All Souls recognizes seven sacraments. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Of the seven sacraments, two have priority because they were established by Christ himself. Those sacraments are Baptism and Holy Communion. The five other sacraments, confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation and unction, differ from the first two because they are sacraments which evolved in the Church and are not necessary in the same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are.
The church’s seven sacraments:
Baptism—the washing away of sins and the initiation into Christ’s church. Baptism is commonly known as the first sacrament because it is the act in which God adopts us as his children and we are brought into the church as member of Christ’s body. Believers are baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, we are united in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Eucharist—also known as Holy Communion, The Lords Supper, the Mass. It is the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection. In the Eucharist we celebrate Christ’s continual presence in the bread and wine. Through partaking in communion, we receive the forgiveness of sins, strength for our walk with Christ and with others, and a foretaste of God’s heavenly banquet.
Confession and Reconciliation—the act of giving an account of one’s sins and shortcomings. It is an opportunity to get real with oneself and start again with a clean slate. It helps people find relief from the burden of guilt from their mistakes. In confession, an individual receives the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution. Forgiveness is something we all seek. Carrying a heavy burden of shame however might cause one withdraw from a relationship with God. Confession can be made in different forms. For most, the general confession as part of the worship service is sufficient. Some however, feel the need to seek spiritual guidance and prefer to make a private, confidential, confession with their clergy. As the old saying goes, “all may, some should, but no one must.”
Marriage or Holy Matrimony—the union of two individuals in a life-long bond of commitment, fidelity, monogamy and love. It is a sacrament in which two people make vows to one another and enter a mystical union. In this sacrament the clergy serves as a witness to the vows made and to ask God’s blessing upon the couple. At All Souls gay and lesbian couples are not restricted from this sacrament.
Unction and the anointing of the sick— also known as the Sacrament of the Sick and the Last Rite. Anointing is a ritual in which oil, an ancient symbol of healing, is used as tangible expression of the prayers spoken on behalf of the sick individual. In the rite of anointing we ask for God’s grace and spiritual healing with the laying on of hands. Through this act, we believe God’s grace is given for the healing of the spirit, mind and body. In the act of Last Rite, we offer prayers and commend the person’s soul to God trusting that, just as an individual has been faithful to God in this life, so too God will be faithful to him or her in the next.
Confirmation—the rite of passage where children or adults express a mature confession of faith and claim for themselves the baptismal vows made on their behalf as children. There are also many adults who are confirmed at the time they are baptized. In confirmation prayers are said for candidate for strengthening by the Holy Spirit while hands are laid upon him or her by the bishop.
Ordination—the sacraments by which members of the church are set apart for service, administration and responsibility in the church. Those ordained, whether male or female, are vested with the power and authority to administer the church’s sacraments.
At All Souls, we believe the sacraments rightly belong to God and thus do not presume to restrict them. Unlike other denominations, we recognize that we all struggle with brokenness. Divorce is not an impediment from receiving communion or from having one’s children baptized. We do not believe one’s accessibility to the sacraments is dependent upon one’s gender or sexual orientation. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)