Protestant Sacraments

We have two sacraments in our church—baptism and communion. Explaining why they are and what they mean can be a challenge. The old definition says that a sacrament is “an outward sign of an inward event.” The outward sign being our ritual and the inward event being grace, or faith. This seems to explain a mystery with a puzzle.

Sacraments have a practical and spiritual significance. Practically, they are the rituals that the church recognizes as necessary to be called a Christian. Spiritually they are the two most important acts of faith that open our hearts to God’s presence. Protestants recognize only these two sacraments because they are actions in which Jesus also participated. He was baptized by John, and he instituted communion at the Last Supper.

Faith, though, is not something that spontaneously appears at the moment of baptism, or of communion. Faith is a relationship with God that develops throughout our lifetime. To help our children progress to ever deeper understandings of faith we offer age appropriate programs and rituals that help them become more completely involved in the life of the church. This Sunday we will celebrate with two special classes—Welcome to the Table, and Confirmation.

In our Congregational tradition children are welcome to receive communion whenever their parents feel they are ready to participate. In order to assist our families we offer the Welcome to the Table program for first and second graders to learn the practice and meaning of communion. At the conclusion of the class the students join in a special communion service.

Then when children begin the transition to adulthood and are ready to make the decision about faith we invite them to join our confirmation program. Confirmation is more than preparation for church membership—any baptized person may join the church. Confirmation, as an “Affirmation of Baptism,” asks the students to consider the promises that were made by their parents and community at their baptism and to choose to accept for themselves if they believe in God. We offer this program for seventh and eighth graders. The class meets with me for a school year that concludes with them writing their own two-page statement of faith in which they reflect on their belief in God.

This Sunday our Welcome to the Table and Confirmation classes will join us in worship for a special communion service. We do this on Pentecost Sunday because it is the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is also called the birthday of the church. I am very excited to see the young people participating in this service. I know I have had a wonderful time with this confirmation class and am very proud of all of their work.

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