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.