The Sacraments of the Church

Holy Baptism is the Sacrament by which people are adopted into the family of God. In the Episcopal Church, we baptize using water in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Often people are baptized as infants in our tradition, and later reaffirm their baptismal covenant as adolescents during the sacramental rite of Confirmation. The Book of Common Prayer recommends specific occasions for baptisms: the feast of the Baptism of Jesus (in January), Easter Vigil, Pentecost Sunday (in May or June), and All Saints Day (in November). With the bishop’s permission, we also celebrate baptisms on our Founders Day, the Sunday closest to July 8, when we celebrate our patron saint Stephen. Some who come to us were not baptized as children and are baptized as adults, almost always at the Easter Vigil. The Episcopal Church recognizes the universal nature of baptism and as a result does not rebaptize those who have been baptized before in any Christian tradition. Please call the Parish Office and speak to the Rector if you or your child needs to be baptized.

Holy Communion is the Sacrament by which the People of God are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ and strengthened to do their work out in the world. Holy Communion is offered every Sunday, where we celebrate the Holy Eucharist (also called the Lord’s Supper, the Mass, or the Divine Liturgy) as the central act of Christian worship. In the Episcopal Church, all baptized persons, regardless of age or church background, are welcome to receive Communion. Both bread and wine are always offered, but some choose to receive one element and not the other. (We also offer gluten-free bread to those who are unable to tolerate wheat.) Specially trained ministers also take Holy Communion to members of our congregation who are sick or unable to attend Sunday worship at church. The Book of Common Prayer encourages us to prepare ourselves to receive Communion by examining our lives, repenting of our sins, and being in love and charity with all people.

Ministration to the Sick (Anointing or Unction) is a sacramental rite by which a priest of the Church lays hands upon a person and anoints him or her with specially blessed oil. This rite is not restricted to those who are dying but is encouraged for any of those who need God’s healing grace and strength, regardless of whether their ailment is physical, psychological, or spiritual in nature. You can receive anointing at any time by speaking to a priest, but twice a year we also offer a special healing liturgy on a weekday evening for those need God’s healing grace.

Confirmation is a sacramental rite by which those who were previously baptized come before the Bishop to receive the laying on of hands and the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit, who empowers them for service in the world. The Bishop normally visits the parish every other year, but annual regional Confirmation services are also offered by the Diocese. Preparation meetings take place leading up to the day of Confirmation. (The Episcopal Church does not re-Confirm those who were previously Confirmed in a sacramental tradition.) If you are interested in learning more about Confirmation, please contact the Parish Office.

Holy Matrimony is the union of two people “in heart, body, and mind” before God. When celebrated in the church, the couple also receives the special blessing of the Church and its prayers for their new life together. In the Episcopal Church, prior marital preparation is required for couples who want to celebrate their marriage in the Church. The Episcopal Church always intends for marriage to be a lifelong relationship, but it also recognizes that sometimes relationships fail and that sometimes divorced people later seek to get married again and still need the support of the Church. Please speak to the Rector if you are interested in getting married at St. Stephen’s.

Reconciliation of a Penitent, sometimes called Confession or Penance, is a sacramental rite in which a person seeks a new start and a clean slate by confessing sins privately before God in the presence of a priest and then receives spiritual counsel and the grace of absolution. In the Episcopal Church, this rite is always optional, and the general adage is “All can, some should, none must.” Lent is an especially appropriate time to experience the grace of this pastoral rite. Speak with a priest if you want to learn more.

Ordination is the sacramental rite by which men and women are admitted to Holy Orders through the laying on of hands by a Bishop. The Episcopal Church retains the historic orders of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops, and all people chosen by God, regardless of age, background, gender, and sexual orientation have equal access to the ordination process. Ordination, as well as preparation and discernment for it, are handled by the Diocese.

Other Rites

Celebration for a Home (House Blessing) is a service of the church offered to those who have recently moved into a new home or apartment. A priest then blesses the home and each of its rooms, as well as those who live there.Sometimes, family and friends are also invited to join in and then stay for a small housewarming party. Some people also honor an old traditon of inviting the parish priest over to their home each year during the Epiphany season for a shorter annual blessing ceremony. Contact the Parish office to learn more.

Thanksgiving for a Child is a special blessing offered when a new child is welcomed into a family, either by birth or adoption. It involves prayers of thanks to God for the child and asks for a special blessing upon the child. Sometimes newborn infants are welcomed with this special celebration on their first Sunday at church and then are later baptized at the next appointed baptismal time.

Blessing of a Civil Marriage is offered to couples who have been married in a secular ceremony but now seek the blessing of God and the church for their marriage. See the Rector to learn more.

Reception into the Episcopal Church is the process by which those who were previously baptized and confirmed in another tradition are welcomed formally by a bishop into the Episcopal Church. See the Rector if you would like to be received.

Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows is offered to those who were previously baptized and confirmed but who now want to publicly renew their baptismal vows and receive a special blessing by the Bishop for their life in Christ and service in the world. See the Rector to learn more.

Burial of the Dead is the pastoral rite of burial for those who have died. In the Episcopal Church, people may be buried or cremated, but the liturgical service for celebrating their lives and commending them to God’s love and mercy is the same. Contact the Parish Office if you need to make arrangements for a burial.