  In addition, priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut may also officiate at the civil marriage of a same-sex couple as a "generous pastoral response" to lesbian and gay couples seeking to be married.
 

Confirmation
Confirmation is the sacramental rite in which the candidates "express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop" (BCP, p. 860). Those who were baptized at an early age and those baptized as adults without laying on of hands by a bishop are expected to make a mature public affirmation of their faith, recommit themselves to the responsibilities of their baptism, and receive laying on of hands by a bishop (BCP, p. 412). Adults baptized with the laying on of hands by a bishop are considered to be confirmed. 

The Prayer Book rite for Confirmation includes forms for Reception and the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows. In some dioceses, those who have already made a mature Christian commitment in another denomination are recognized as members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, and received into the fellowship of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. In other dioceses, those who have been sacramentally confirmed in the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches are received and others are confirmed. Those who have returned from a time of religious inactivity to an active practice of faith may publicly reaffirm their baptismal vows. Others who have experienced a renewal of faith or desire to renew their Christian commitment may also reaffirm their baptismal vows. Reaffirmation may be repeated, depending on the pastoral needs of the person. Preparation for Confirmation/Reception/Reaffirmation should help the candidates discover the meaning of Christian commitment in their lives, and explore ways that their Christian commitment can be lived. This preparation may draw upon the baptismal covenant (BCP, pp. 416-417) and An Outline of the Faith (BCP, pp. 845-862).

Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation are rooted in the baptismal covenant. The candidates reaffirm their renunciation of evil, and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ. They reaffirm the promises made by them or for them at the time of baptism. Those present in the congregation promise to do all in their power to support the candidates in their life in Christ. The bishop lays hands on each candidate for Confirmation. The BCP provides specific prayers to be said by the bishop for Confirmation, for Reception, and for Reaffirmation. The bishop may shake hands with those who are being received to welcome them into this communion, and the bishop may lay hands on them in blessing. The bishop may also bless those who reaffirm their baptismal vows.

The Episcopal Church's theology of Confirmation has continued to evolve along with its understanding of baptism. Confirmation is no longer seen as the completion of Christian initiation, nor is Confirmation a prerequisite for receiving communion. Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's body the church (BCP, p. 298). Accordingly, Confirmation has been increasingly understood in terms of a mature, public reaffirmation of the Christian faith and the baptismal promises. Some dioceses require that candidates for Confirmation be at least sixteen years old to insure that the candidates are making a mature and independent affirmation of their faith. There is considerable diversity of understanding and practice concerning Confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Confirmation has been characterized as "a rite seeking a theology."

-adapted from The Episcopal Church Glossary. Definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(all rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
 
The preferred minimum age to be confirmed in the Diocese of
Connecticut is sixteen. A course of prepartation, lasting at least an academic year, precedes Confirmation.
To see a full list of the guidelines, click here
 

Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession) 
Reconciliation of a Penitent is the rite in which a person who repents of his or her sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution. The content of a confession is not normally a matter of subsequent discussion. The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the priest hearing the confession. If you would like to make a confession, or want to know more about it, please contact the Rector.
 

Unction of the Sick
Unction is the anointing 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 for healing at any time and is not reserved solely for those who are gravely ill. St. Alban’s celebrates public services of Healing during the principle service of Holy Eucharist periodically throughout the year. Members and their friends and families may receive Unction and the laying on of hands.  If you or someone you know would like prayers for healing, let the Rector know.
 

Ordination
In the Episcopal Church, both women and men are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops. Celibacy is not a requirement for ordination.  

       Deacons
Deacons model servant ministry. They are ordained, and serve certain roles in a parish. They are not paid for their parish work. The bishop assigns them to the parish. They also have a significant ministry in the world, either paid or volunteer, with the poor, lonely or sick. There is a training program for those exploring a call to the diaconate. Every year, the diocese holds a day for learning more about diaconal ministry. It is attended by priests, people interested in serving as a deacon, and their families. 
For more information about deacons in Connecticut, or about the deacon information day, contact Bishop Ahrens' Office and go to "what we believe".

