The Episcopal Church celebrates the two great sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist as well as the sacramental rites of confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
Holy Baptism is the high point of our worship and our life together. In the mystery of Holy Baptism, we believe that we actually die with Christ to sin and death, and we rise again to freedom and life eternal. When we baptize infants, it is the parents and sponsors (Godparents) who make promises on behalf of the child. When we baptize adults, the adult herself or himself renounces evil, affirms faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and joins in promising to uphold the faith of the Church.
In baptism Holy Water is poured over the head of the person being baptized. Then Holy Oil is poured on the person's head as the presence of the Holy Spirit is invoked and claimed for this new Christian. Finally, a candle is give to the newly baptized, symbolizing that this person now shares in carrying the Light of Christ in to the world. Holy Baptism at Holy Trinity is a very special time and takes place in the midst of a public service of worship. You can read more about what's involved with baptism HERE.
We use various words to describe this sacrament: Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Eucharist (from the Greek word for "thanksgiving,") and some refer to it simply as "the Mass." We welcome all who wish to draw closer to Jesus Christ to share in the bread and wine of this great sacrament. Here, at Holy Trinity, those who are able go forward and stand or kneel at the Altar Rail. Many people receive the Bread and hold it until the Cup is passed. Then, a eucharistic minister dips the bread into the cup and places it on a parishioner's tongue. Alternately, the faithful may drink from the cup and eat the bread when it is placed in their palm. If one wishes to receive a blessing rather than receive the cup and/or the bread, simply cross your arms over your chest, and the minister will take that sign and know how to respond.
Confirmation is enacted by a Bishop in a public service of worship held either during a bishop's visitation at Holy Trinity, or at one of the large, specially offered services at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. According to need and the rhythm of the church year, we offer resources and preparation classes. Individual preparation is also available. There is no mandatory age for confirmation in the Episcopal Church, but rather, it is time whenever the Holy Spirit tells you it is time. You can read more about Confirmation HERE.
Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which a couple enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows. Read more about Marriage at Holy Trinity HERE.
Confession (Reconciliation of a Penitent)
In many areas, it is sometimes said in the Episcopal Church that "all may, some should, but none must." This is especially true of Confession, or Reconciliation. If you have never made a confession with a priest, you might want to read some or think some about this before you actually meet with the priest. One of the best books on confession is Reconciliation, by The Reverend Martin Smith. Another great resource is the pamphlet by Brother Curtis Almquist, SSJE, which can be read or downloaded here.
Some find it helpful to spend some quiet time, simply thinking and praying. Others sometimes find it helpful to write a little bit about their spiritual life, particularly if there have been "bumps along the road" that continue to burden or bother. Not that this is ever read aloud or even shared with another person, but the exercise of writing can sometimes be helpful. Then, when you're ready, call the Rector and make an appointment for your confession to be heard, or simply to have an exploratory conversation about confession. Formal confessions are normally heard in the Memorial Chapel of the church using either Form One (page 447) or Form Two (page 449) in the Book of Common Prayer. These forms do not consist of magic words, but like much of our prayer book, simply help us to organize our thoughts and let the Holy Spirit move through us.
Through regular confession, we come to realize that sin only becomes stronger when we obsess over it and give it more power than it deserves. By confessing, ridding ourselves of the things that burden us and slow us down, we move more deeply into the Body of Christ and into the presence of God. Sin has ultimately been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We come to understand and know this through confession and the forgiveness of our sins. With God’s grace, we are brought again and again to the place where the words of the Prayer Book, from the Second Book of Samuel, resonate within us: “The Lord has put away all your sins.”
Holy Unction & Prayers for Healing
Holy oil is offered with the laying on of hands as a sign and promise of God's healing power. Unfortunately, the idea of Extreme Unction or Last Rites has pervaded popular culture to the extent that people are sometimes afraid to ask for the ministry of anointing with oil for healing. Holy oil and prayer for healing are routinely offered just before an operation or a hospital visit, or at any point in a person's sickness or recovery. As a sign that God desires us to be whole, all healing is offered in the spirit of the following words, which are often used when anointing the sick: "As you are outwardly anointed with this oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and strength. May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." We offer prayers for healing, the laying on of hands, and anointing with Holy Oil at the Wednesday evening Eucharist each week, in hospitals and homes, and by appointment.
In Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit gives to us the gift of life as the community of God’s faithful people. In the promises and vows we make at baptism, we acknowledge that we have heard from God a call, a vocation, to serve the world in Christ’s name. At baptism we are joined to others who share this vocation, the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, the servants of the Servant of God. Conversations about the possibility of being called to ordained ministry should begin informally, talking with friends and parishioners and a priest. Some ways to test the Spirit early on include meeting regularly with a spiritual director, going on retreat at an Anglican monastery or convent, reading about the tradition of spiritual discernment, meeting with a priest or a representative from the Diocese of New York's Office of Ministry.