Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals
The sacrament of Holy Baptism is the way in which we enter the life of grace and become a Christian. As a sacrament, baptism is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” It unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection; marks our rebirth and membership into Christ’s Body, the Church; effects the forgiveness of sin; and inaugurates a new life lived under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is understood as both a gift of grace and a charge to live out that graced life. If the person baptized is an infant, the sacrament emphasizes and witnesses to the undeserved character of grace, as there is nothing a child can do to earn a place in God’s Kingdom. If the person baptized is an adult, on the other hand, the sacrament constitutes a mature public affirmation of faith and commitment to follow Christ as a member of His Church. But whatever the age of the one baptized, baptism is the start of a lifelong journey of faith and continuing spiritual growth with support from the whole community of God's People. If you would like to know more about baptism at Good Shepherd, we invite you to contact the Rector.
Confirmation in our tradition constitutes the mature, adult affirmation of the vows we made or were made for us at our baptism. Through this ceremony, those who have previously been baptized are strengthened inwardly by the Holy Spirit, being conveyed through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop. As confirmation is administered by the bishop, as a representative of the universal Church, confirmations typically take place once a year, during the bishop’s visit, and after a period of prayerful discernment and instruction concerning the matters of faith. As confirmation constitutes a mature, adult declaration of faith, candidates should be at least twelve years of age. If you would like to know more about confirmation at Good Shepherd, we invite you to contact the Rector.
“...in the sacraments we encounter not merely fragments of earthly reality, but rather, signs in which the living God himself acts, taking up the earthly element as a testimony to his trustworthy promise.”
While often associated with Roman Catholics, we in the Episcopal Church also recognize the power and profit of the confession of sins in living the life of grace. Known in our church as the “rite of reconciliation,” confession of one’s sins to a priest is an opportunity for those who are burdened by sin to receive personal assurance of forgiveness and counsel in how to get their life back on track. Confession is typically performed in the church before the altar in the presence of the priest who serves as a representative of the church and of God. As with Roman Catholic confession, the secrecy of a confession is absolute and inviolable. If you would like to know more about confession and how to take advantage of the benefits it affords, we invite you to contact the Rector.
If you have or a family member has recently been engaged to be married, we as a church celebrate with you and rejoice in the new creation that will be brought into being! The time spent in preparation for the wedding day is an exciting time. But often overlooked in the effort to select a venue, choose flowers, and secure vendors, is reflection by the couple on the significance and importance of the institution that they will soon enter into. Perhaps no other decision, save for the decision to follow Christ, is as important as the decision to be married. Because we recognize marriage to be a gift of God and as the foundation of a society, we in the church have an interest in promoting and supporting marriage, and we are committed to helping couples to live together as husband and wife, regardless of whether they are married in our church. In keeping with church teaching and tradition, we hold marriage—Holy Matrimony—to be a “solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.” The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore, Christian marriage is an exclusive and permanent union modeled after Christ’s total self-giving love to us. When a couple is married in the Church, they are making a “faith statement.” They are declaring that they desire to pledge themselves to each other in marriage before God and in the presence of God’s people. On their wedding day, couples stand before the altar and commit themselves to each other for the rest of their lives, stating their intention to live as husband and wife within the community of the Church. They ask a priest to bless their commitment and ask the congregation to uphold them in prayer and to support them in living out their vows. At the marriage service they also are inviting Jesus’ life and love to be at the center of their marriage. The wedding day marks the beginning of a Christian marriage, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, whose grace and love alone will sustain them in their life together. Because of this purpose and meaning, weddings at Good Shepherd are conducted for church members and those who wish to live out their married life within the community of our church. Ninety days’ notice should be given to the Rector of the couples’ intention to marry. During this time, the couple will meet with the Rector for instruction in “the nature, meaning, and purpose of Holy Matrimony” and to plan the ceremony. Normally, this preparation takes place over the course of six meetings during which the rector and the couple discuss such topics as setting a vision for marriage, communication strategies, forming a new family together, and the couples’ new roles and responsibilities. In certain cases, the Rector may arrange for this instruction to be done by another Christian minister. In order to ensure that the wedding will be conducted with the proper solemnity, beauty and significance, all weddings at Good Shepherd will conform to the marriage ceremony in The Book of Common Prayer, and music employed during the service will be selected from the Episcopal Hymnal or other sources approved by the Director of Music. Flowers and other church adornments will conform to the guidelines set by our Altar Guild. If you would like to be married at Good Shepherd, please call the Church Office (804-233-2278) and arrange a time to speak together with the Rector. In no case should weddings be scheduled before speaking with the Rector.
Baptized Christians, having been nurtured in the Church, are properly buried from the Church. However, planning a funeral when a loved one dies is always challenging, as it is accompanied by grief and difficulty in focusing on details. After a death occurs, one of your first calls should be to the church to let us know you have sustained a loss so that a member of the clergy can reach out to you as soon as possible. The service for the Burial of the Dead is the service appointed for giving thanks for the faithful departed and commending them to our Lord. Whether a funeral (with body present) or a memorial, all services are conducted according to The Book of Common Prayer. Music will be from the Episcopal Hymnal (other hymns may be permitted at the discretion of the minister) and accompanied by our Music Director. Please contact the Rector or the Church Office for directions concerning Good Shepherd’s burial policies.
For a fuller explanation of our understanding of the meaning of these rites and sacraments, please see this “Brief on Sacraments.”