Baptism, Confirmation, Affirmation, Reception

One of the things that I have offered to do during Lent is to think about baptism, confirmation, affirmation, receptions and all the other ways of finding a way into the Scottish Episcopal Church that currently exist.

Here is a brief summary.

Turning Up and receiving Communion – many people find a way into being a part of the Cathedral congregation and thus a part of the Scottish Episcopal Church simply through turning up and joining in. We give people a chance just before the AGM to declare themselves to be communicants and that puts them on the Communicants Roll. We also keep records of those associated with the congregation who do not receive communion. This is the Congregational Roll. You can’t be a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church if you are a member of another church. (Really, you can’t, whatever you might think). And you can’t be a member of two Scottish Episcopal Congregations at once. (Really, you can’t – an attempt to change the Canon law on this a few years ago failed). Everyone is welcome to receive communion at St Mary’s. No exceptions.

Baptism – for a lot of people, baptism is their entry point into the life of the church. It wasn’t mine, incidentally as I was a communicant before I was baptised. (I wasn’t an Anglican in those days as it happens and I was baptised by full immersion as an adult having been a Christian all my life). We baptise children and adults in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Baptisms usually take place in a 10.30 am service. Adults who want to be baptised are encouraged, particularly at this time of year, to be baptised at the Easter Vigil, early on Easter Day. I strongly encourage parents of children who have been baptised to ensure that their children receive communion straight away – it is the law of our church that baptism offers full initiation into communion. The best way for children to learn about communion is to have reverent parents who take them up to receive communion and who teach them by example that this is a special moment of grace. Some parents start this off by breaking their own wafer and sharing it with their child.

Admission to Communion – I sometimes run special teaching services for those who wish to begin receiving communion who for some reason have not already done so. These are slow services where there is a chance to talk about what we are doing at any point in the service. I’ve run these for adults and children and would be happy to run one again this Lent.

Reception – People who come from other religious traditions sometimes want or need the fact that they are joining the Scottish Episcopal Church to be marked in some way. It is possible for this to take the form of being received into the church with a handshake and a prayer. This can take place at the  Easter Vigil with the Bishop or on a Sunday during the 10.30 am service.

Confirmation – people sometimes want to make a public acknowledgement of the faith which was proclaimed for them as young children when they were baptised. This can take the form of Confirmation which is normally a service presided over by the Bishop. Confirmation is also sometimes used by people to mark the fact that they are joining the Scottish Episcopal Church formally. (This happened to me – I was confirmed at the time I was exploring my vocation at the age of 25).

Affirmation – This is a form of service connected to confirmation which can be used at any stage in someone’s life to affirm their faith and celebrate the gifts that God has given them. It would be fair to say that there is a great deal of confusion about Confirmation and Affirmation in our church and it is hard to say that there is one definitive view as to what the theological assumptions are behind these services. Parts of the affirmation service were used at my Installation as Provost of St Mary’s – this is just one example of the way in which the service could be used.

So, during Lent, I’m happy to talk about any of these things. Indeed, all the clergy are happy to be approached about these things at any time – it is just that sometimes people need to be told it is OK to start asking the questions.

Lots of people have issues like not knowing whether they have been baptised or whether the church recognises ceremonies from other denominations or whether they need or want or hope for something special to renew their faith.

If you want to speak a member of the clergy about any of these things, please get in touch with me through the Cathedral Office.


  1. That’s interesting. Have things actually changed since I was wee? I wasn’t allowed to take Communion until after I had been confirmed when I was 12. To be honest, I still think 12 is a little young to be making an adult profession of faith, but then I suppose my views have changed and evolved as an adult so I guess it’s only a snapshot of how you are at the time.

    I like the idea of the slow services when you explain everything while you’re doing it.

  2. Yes – things have changed a lot since you were wee, Caron though they have changed in different ways in different denominations, different congregations and different families. Sometimes it is hard to work out what it going on, which is why I tried to set out our practise at St Mary’s in the post above.

