Tag Archives: sacrements

Day 1: Baptism & Holy Communion.

Today the bishops & deputies will convene in Indianapolis, Indiana for the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. There is a whole list of resolutions that the Church as a whole must consider this year & some seem to be more ” hot-button” issues than most .

My big concern is the resolution put forth by someone in Oregon that the Holy Communion be totally open to all persons regardless of baptismal status.{ i.e unbaptized persons may receive the Body & Blood of our LORD if they so desire.}

As progressive as I am regarding the Church & social issues, when he subject turns to liturgy I am very traditional. Let me say ‘on record’ that if General Convention votes to change the canons to completely open Holy Communion to unbaptized persons I will be sad.

However, my strong feelings about this liturgical & theological matter will NOT cause me to abandon our Church. The Church is composed of imperfect people & we must allow our leaders to make mistakes without acting on cowardice & running away from our family of faith. If GC votes to open Holy Communion to unbaptized persons, I will quietly live with that change. I will never agree with such a radical change to my understanding of our Baptismal Covenant but I can live wth it.

While I vehemently disagree with the logic behind this resolution, I can see where the people who wish to pass it are coming from. I, too, hope & pray for an inclusive Church. But being a Christian requires some sort of statement of faith & when an unbaptized adult wishes to become a Christian I believe that baptism in necessary for a full membership in the Church.

Inasmuch as I hate to admit it: I hope that the delegates to GC77 vote to uphold our Canons as they are regarding baptism & reception of Holy Communion. There are many reasons why I feel this way.

I do not understand why someone who has never professed belief that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed God’s only begotten Son wish to partake in our sacrament? My mother is Jewish & she has absolutely no desire to come to the altar for even a blessing by the priest on the rare occasions she attends Mass with me.

I do not understand why a non-Christian would want to actively participate in something that is so central to our identities as Christ-followers. My theology of the Eucharist stems from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last Supper with His disciples { and yes, I * am* aware that the Last Supper was a Jewish Passover meal.}

At that particular time & place, Scripture tells us :
” Then He took a cup & after giving thanks He said ‘ Take this & divide it among ourselves, for I tell you that from now on I will not drink from the vine until the Kindom of God comes. Then He took a loaf of bread & when He had given thanks, broke it & gave to them saying ‘This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance o Me.'”. { Luke 22:17-19}

To Christians, the elements presented for a blessing at the altar become more than the sum of their parts. To us, partaking in Holy Communion is done to remember what Jesus did for s so many years ago. It is a visceral reminder that WE are Christ’s Body on Earth. While we pry that ALL may come to know about Our LORD, in my opinion baptism is something that one must prepare one’s heart & mind. Our Baptism seals us as Christ’s own forever–thing we do an ever remove us from the family of Christ one we’ve received the Christian rite of initiation at Baptism.

I am not saying that we should discourage seekers from coming to church. Quite the opposite: if a seeker comes to one of our parishes & is so moved by the Celebration of The Eucharist, he or she has an option to ask the resident priest to tell him or her more about what it means to BE a member of Christ’s Body { a Christian}


God leads. I just follow{ written on Sunday}

This morning I assisted at the altar as an acolyte at the 10:30 Mass.

I loved it! Sure I felt nervous but once I got into the liturgy of the Eucharist, I relaxed.

My rector commented that I only made ONE mistake while serving at the altar…apparently I need to refine my Gospel-book holding technique just a bit. :O) I’d been praying about where God is taking me next on this faith journey here at my small parish & I’m pretty sure I got the answer this morning while standing at the altar. Since this winter, I have been praying for discernment regarding what God wants me to do next: as I am only one small & falwed person & feel that my gifts need to be more specialized. My personal life has also taken a wonderful turn & due to this turn I find myself attending the earlier Mass at church much more often. Best Dude attends the early Mass & I am an early riser anyhow.

We’ll see where God leads me.

” My soul doth magnify…”

Sunday is IV Advent, also known as ” Mary Sunday”

The Lessons & Carols rehearsal last night at church reminded me of this simple fact when we practiced chanting the MAGNIFICAT in preparation for the Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols Mass. I love chanting the ” Mag” & the arrangement that we are using in Lessons & Carols is fairly simple.

The last time I chanted The Magnificat was during a special Evening Prayer service my parish did in thanksgiving & penitence for the sealing of the Deepwater Horizons well.

