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This is the 10th in a continuing series on the “We Share…” theme. For background, see the first entry in the series here: We Share #1
Today, “We Share…Sacraments.”
The sacraments of the church are shared or celebrated at times of the intersection of our human experience with God’s concern for our well-being. “Sacraments bring God’s grace, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the example of the life of Jesus Christ together with one’s personal commitment of faith. Through the sacraments, we discover the presence of God everywhere and realize that all life is sacred.” (Sharing in Community of Christ, p. 44)
Community of Christ has eight sacraments which touch people at different times in their lives.
Baptism is celebrated when a person makes a decision to recognize the initiative of God in the person’s life. It is the culmination of a person’s choice to “follow Jesus Christ with all of your heart, might, mind, and strength. … In baptism, we are immersed in water to symbolize death to sin and raised from the water to begin a new life.” (Sharing …, p. 44)
Confirmation is a prayer of blessing that, first, “affirms the Holy Spirit’s continued blessing for each disciple,” and, also, “’confirms’ membership in Community of Christ.” (Sharing …, p. 45) Two elders of the church lay their hands on the head of the person being confirmed and one of them offers the prayer. Confirmation usually follows shortly after a person’s baptism. However, if a person has been baptized in another Christian faith tradition (other than as an infant) that baptism can be recognized, and the person can be confirmed as a member of Community of Christ.
The Lord’s Supper (Communion) recalls the example set by Jesus in sharing in partaking in bread and wine for his disciples to remember him. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus told his disciples (Luke 22:19 NRSV). Communion is normally celebrated by congregations in their worship service on the first Sunday of each month. It is also often shared at other special occasions of gatherings of church members. Partaking of the “emblems” (bread and non-alcoholic grape juice) is open to all persons attending the service who have made a commitment to Jesus, even if in a different denomination.
Ordination “recognizes the divine initiative to call certain disciples to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.” (Sharing …, p. 47) Ordination is normally conducted in a public worship service by two current priesthood members who lay their hands on the head of the person being ordained. One of the priesthood members offers the prayer of ordination to the priesthood “office” to which the person has been called.
Blessing of Children is offered in commemoration of two events in Jesus’ life. First, when Mary and Joseph took him, as a young child, to the Temple “to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:21-35) and when during his ministry parents brought their children to him to be blessed (Mark. 10:14). Today parents may choose to bring their infant children, or children up to the age of 7, to be blessed in a public worship service. Typically, one minister holds the child and the other offers the prayer of blessing. For a child older than an infant, the child will sit in a chair and the ministers will lay their hands on the child’s head and one will offer the prayer.
Laying on of Hands for the Sick involves two significant symbols of God’s presence: consecrated olive oil and the laying on of hands. When a person has a specific need – usually a physical illness or injury, or sometimes a challenge of a spiritual or mental health nature – the person may call the elders for a “prayer of administration” as it is often called. One minister will anoint the person’s head with a drop of consecrated olive oil, a physical representation of the Holy Spirit, and then both ministers lay their hands on the person’s head as one offers the prayer. This sacrament is normally conducted in private – sometimes in the Pastor’s Study of a church, or in a person’s home, or in a hospital room.
Marriage. “Christian marriage is a sacred covenant between two people for lifelong, healthy, loving companionship. Marriage is also a legal agreement. The sacrament of marriage highlights God’s desire to strengthen and enrich the marriage.” (Sharing …, p. 49) “Community of Christ priests and elders may perform this sacrament, regardless of the couple’s membership in Community of Christ, as long as local laws governing marriage are followed.” (Sharing …, p. 50)
Evangelist Blessing is a sacramental prayer that “expresses the universal love of God for the recipient(s) and brings assurance, clarifies choices, and provides light for a lifetime of faithful discipleship in response to God.” (Sharing …, p. 50) This sacrament is typically requested by an individual, but might also be requested by a couple, a family, or even an entire congregation. The Evangelist who will offer the prayer will spend some significant time in preparation with the individual (or group) to ensure there is a good understanding of the needs to be addressed by the prayer. It is possible for a person to have more than one Evangelist Blessing as a person’s life circumstances and needs change and evolve.
These descriptions of the sacraments of Community of Christ are very brief due to the constraints of space in this format. Much more could be presented about each one. If you have an interest in any one or more of the sacraments of the church, please contact the writer or a congregation near you. Material for this column is drawn primarily from the book, available online, Sharing in Community of Christ: Exploring Identity, Mission, Message, and Beliefs.
I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537
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