    We tend to think about these as Pastoral services available to people at the time that they seem most appropriate in life.

    You don’t get very many 12 year olds being confirmed these days.

    Baptism also includes being annointed with oil and hands laid on in prayer these days which blurs the distinction between baptism and confirmation.

    To some extent, Canon law is confused on this issue. It doesn’t require people to be confirmed before receiving communion, for example, but does require it before someone can be selected for Ordination. This does not make any sense at all.

  3. Not sure if this is the appropriate place for these questions, but I was wondering if the ways in which you described these rites (not sure if that’s the best word to describe them) as being used in the Scottish Episcopal Church is how they’re used and understood throughout the Anglican Communion, or is how they’re used and understood in the SEC is very different from say, the Church of England or The Episcopal Church in the USA?

    • Hi Rhea

      That’s a good question. The answer is that some of these things are regulated differently in different parts of the Communion.

      I can’t really answer for the other churches. I think that children receiving communion before confirmation or indeed without any intention of being confirmed is more common in Scotland than in England.

      I remember a friend of mine doing some research in Scotland on different practises in the Scottish Episcopal Church regarding confirmation and baptism and admission to communion. She found that we had amongst our congregations every possible practise she could imagine and this diversity was also sometimes reflected within individual congregations.

      I suspect there may be less diversity within some other parts of the communion.

      • That’s really interesting, Kelvin. I don’t know much about the Scottish Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. It seems that much liberty is given to each individual church within the Communion. Would that be correct? If that’s so, then what exactly binds the various churches within the Communion?

  4. Robin says

    The Catechism in the Scottish Prayer Book leaves us in no doubt about the uncomfortable truth that Baptism without Confirmation is incomplete as a rite of Christian initiation. It seems to me that the SEC’s current teaching (or lack of it) on Christian initiation is a mess!

    Question. What is Confirmation?
    Answer. Confirmation is an apostolic and sacramental rite by which the Holy Spirit is given to complete our Baptism, so that we may be strengthened in our Christian life.

  5. Kennedy Fraser says

    Seems to me the teaching of the SEC is completely clear on the rite of Initiation (see below).

    (Where I do have some issues is the inconsistency re baptism and confirmation for membership of various bodies and orders).


    Canon 25 (revised in 2005)

    1. The Sacrament of Baptism is the full rite of initiation into the Church, and
    no further sacramental rite shall be required of any person seeking admission to
    Holy Communion. Subject to any Regulations issued by the College of Bishops
    concerning the preparation of candidates, the admission of any baptized person to
    Holy Communion shall be at the discretion of the cleric having charge of the
    congregation of which that person is a member, always providing that a person
    who has been admitted to Holy Communion in one congregation shall be
    accepted as a communicant in any other congregation of this Church.
    2. The Scottish Episcopal Church recognizes as eligible to receive Holy
    Communion any baptized person who is a communicant of any Trinitarian
    3. Any person baptized and duly admitted as a communicant in another
    Trinitarian Church wishing to become a member of the Scottish Episcopal
    Church shall be accepted upon receipt of evidence of that baptism and admission
    in the said Church as a communicant-member of this Church.

    • Hmm. That does seem clear, doesn’t it?

      Just to muddy the waters though, one of the things I’m most pleased at doing was (along with one or two other loud voices) managing to get the Baptism/Affirmation liturgy’s name changed. It was going to be published under the name “Initiation Rites” and we managed to argue that such a title was not really entirely accurate these days.

      It seems to me that the Eucharist is the most common initiation rite in our church and that God seems to be using any and all of the sacraments as rites of entry into the church.

  6. I don’t have a dog in this fight but the discussion reminds me of the Saturday late in Advent 1978 in the London Oratory when I received the sacraments of conditional baptism, confirmation, penance and communion. Like the architecture, quite baroque…

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