Out of all the Sundays in the Advent season, this one is by far my favorite. One of the total treasures of my Catholic{ Anglo-Catholic, but * still* Catholic. Sorry, Steve! } Christian tradition is the veneration{ and NOT Worship of….so many Protestants tell me that we catholics ” worship: Mary. This is a myth. We also do not ” worship” saints…but that is a whole other discussion}

Here is the text of The Magnificat, as per the Book of Common Prayer:

My soul glorifies the Lord, *
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness; *
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me. *
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age, *
on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength *
and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones *
and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things, *
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant, *
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his sons for ever.

On Sunday I plan to wear ” sarum blue” in honor of the Mother of Our Lord. :O) Until two Advents ago, I did not know that the Anglican tradition sometimes uses blue as the color of Advent.

looking back to look ahead.

One of the things that we learn in EfM is that all of us are ” walking wounded” but my story has, until recently, been carrying along excess baggage. Those who know me in person know that I am literally a small-framed woman: my tiny body cannot handle too heavy a load. And when I came home from my recent trip up north I felt that FINALLY, thanks be to God, that a load has lifted.

It also helps that I recently went to Reconciliation with a very well-respected priest in my Diocese. Many of my Protestant friends{ and even some of my Episcopalian friends} have qualms about this articular sacramental rite. Goodness knows that I was, at first among the naysayers when the subject of confession was reared but I am a huge champion of that rite now. Via the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I was * finally* able to give to God a big item that was literally weighing my soul down. I’m not worrying with that particular sin anymore & truly gave it up to God. Amen & Amen.

Some of the junk I’ve been carting around with me deals with ecclesiastical stuff, but since my trip back to PA & Ohio I’ve been slowly & prayerfully coming to terms with my own reality…some of which I wish were different. My limitations do* not* define who I am, and in many ways these very limitations leave me open for ministries in Christ’s names that a so-called ” normal” person would not do for lack of time. Looking back, I realize that I spent way too much time feeling badly for myself regarding what I CAN’T do rather than focusing my energy on what gifts God HAS given me. I realize now that my lifestyle as a single woman with disabilities does in no way make me any less precious & useful in God’s Kingdom. On some days I do wish I were more ” normal”. { and anyhow who defines normal….some of m favorite people in the WORLD are not what the mainstream culture would define as ” normal”!}

Anyhow, I spent ten wonderful days up in the hills of Eastern Ohio & Western PA, & this summer’s trip was one of great emotional & spiritual growth for me. While there, I saw folks whom I’d not seen in many years & when they asked me personal questions I answered them with confidence. I am who I am…God made me this way

wedding bells

 I went to a wedding in Georgia this past weekend. It was lovely & I am * very* happy for the bride & groom. { Congrats Michael &  Elizabeth. Many many happy years together! }

The wedding was held on the beautiful campus of Berry College in north Georgia. This ceremony took place in one of THREE chapels/ churches on the huge campus. Frost Chapel is really an architectural treasure & I have photos posted on my Facebook account in anyone is interested in seeing what it looks like. { I apologize for the poor quality of the altar area photos, as my little  Canon Power Shot camera isn’t the best at taking photos in low-light}

 But what I * really* wanna know is why Protestants do not view marriage is one of the 5 sacramental rites as do we catholic Christians? It is true that the two main sacraments of our Church are Baptism & Eucharist, but what I want to know is the reason for the Protestants’ decision to do away with all the other sacramental rites of the Church?  I was baptized & spent most of my faith life as a Presbyterian & * always* was puzzled as to why mainline Protestantism  denies te importance of the rites of marriage, confirmation, ordination, reconciliation and unction of the sick.

Bayside Confession

 Today  during our weekday Mass we learned more about our sacramental rite of reconciliation.

My priest says that he * did not* read my mind, but sometimes it is amazing how the Holy Spirit works through all of us…as I had been prepping to make my second  reconciliation . As a matter of fact{ oops} my cell phone rang during Mass this morning &   the reason for the phone call had to deal with scheduling my Confession.

 I’ll make my Confession at Beckwith Camp & conference Center tomorrow  afternoon. BCCC is located on gorgeous Weeks Bay in southern Alabama & is my Diocese’s  camp & conference facility. It is a beautiful facility & I am looking forward to seeing it again….the last time I was there was for a Central Gulf Coast Cursillio closing.

