Our life in community at Saint Mark’s is centered around the Sacraments of the Church. The Prayer Book teaches that a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. There are many ways in which God’s grace is imparted to us, but seven have been traditionally called sacraments.
The first two are known as Dominical Sacraments because they were directly instituted by Jesus Christ through his own action and command.
Before he returned to heaven, Jesus instructed his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them int he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Baptism is the Sacrament of the Church in which we accept salvation from sin and reconciliation with God by participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is also often referred to as Christian Initiation since by the Holy Spirit one becomes a member of the Christian Church at Baptism. It is the door through which one enters into full membership and participation in the Church of Christ. It is important to remember that one is baptized a Christian not an Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic.
Children as well as adults are baptized in the Episcopal Church, a practice that dates back to the earliest days in Christian history, Regardless of age, all are children in the faith, growing “into the fullness of the stature of Christ.” If baptism is the door, then the Church provides a path to follow, through Christian education, fellowship and worship. Sponsors or Godparents as well as the whole family of God are committed to do all in their power to support those who are baptized in their life in Christ. (Prayer Book, page 303).
On the night before he died for us, Jesus gave his disciples a new meaning for the symbols of the Passover, declaring that from then on, the bread would be become, in some real way, his own body and the wine his own blood. He then gave them a command that they should, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Greek for “thanksgiving”) is the means whereby baptized Christians receive their spiritual nourishment. It is the central act of worship of the Christian community and one of the most profound ways in which God shares with us, and we with one another, the hope of the resurrection.
All baptized Christians are welcome to receive Communion at Saint Mark’s altar. Some churches require membership in order to receive Communion, believing the Sacrament to be a sign of unity with their their denomination or even their individual congregation. In the Episcopal Church, we believe that Communion is a sign of the unity of the Church that Christ envisioned when he prayed “that they may become completely one.” (John 17:23)
When communicants, because of sickness or other reasonable cause,cannot be present for extended periods of time, requests to the clergy can be made for the celebration of the Eucharist at home or in the hospital. Communicants are encouraged to have friends or relatives present to receive Communion with them.
There are five additional Sacramental Rites that, though they were not ordained by Christ himself, have grown from the experience of the Church through its two thousand year history. Though available to all Christians, individuals may or may not be called to each of these Sacraments.
In the beginning of the Church’s history, newly baptized Christians were immediately presented to the Bishop for the sealing of the Baptism by annointing with oil and laying on of hands. As the Church grew, the authority to baptize was delegated to the Presbyters (Priests) of the Church. After a period of additional preparation and at the convenience of the Bishop, the Christian was presented to him for the laying on of hands.
Confirmation is the sacramental rite in which mature members of the Episcopal Church take upon themselves the vows made on their behalf at the time of their baptism and accept responsibility as responsible adult members of the Church.
Classes in preparation for Confirmation are scheduled for adults and for young people who are ready to take this step. The adult classes are also open to anyone wishing to learn about the Episcopal Church and for members who would like a refresher course on being an Episcopalian.
Healing has long been a part of Christian ministry and is biblically commended. Special healing services are held regularly at the Cathedral, and the clergy frequently anoint and pray with those who are ill. Unction is not only provided for healing of the body, but healing of the soul.
Our lives as Christians do not end when the body dies. The Order for the Burial of the Dead is at once a solemn and festive celebration. The burial service for an active member of the Christian community should always take place in the Parish church or at the graveside. Burial or cremation are both in keeping with the Church’s teaching.
RECONCILIATION (also called Penance or Confession):
As Episcopalians, we make our confession during most worship services and we receive priestly absolution (the assurance of God’s forgiveness). There are times, however, when people desire to make a specific confession, and a Prayer Book service is provided which may take place either in an informal or a formal setting. There is an old Anglican adage regarding private confession: “All may. Some should. None must.”
Scripture is clear that none of us are without sin. As part of the Eucharistic celebration, we collectively confess our sins and receive absolution. The Dean is also available to hear private confession.
A man and a women are joined together within the community of the Christian family, pledge faithfulness to one another, and receive God’s blessing pronounced by a priest of the church.
Holy Matrimony is the Christian Sacrament in which a man and a woman seek God’s blessing on the union of their marriage. Clergy will inform the couple of the customs and requirements of the Episcopal Church and Saint Mark’s Pro-Cathedral.
The setting apart by the church of men and women called to serve as deacons, priests, or bishops is commonly referred to as ordination. Only a bishop can ordain, and three bishops are required for the consecration of another bishop.