The Sacraments

 

The Book of Common Prayer is the book of worship for the Episcopal Church. It defines a sacrament as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Sacraments are rituals which use tangible symbols such as water and bread and wine to mark special moments of God's work in our lives. The seven sacraments, in somewhat chronological order, are Holy Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Healing, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent and Ordination.

Holy Baptism

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Holy Baptism is the rite of full initiation into the Church. The outward and visible sign of Baptism is water which is both a means of being made clean and a source of life itself.  Water is either poured on the candidate's head or the candidate is immersed in a pool or other body of water.  In and through baptism we are adopted as sons and daughters in the kingdom of God. 

Baptism is usually administered in the context of the Sunday Eucharist. Candidates for baptism are infants and young children of members of the parish and older children and adults who desire to make a mature and public commitment to the Christian faith. Each candidate for Holy Baptism is generally sponsored by one or more baptized persons. Instruction for parents and available godparents of infants and children precede each baptism.

To schedule a baptism and arrange for baptismal preparation, please contact the church office.

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Holy Eucharist

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In the last supper with the disciples, at the end of the meal, Jesus shared unleavened bread and passed a common cup. With the bread he said the words, "This is my body given for you." With the cup, he said, "This is my blood which is shed for you." The bread and wine are symbols of the Eucharist, but at the same time they are more than symbols. We believe that by the grace of God Jesus is truly present to the faithful in the bread and wine. This sacred meal becomes the means by which we are brought together as the body of Christ.

The Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is celebrated weekly as the principal service of worship in most Episcopal churches.  In our tradition, communion is open to all who are baptized, regardless of age or denomination.

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Confirmation

Confirmation web.jpgConfirmation is best understood as the completion of our baptism. It is a sacramental commitment to an on-going, intentional spiritual journey in response to one's Baptismal call and is the rite of full adult membership in the Episcopal Church. Confirmation is administered by the bishop. The tangible sign of confirmation is the bishop's laying on of hands which is accompanied by a prayer for the Holy Spirit to continue the good work already begun. Confirmation is open to young adults and adults who complete a confirmation or inquirer's class.

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Healing

Unction web.jpgHealing, also called unction, includes special prayers for the restoration of physical, spiritual and emotional well being. The outward and visible sign of unction is the laying on of hands and the application of blessed oil to the forehead. This sacrament is offered at the Wednesday noon celebration of Holy Eucharist and is available at other times (at the parish, at home or in the hospital) by request.

When unction is administered near the time of death it is called extreme unction and has also been called last rites.

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Holy Matrimony

Wedding Customary Cover.pngMatrimony web.jpgThe outward and visible sign of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is the couple themselves. At St. James, Holy Matrimony is available to couples where either the bride or groom is a baptized member in good standing of the parish (active in worship for 6 months prior to request). A personal interview with the rector is necessary before a date is entered on the calendar or other plans may progress for any wedding. Couples desiring to be married at St. James must contact the rector at least three months prior to the proposed date of the marriage. In the case of those previously married, more advance notice is wise. It is advisable to contact the church six to nine months in advance of your desired wedding date. Weddings are not performed during Lent except in extreme circumstances.

For more detailed information about weddings at St. James, please see the parish Wedding Customary.

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Reconciliation of a Penitent

Confession web.jpgReconciliation of a penitent is more commonly known as confession. There are two forms of confession in the Episcopal Church. First, there is public confession, which is part of the Holy Eucharist and other services of worship. In public confession, we all pray together for the forgiveness of our sins which we may enumerate in the silence that is kept after the bidding.

Private, individual confession is also available in the Episcopal Church. There is no requirement for such a rite; our view is that "all may, none must, some should." For someone who is unusually burdened, the pronouncement of God's forgiveness in the presence of a priest can be an important step in the process of healing. To arrange for the reconciliation of a penitent, please contact the parish office.

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Ordination

Ordination web.jpgAll the baptized are called to ministry in the church and the world. Some are called to special ministries in the church and, in the sacrament of Ordination, are empowered as deacons, priests and bishops. Deacons serve the church by reminding people of their baptismal call to serve. Priests lead congregations and are called to administer the Holy Eucharist. Bishops are overseers who have responsibility for a diocese, the smallest geographic unit of the Episcopal Church. St. James Episcopal Church is in the Diocese of Louisiana, comprising the area of the state, generally, east of the Atchafalaya River.

Ordination is administered by bishops and the outward and visible sign is the laying on of hands (just as it is for confirmation).

The call to ordination begins in the parish where a person's gifts for ministry and leadership are first demonstrated, recognized and affirmed. The process of ordination then begins in a conversation with the rector.

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Resources

Please view our other pages introducing the Episcopal Church: