According to The Book of Common Prayer (page 857), sacraments are, “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” Baptism and Eucharist are the two great sacraments given by Christ to the Church. If you are looking for records for sacraments and rites that took place in the past, contact the local church as it serves as the primary record keeper. If you need additional information, there are archives and records from closed parishes available here.
In Baptism, a person is initiated into Christ’s body by water and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is available to both adults and infants. In The Episcopal Church, most baptisms are done by sprinkling water, though some congregations prefer immersion baptism. Each candidate for baptism has at least one sponsor (godparent) who is a baptized Christian (of any denomination.) Adult candidates or parents of children may be asked to attend a baptism preparation session including a short practice so you and your child will know what to expect. Contact your local church for more information.
The sacrament of Christ’s body and blood is shared as bread and wine in the service of the Holy Eucharist (also known as the Mass or Holy Communion.) It is based on the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper and we belief that Christ’s body and blood are truly present in this sacrament. In The Episcopal Church, any baptized Christian is welcome to receive the bread and wine. In most churches, the Eucharist liturgy is held every Sunday. A person may receive just the bread if that is preferred. Most congregations have gluten free bread available- just mention it to the priest at the time of communion.
Other Sacramental Rites
In addition to the two great sacraments, The Episcopal Church recognizes five sacramental rites that are ways in which God’s grace can be shared-confirmation, ordination, marriage, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction. All Christians are encouraged to share in baptism and Eucharist, but not all Christians are required to take part in these other sacramental rites.
Confirmation (and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows)
Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop. Confirmation is offered to youth (preferably about 16 years of age) and adults who have been baptized. Those who have been previously confirmed may wish to reaffirm their faith when the bishop visits the congregation. Additionally, adults who have been confirmed in another denomination can be received into The Episcopal Church as part of this confirmation liturgy. Instructional classes are generally offered prior to the bishop’s visit. Contact your local church for more information.
Ordination is the rite in 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 bishops. In this diocese, the Bishop works with the Commission on Ministry to help persons discern a calling to ordination. For more information, contact the Bishop’s office.
Marriage (and Blessings) /Wedding
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, commonly known as a wedding, is an expression of Christian community in which a couple makes their vows before God and the Church, and the priest blesses the marriage on behalf of the Church. Marriage is available to those who are active participants in the life and ministry of The Episcopal Church. One member of the couple must be a baptized Christian and the couple must make a commitment that the marriage is intended to be life-long. It is important that you meet with the priest before making any decisions about when or where your wedding will be held. The Blessing of a Civil Union is available to those who have been legally married before but want a religious ceremony at a later date. Most congregations in the diocese offer blessings to same-sex couples. Confer with the priest in your congregation for more information.
Reconciliation of a Penitent (Private Confession)
Reconciliation of a Penitent, or Penance, is the rite in which a person makes a private confession to God in the presence of a priest. After confession, the penitent person receives spiritual guidance and assurance of pardon from the priest. In most Episcopal churches, a General Confession is said by the congregation as part of the Eucharist liturgy. If you would like to arrange a time for a private confession, speak with a priest in the diocese.
Unction (Anointing of the Sick)
In this sacramental rite, the priest lays hands on the head of a sick person and anoints her or him with oil that has been blessed by the bishop. It is available to anyone who is need of God’s healing grace. For more information about public healing services or a private time for the rite of anointing, contact your local congregation.
Although the Burial of the Dead is not a sacramental rite, it is an important rite for every Christian. In The Episcopal Church, funerals are conducted in the church or, at times, in a funeral home and people may be buried or cremated. Most clergy are willing to preside at the funeral of someone who has not been a member of their church, provided that the family is willing to follow the practices of The Episcopal Church. These include a funeral being a celebration of the person’s life, closing the casket before the service, and following the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. A Eucharist may or may not be included. Contact the priest at your local church as soon as the person has died. If you anticipate a death, a priest can also perform a liturgy for the dying.