In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, First Congregational United Church of Christ recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.
Sacraments are ritual actions in worship that, according to Scripture, were instituted by Jesus. In the sacraments of baptism and communion we ask the Holy Spirit to use water, bread, and juice to make visible the grace, forgiveness and presence of God in Christ.
“Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 NRSV.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28 NRSV
The sacrament of baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of God. Through baptism, a person is joined with the universal church, the body of Christ. In baptism, God works in us the power of forgiveness, the renewal of the spirit, and the knowledge of the call to be God’s people always.
Baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is the sign and seal of our common discipleship. Since baptism is God’s gift, the Holy Spirit is called to be upon the water and those being baptized. The act of baptism also marks the beginning of new life of discipleship with Christ, the human response to that gift. Water is an essential element of baptism. Water is a prominent symbol of cleansing and life in the Bible – the water of creation, the great flood, the liberation of Israel through the sea, the water of Mary’s womb, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the woman at the well and Jesus’ washing of the feet of the disciples. That is why water is visibly present in the service.
First Congregational – UCC baptizes infants, children, youth and adults. For infants and children, as well as for youth and adults who have never been baptized before, baptism marks their acceptance into the care of Christ’s church, the sign and seal of God’s grace and forgiveness and the beginning of their Christian faith and life. The United Church of Christ recognizes the validity of all baptisms; therefore, there is no need for re-baptism. If there is a question about whether baptism has taken place, a conditional phrase may be added as a person is baptized, such as “if you are not already baptized.”
Baptism is a personal celebration in the lives of the individual candidates and their families. It is also a celebration within the local church family and recognition of its commitment. For this reason, baptism is celebrated in the presence of the community gathered for worship.
Baptism may take place at any worship service where the community is gathered. In the early Christian church, the season of Lent was used as the final period for the preparation of candidates. In the scriptures that are read during the seasons from Advent up to Easter, there are many texts that teach the faith and point toward baptism. In the early church, the candidates were baptized together at the Vigil of Easter (the pre-dawn Easter service).
Parents, in consultation with the pastor, may choose sponsors or Godparents for infants and young children who are to be baptized. Other candidates for baptism may also be given this opportunity to have sponsors. At the time of the baptismal service, the sponsors, who accompany the candidates and present them for baptism, may make promises identical to the promises of the parents concerning their role.
The Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ provides an Order for Baptism and orders for Affirmation of Baptism. The recognition of our baptism by the ecumenical church is important to us, and the Book of Worship encourages the use of language recognized in most Christian churches: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
First Congregational UCC usually celebrates Holy Communion the first Sunday of every month. Communion is served with cubes of bread and individual cups of juice, with an option of gluten free bread. Our church practices an open communion table. During the summer, communion is served by intinction, during which wafers are dipped in a common cup of grape juice by each person as those wishing to participate form a line that comes to the front of the church. For those unable to come forward, a member will bring the sacramental elements to them.
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 NRSV.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” Luke 24;30-31 NRSV.
The communion meal recalls the table fellowship Jesus shared with his disciples, and in particular the Last Supper on the night before his death, as well as his appearances to the disciples during meals following his resurrection. Throughout its history these Biblical events have been central to the Church’s worship life. In the sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving,” Christians hear, taste, touch and receive the grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ in a unique way.
Holy Communion is a
- joyous act of thanksgiving for all God has done, is doing, and will do for the redeeming of creation;
- a sacred memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, a living and effective sign of Christ’s sacrifice in which Christ is truly and rightly present to those who eat and drink;
- an earnest prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit to unite those who partake with the Risen Christ and with each other, and to restore creation, making all things new; and
- an intimate experience of fellowship in which the whole church in every time and place is present and divisions are overcome and a hopeful sign of the promised Realm of God marked by justice, love and peace.The United Church of Christ Book of Worship reminds us that “the invitation and the call [to the supper] celebrate not only the memory of a meal that is past, but an actual meal with the risen Christ that is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet at which Christ will preside at the end of history.”The broken bread and poured juice represent – present anew – the crucified and risen Christ. The wheat gathered to bake one loaf and the grapes pressed to make one cup remind participants that they are one body in Christ, while the breaking and pouring announce the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.A variety of practices are found in the United Church of Christ, including the sharing of a common loaf or the use of individual wafers or cubes of bread and the sharing of a common cup or of individual cups, either at the Table or in the pews. Intinction (dipping the bread in the juice) is also an acceptable practice. Care should be taken to ensure that the full meaning of the sacrament is communicated by the way the elements are used and served. The ministers preside at the Table, normally assisted by elders or deacons.The Communion Table is open to all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people at First Congregational UCC. Some visitors from churches that believe communion should only be celebrated among Christians who are in full doctrinal agreement might not choose to participate. Their decision is respected. Children are welcomed to the Table at the discretion of their parents.
|Ordination is the rite whereby the United Church of Christ through an Association, in cooperation with the person and a Local Church of the United Church of Christ, recognizes and authorizes that member whom God has called to ordained ministry, and sets that person apart by prayer and the laying on of hands. By this rite ordained ministerial standing and status as an Ordained Ministerial Partner is conferred and authorization given to perform the duties and exercise the prerogatives of ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ.Confirmation offers the opportunity to give public assent to the baptismal promises by one baptized as an infant or young child. It is preceded by two years of instruction in the Confirmation Program. First-year Confirmation meets about 12 times and Second-year Confirmation meets about six times on Wednesday evenings between September and April.Marriage is a covenanted commitment that has its foundation in the faithfulness of God’s love. First Congregational United Church of Christ will provide a space for and assistance to members and non-members seeking to unite in Holy Matrimony through Christian worship.Death and Burial in the Christian community is a corporate experience that touches the life of the entire family of faith. A worship service for the deceased recognizes the pain and sorrow of the separation that accompanies death, but also the hope and joy of the promises of God to those who die and are raised in Jesus Christ.