Episcopalians are sacramental people. That is, our spirituality is one that involves the regular and frequent use of the sacraments of the church as a central and necessary aspect of our lives as the people of God.
The Book of Common Prayer defines a sacrament as an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Stated otherwise, sacraments are physical representations, signifiers, and the means by which God’s grace is given with certainty to God’s people.
Even if we do not fully understand the sacrament, grace has been promised to us through reception of the sacrament. Their efficacy does not rest on our understanding or much else about us, but in the love, promise, and faithfulness of God.
The Episcopal Church recognizes seven sacraments. The two "great sacraments of the Gospel" are Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. The other sacraments are Confirmation, Reconciliation, Holy Matrimony, Ordination and the Anointing of the Sick. These sacraments are means of grace, but they differ from Baptism and the Eucharist in that 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 burial. All of these sacramental rites, the burial liturgy and many other prayers and liturgies are included in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Holy Baptism is a public statement of one’s decision to follow the way of Jesus. In the case of infant baptism, it is the parents’ declaration of their intent to raise a child in the way of Jesus. For infants or children who cannot understand the promise to follow Jesus, we ask parents and sponsors (also known as godparents) to make these promises as well.
When you choose to have your child baptized or to be baptized yourself, it means that you are choosing to live out the Baptismal Covenant in the Episcopal Church community by taking part in the worship, ministries, and mission of the parish.
Baptism is open to all people, regardless of age or background. If you feel called to be baptized, or to have your child baptized at Ascension, please contact the Parish Office.
The Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the central liturgical worship of the Episcopal Church. It is celebrated at the services, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
“Eucharist” means “thanksgiving" and is when we gather to hear the Word of God in Scripture, and to receive the presence of Christ, in the consecrated bread and wine, the Body and Blood of our Lord.
All persons of any age are invited to receive Holy Communion. The Episcopal Church does not have a "First Communion" observance and young children who have been baptized are welcome to receive Communion at their parents’ discretion.
If you do not want to receive Communion, you may come to the altar rail to receive a blessing from the priest. Please place your arms across your chest in the form of an “X” to indicate that you would like to receive a blessing.
While Baptism is the sacrament by which we become members of the Church, 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." (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 857) It completes the initiation rite that began at baptism by transferring responsibility for the promises made at baptism from the sponsors to the one being confirmed.
One can be confirmed whenever he or she is ready to accept that responsibility and this usually happens during adolescence. The preferred minimum age to be confirmed is 15 -16 years old. If you have a call to be confirmed or if your child is ready for confirmation, please discuss with one of the church members.
Reconciliation of a Penitent
Also known as Confession, this sacrament is for those times in our lives when things we do (or don't do) block us from growing spiritually. They stand between us and God and we can't get around them. Penance is a way of removing the barriers that our bad behaviors create. Someone once said, "Talking about things makes them real." To do so with a person who is obligated to confidentiality -- and then hear that God loves and forgives us in spite of what we've done -- can be a very healing experience. It is meant to be a regular part of a Christian's spiritual development.
In the Episcopal Church, a general Confession is part of our regular Sunday services. Penance is not mandatory before receiving Eucharist as it is in some denominations. There is a simple rule that applies here: "All can, some should, none must."
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 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. Simply stated, the purpose of marriage is to give life and love to the world. A married couple, by the way they fulfill their marriage vows, will love, honor and nurture each other. The relationship is an example for others of what it means to be loving and faithful to another human being.
God calls all people into a spiritual relationship and gives us particular gifts with which to live our lives as Christians. We use the word "ministry" to describe our response to God's call to live a certain way and do particular things. Everyone has a ministry because everyone is called. The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.
The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
In the Episcopal Church, some are called to a special ministry within the church to train, equip and empower Christians to be effective. The sacrament of ordination is the means by which these persons are made clergy: deacons, priests and bishops.
The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.
The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ's name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ's ministry.
Anointing of the Sick
This sacrament exists for the purpose of healing -- to restore a person to physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness. When we anoint and pray for people, we ask God to release them from anything that prevents a person from being whole. Christians recognize that there is a difference between being healed and being cured. In the sacrament of Unction, we pray for healing and wholeness, which may or may not include a physical cure.
The rite of anointing includes the reading of Scripture, prayers, anointing with Oil of the Sick, sprinkling with Holy Water, and possibly the rite of Confession. Sometimes Anointing is followed by Holy Communion.
Burial of the dead is a time to utilize the pastoral and liturgical ministry of the Church. According to the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds its meaning in the resurrection. The Prayer Book also reminds us that "the very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death."
The worship leaders and supply clergy at Ascension are prepared to engage in the planning of funerals or memorial services. Please do not hesitate to contact the church at the news of the death of a loved one.