How do I join the church?
Becoming a member of the church happens on two levels. First, there is the act of becoming a Christian – joining the church universal, what we describe as the body of Christ in the world. Second, there is the act of becoming a member of a specific congregation – The Church of the Incarnation.
The Sacrament of Baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is full initiation into Christ’s Body the Church. For an adult, Baptism involves a period of preparation, learning the traditions of the church, beginning the study of the Bible and finally, making a commitment to be faithful in belief and practice. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble: once baptized it is never necessary to be baptized again.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is an extension of a Baptismal commitment. It typically occurs when a person was baptized as an infant or child and now wishes to make a formal commitment as an adult. Confirmation involves affirming one’s faith before the Bishop. The Bishop then lays hands on the head of the Confirmand which is a physical act that links the Confirmand back through the line of Bishop’s reaching to the first apostles and Jesus.
Once Baptized and Confirmed, membership in a specific congregation occurs when one makes a commitment to nurture their faith in the midst of that particular faith community. That commitment is made by becoming a regular participant in worship, making an annual financial pledge, and joining into the life of the congregation. For individuals who were baptized in a different denomination, or simply wish to deepen their understanding, new-comer classes are scheduled from time to time. These classes conclude with a formal welcoming ceremony.
Persons who were baptized and confirmed in a liturgical church, e.g. Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and now wish to become a member of the Episcopal Church do not need to be Confirmed by the Bishop, but may be “Received” into the Episcopal communion by the Bishop’s laying on of hands.
Becoming a church member is not an end-point for a Christian. Rather it is the intentional joining with a community of people on a journey seeking deeper understanding of their relationship with God. To join a congregation is to join a band of pilgrims drawn by the love of Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit.