As Episcopalians, we mark certain times and places in a special way through our participation in the sacraments. In the “Outline of Faith,” the word sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given by Christ as assurances of that grace.” These signs or symbols of spiritual realities assist us in integrating our lives both as individuals and as a community.
The Holy Eucharist
Partaking in the Body and Blood of Jesus is the central focus of our worship at St. James’. The Eucharist is one of the ways by which we understand God’s constant love and care for us. When we gather at God’s table, we are taking part in a form of worship that was established by Jesus as he fed the masses, shared a last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion, and was made known to his followers after the resurrection through the breaking of bread. The essence of the Holy Eucharist is more than simply remembering the “Last Supper;” we are being fed daily by God’s life-giving presence. In the Episcopal Church both bread and wine are offered.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is an expression of the ever growing, ever changing life of the Church. It is always mystical, but it is never magical. The baptism of a person into the Body of Christ will only be meaningful if it is supported by a committed, loving parish family. It is in this spirit that we offer baptism as an integral part of our life together at St. James’. Baptism at St. James’ is offered on the traditional dates of the first Sunday after the Epiphany, Easter Eve, the Day of Pentecost, All Saints Sunday, and on any Sunday when a Bishop is present as celebrant at the Eucharist. Under normal circumstances, Holy Baptism is a part of a regular Sunday worship service.
Confirmation is a conscientious, prayerful, and mature renewal and acceptance of the vows and promises that were made at Baptism. Since most Baptisms in the Episcopal tradition involve infants, this public renewal of the Baptismal Covenant, signified by the laying on of hands by a bishop, is particularly important.
The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is one that binds not only two people together, but also reminds the larger church of our interdependence and love that we share with one another. In the Episcopal Church the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is one that is taken quite seriously. In order to be married in the Episcopal Church, one of the parties must be baptized, and there should be some association or desire to be associated with this parish.
Reconciliation of a Penitent
The sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation of a Penitent, is the rite by which a person confesses sins to God in the presence of a priest, and receives the assurance of pardon and absolution.
One of the ministries of the Church is the sacramental anointing of those who are ill. This rite is called unction. Throughout the scriptures of the New Testament, Jesus is constantly laying his hands on, and anointing those who are sick or suffering. The church, therefore, in remembering the acts of our Lord, and claiming his promises of healing, performs the sacrament of unction and healing either at a specific service, Sunday Eucharist or at any time by request. Everyone is urged to contact the parish office or a priest when illness occurs.
The rite by which bishops, priests and deacons are given the authority and grace of God to perform the sacramental ministries of the church is called Ordination. It is important to note that all people are called to be ministers, and that ordination denotes no more goodness or piety than is found in any other Christian. Ordination is simply the manner in which the church insures continuity of tradition and validates the specific call to sacramental ministry. Generally, the prerequisites for ordination in the Episcopal Church are: a college and seminary degree; specific clinical, academic and practical training; and the participation in a thorough diocesan screening and training process. Since the Diocese and not the congregation is the central unit of our church, all candidates for ordination are under the direction of the bishop.