Transitional deacons: Currently in the Episcopal Church, those who are on the "path" to becoming priests ordained as "transitional deacons" first, after completing all of their academic and other preparation. They remain as transitional deacons for about six months until they are ordained as priests. There are many deacons who would like to see this practice ended. They would prefer that priests be ordained directly to that order, and regularly petition the church's General Convention for a change in policy.

       Priests
The canons of the church govern the process for discerning if one is called to ordained ministry as a priest; there are both national and diocesan canons. The individuals will work with their parish priest and vestry; a parish discernment committee; the bishop and any designated assistant (in Connecticut, the canon to the ordinary); several committees of the Commission on Ministry; and others as needed. The process can take many years, and is not a guarantee that all who start the process will finish as priests. The diocese holds an annual day for learning more about ordained ministry as a priest. It is required for those interested in exploring the possibility. Contact Linda Walley in the Canon to the Ordinary's office for more information about the process, and the annual priest information day, 860-233-4481, lwalley@ctdiocese.org

Priests are accountable to their diocesan bishop. As ordained ministers in the whole church, they may take a position with a parish in another diocese than the one in which they were ordained. In such cases, their paperwork, and accountability, transfers to the other diocese and bishop. Most priests are called to serve in parishes, but others may work in "secular" employment, including as doctors, directors of non-profit organizations, professors, etc. (These are sometimes called "tentmaker priests" after St. Paul.)

        Bishops
Bishops are elected by dioceses (at a convention of diocesan clergy and elected lay delegates from parishes) and are bishops for life, even after retirement. There are canonical requirements for those who would be bishop, and for the election process. A diocesan bishop heads a diocese (the basic geographical unit of the Episcopal Church). A bishop coadjutor is elected to succeed a diocesan, and may serve with the diocesan until he/she retires or dies. A bishop suffragan is elected to assist the diocesan bishop, and has no "right of succession" if/when the diocesan retires or dies. A diocesan bishop may choose to hire a retired or resigned bishop from the same or another diocese to assist with certain ministries or responsiblities. Those bishops might be designated "assistant bishop" or an "assisting bishop."

The Episcopal Church USA has 108 dioceses, each with a diocesan bishop. Some have additional bishops, depending on their size. The Episcopal Church has a presiding bishop, elected for nine-year terms at the church's General Convention. The presiding bishop oversees the whole church, and gathers all the bishops, active and retired, for regular meetings. (In other countries this person may be called an archbishop; also known as a primate). The primates from all 38 churches in the Anglican Communion meet annually with the archbishop of Canterbury at locations around the globe; all bishops of the Anglican Communion meet every 10 years with the archbishop in England. The next of these larger meetings is 2016.
 
To find out more, go to "Ordination Process".


Burial
While not a sacramental Rite, the death of a loved-one is a life-changing event for everyone, and certainly for the deceased. For Christians, our death is our full entry into the Risen life of Jesus Christ, and we pray, “for to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.”

The death of a member of the Church should be reported as soon as possible to, and arrangements for the funeral should be made in consultation with, the minister of the local congregation.

Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church. The service should be held at a time when the congregation has opportunity to be present. If necessary, or if desired, all or part of the service of Committal may be said in the church. If preferred, the Committal service may take place before the service in the church. It may also be used prior to cremation.

 A priest normally presides at the service. It is appropriate that the bishop, when present, preside at the Eucharist and pronounce the Commendation. It is desirable that the Lesson from the Old Testament, and the Epistle, be read by lay persons. When the services of a priest cannot be obtained, a deacon or lay reader may preside at the service. It is customary that the celebrant meet the body and go before it into the church or towards the grave.
-taken from The Book of Common Prayer
 
Much of the information above comes from the website of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 857-861.