 It has been over one year since I’ve made my first { & so far only} confession & I am way overdue.  As Anglicans we approach reconciliation with the attitude  that” all may, some should but none must” make a Confession.  I know that if I HAD to make a Confession, I’d approach this rite with  much less enthusiasm  as I hate folks telling me that I * must* do anything.

But since Confession is not a requirement  for we Anglican Christians I approach this rite with more open-heartedness than I would if canon law dictated  how often I go to Confession.  Even though  I need not have made a Confession in order to be confirmed in The Episcopal Church, this was something that I felt that I wanted and needed to do as part of my pre-confirmation preparation. I come from the Reformed, Calvinist Presbyterian tradition but since I came of age in a community with a majority of the population  as Roman Catholic, I knew more about the 5 sacramental rites than your average Protestant girl.

What is in a label?

One of my Low-Church Facebook buddies in my diocese blogged today about our Diocese’s resolution to  begin to remove the term ” Protestant” from our Diocese’s name. Right now we are known as the Protestant  Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, but if passes, this resolution will  be the first step in  removing the ” P word” from the name of the body of the Church in which I live.

It is true that we Anglican Christians are not Catholic. Thanks be to God, we  are NOT under the authority of the Vatican See. Heck, we don’t even  have any true central authority figure in Anglicanism. The head of the Church of England, Rowan Williams, is only the ” spiritual figurehead” of the Communion. { again, thanks be to God!!}

Ok , so we are not Catholic. But neither are we truly Protestant. I live in the ” Baptist Bible Belt” of the United States, so I know a Protestant church when I walk into one. We Anglicans are not truly Protestants.

Our Clergy, though we do ordain men & women, are called priests.

We celebrate the Mass, or Eucharist, every Sunday.

Our Prayer book is based on the Catholic monastic’s rhythm of daily prayer.

We observe seven{ yes seven} Sacrements & sacremental rites. Prootestants only observe two, Baptism & Holy Communion.

In truly Proestant theology, the Communion is merely a memorial to Christ’s last supper. They don’t believe that Christ  is present in the  form of the Bread & Wine.

There is no episcopal authority.{ governing of the church by apostolic sucession of bishops} I am told that Lutheran s & Methodists do still use the office of bishop, but he or she really has no true authority over congregations as do bishops in the Anglican, Roman & Orthodox  traditions.

We don’t practice ” open” Communion in the same way that our Protestant sisters & brothers do. For example, in the Presbyterian tradition, a Buddist is welcome to recieve Communion if she or he so desires.  But in the Anglican tradition, Communion is open to all baptized Christians. This varies from priest to priest & I know of no clergy in my Diocese who would ask a newcomer if she or he has been baptized if said visitor comes to the altar rail. But we do, at least in teaching & theory, make that distinction.

Protestants only recognize two sacrements & they are not requited to observe them with any regularity. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know of Baptists are even required to  celebrate Holy Communion at all.

But, the important thing is that we are all Christ-followers. I wish there was more understanding  among we Christians of different  traditions, but sadly there is not. Wihile I am a proud high-Church Anglican, I respect those whose theology is a bit different from mine. Life in the Church would be boring if we all agreed on one style of worship or school of thought.

Why I am not Roman Catholic

Let me  make one thing clear. I am Catholic…but NO WAY am I Roman Catholic.

I have many Roman Catholic friends & family. But, I could not & never will become one. There are many reasons for my aversion to the Holy See.

1. One man has way too much power. Yeah, I am referring to the Pope.

2. My Protestant background refuses me to even consider the idea of putting my choices for MY LIFE based on a Catechism.  Sometimes I think the Protestants have it correct with their ” sola Scriptura” doctrine.

3. Mandated celibacy of the priesthood. This is ridiculous. I believe that marriage should be open to anyone & everyone who is in a committed relationship.

4 Birth control. In this day & age, it makes sense to practice responsible family planning.

5 They keep the Blessed Sacrament away from folks who refuse to ” sign on the dotted line” & agree with their Catechism.

The Question of Fasting

 { Mark 2:18-22}

I admit it, since most of my spiritual autobiography is  from a Protestant Christian tradition, I really don’t  understand the discipline of fasting. I know that Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Christians fast during Lent{ and , correct me if I am wrong, but I think the Eastern Orthodox Christians also fast during Advent}. But I’ve never been good at fasting from food & do not even make a pretense to fast from food. My body needs three square meals per day.

