In the Christian church we have a number of traditions and rituals that help us to worship God. Some are old, some are new. Some are being created even today! But in the church, there are two extraordinarily important acts of worship. They are called “Sacraments”, and they are called as such because it is an act of worship ordained by Christ and are means of experience the overwhelming grace of God. Those two sacraments are Baptism and Holy Communion.
Baptism is a visible and outward sign of an invisible and inward Grace. Baptism is where we begin our Christian identity. Throughout our lives our identity changes. It begins at birth when we are named, and continues and changes as we grow. Likewise our identity in Christ begins at Baptism, and continues and grows throughout their lives.
We believe that in Baptism, God initiates the covenant. That means that God is the one who is calling us to Baptism and God is the one who does the Baptizing. It is because of this reason that we believe Baptism is forever. Even though our lives may change and our identity may change; our Baptism remains the same. We are baptized only once, and forever.
Who do we Baptize?
We Baptize the children of Christian parents (or adult Christian sponsors), as well as those who are old enough to make the decision to be baptized on their own. We do not re-baptize. At communion, we have an opportunity to re-affirm our Baptism. Baptism, however, occurs only once in our lives.
When do we Baptize?
We Baptize during our Sunday Morning worship service. We believe the congregation must be present at Baptism as Baptism is not a private family affair; but rather an incredible event for the whole church. Except in special circumstances, Baptism must always occur during worship with the Congregation present.
How do we Baptize?
United Methodists recognize that Baptism is primarily about God’a action in the life of the person being Baptized, not about the method in which it happens. Therefore we Baptize using sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. In the UMC of St. Clair’s sanctuary, we most commonly use sprinkling or pouring.
How do I arrange for Baptism?
Contact the church office at (636) 629-0350. The Pastor will then contact you to arrange for the Baptism. If you have questions about Baptism and aren’t sure, feel free to contact our Pastor to discuss!
Like Baptism, Holy Communion is an outward sign of a powerful and invisible inward Grace. At communion we renew our Baptisms, encounter Christ and receive Christ’s Grace. Communion does not make us more worthy of God’s grace nor is it necessary for our salvation. However it is one of the most extraordinary opportunities for us to encounter God here on this earth.
At the United Methodist Church of St. Clair; we have a few traditions we keep regarding communion.
Using Bread and Wine
Christ used the example of Bread and Wine, ordinary every day things, at the last supper. We, too, use Bread and Wine for Holy Communion as a means for which to celebrate the Last Supper. In ministry to young people and children, and those who are for any reason unable or unwilling to consume alcohol; and to ensure that all who come to the table are able to receive communion in it’s entirety; we used unfermented wine (grape juice).
With a Universal Invitation
All are invited to Christ’s table. As United Methodists we believe that Christ, not the church, sets and invites the table for Communion. While Christ has given the church the incredible responsibility of celebrating this sacrament, it is ultimately Jesus himself who invites you to the communion table. Anyone who feels led may feast at the heavenly banquet that is Communion. You do not have to be a member, be a certain age, be a person who never does anything wrong; or anything else. There is nothing that qualifies you for God’s grace- it is freely given. And likewise, there is nothing on earth that qualified you for Communion, it is a gift from Christ that is freely available to you here.
We celebrate communion, and by extension that Universal Invitation, once a month at the United Methodist Church of St. Clair; on the first Sunday of each month. In addition, we celebrate communion on occasional services and special occasions.
Holy Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) is a mystery too deep for words. Its meaning will vary for each of us and from one time to another. But three essential meanings are caught up in this proclamation in our Communion service: “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again” (The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 14).
“Christ has died”
In part, Communion is a time to remember Jesus’ death, his self-giving sacrifice on our behalf. As he said to the disciples at their last meal together, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
In remembering his passion and crucifixion, we remember our own guilt; for we know that in our sin we crucify Christ many times over from day to day. So the Lord’s Supper is a time of confession: “We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart…. We have not heard the cry of the needy” (The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 12).
“Christ is risen”
But Communion is not a memorial service for a dead Jesus. It’s not a time to wallow in our own guilt. It’s a time to celebrate the Resurrection, to recognize and give thanks for the Risen Christ. The bread and wine represent the living presence of Christ among us—though we do not claim, as some denominations do, that they become Christ’s body and blood.
In Luke’s Resurrection story, the Risen Christ broke bread with two of his followers at Emmaus, “then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (24:31). So, as we’re nourished by this meal, our eyes are opened; and we recognize Christ here in our congregation, our community, and our world. What’s our response? Thanksgiving! In fact, another of our words for Communion, the Eucharist, means thanksgiving.
“Christ will come again”
In Communion we also celebrate the final victory of Christ. We anticipate God’s coming reign, God’s future for this world and all creation. As Jesus said, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
We believe that we’re partners with God in creating this future, but the demands of discipleship are rigorous. In the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, in the fellowship of Christian friends gathered at his table, we find the nourishment we need for the tasks of discipleship ahead.
— Adapted from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised and Expanded by George E. Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006).
There is so much more to the sacraments than can be summed up in a few paragraphs in a website. If you have questions, feel free to ask the Pastor, and certainly attend worship. Worship is one of the most important things we do and the sacraments are the most important part of that worship. We encourage you to prayerfully consider participating in these incredible means of Grace with us.