Now, with Lent coming up I will admit that I do  abstain from the use of alcohol{ consecrated wine used at Eucharist is the execption, of course} cussing & chocolate during Lent. But this is as far as my physical body will let me fast.  During Lent I make an effort to  show penitence in other ways. I cannot skip a meal every day during Lent & I accept this as part of how God  created me. Some folks can fast  every Lent, but I am not among them.

One of my Presbyterian pastors had a great concept about Lent.  Rather than { or as well as} subtracting something from our lives during Lent, she asked the congregation of which I was a part at that time to make an effort to GIVE BACK to the community by doing more service-related projects & helping those in need, show more loving-kindness to your family,  increase your prayer life, ect. She  created paper leaves  & on the first Sunday of Lent, invited the congregation to  take these ” leaves” home, & each time they GAVE BACK , to write their act of compassion. During the Children’s Moment at the Presbyterian church throughout that Lenten season, she invited all of us to add our ” leaves” to the  barren tree. By Easter Sunday, that formerly barren tree was ” brought back to life” with the  recordings of the congregation’s  acts of loving-kindness.

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, whose Nativity we Americans  celebrate today, was a fine example of working towards bringing our world closer to shalom.  But there is still so much that we  Christians need to do to further Dr King’s vision of total  equality & justice for all people.

Out of my limited collections of memories from my life as a Protestant, this is one of the most positive. The ” Giving Tree” was a very physical reminder of what we are all called to do as Christians. We are called to help our sisters & brothers who & when they need us the most, to spread loving-kindness & acceptance for all God’s people. We Episcopalians are all about outward & visible signs of an inward & spiritual grace & that Lenten practice at that Protestant church is still an outward & visible memory which I still carry with me to this day.

So for me, fasting is not merely about abstaining: it is about increasing my service to others, starting with my family & parish & hopefully broadening that   sense of being an instrument of shalom to my community .  As Lent approaches, I will ask myself What Can I, Sarah Beth, give?


The Nativity of Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. 2010

Prodigal, parent, or sibling?

This week’s Common Lesson  in EfM we discussed the parable of the prodigal son as found in the Gospel of Luke.  Everyone knows this story, so I am not gonna bother with quotes. But anyhow, our facilitator asked us what each of the key characters in this parable might be feeling during various points in the story.

I think most of we Christians are taught to identify with the prodigal. Face it: we are all sinners & it is only by the grace of God &  through Christ our Savior that we are  welcomed into God’s family.

But let us imagine being the other son. you know, the ” good son” who did what he was told & hardly ever fussed at his parents.  What is he feeling when the father welcomes home his wayward brother & then decides to throw a PARTY  in the honor of the former troublemaker? Does he feel resentment? Maybe a bit of confusion? After all he is the son who listened to his parents & didn’t run off  with the family’s fortune & spent it on vices.

Who are the ” good sons” in  our lives? Am I a ” good son”? Are they the people who attend church every week faithfully but do not welcome the stranger who shows up  one morning, a stranger who is clearly not like most of the people sitting in the pews. Why should our family welcome this wayward should who has clearly become a stranger?  But, we are, by our Baptism, ALL God’s beloved & all are welcome home to God’s House.

 Now let us imagine the father. I’m sure he has missed the wayward son. he might now ” approve” of what his  son might have done in the past, but Scripture seems to  suggest that the  father is ovewhelmed with joy at  seeing the son whom he had thought was dead, or at best never coming come, returning to the family.  The father  forgives.

I read a book based on the parable of the Prodigal Son in preparation for making my first Confession.  Perhaps Christ tells this parable to illustrate to us what the Kingdom Of God is like & should be here on Earth.  In the Kingdom of God, all are welcome home.  Grace from our all-knowing but  ever-loving God flows like  beer at one of my own family’s parties & nothing any of us  did can earn us that grace. But at the same time, none of our sins are so severe that our loving God will not welcome  us back into the family. God delights in prodigals coming home, but perhaps God also  wants those of us who are a bit unwilling to welcome other sinners  into{ or  back into} our Christian family.