Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion in the Church of Ireland

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1 Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion in the Church of Ireland A Guide for Primary School Teachers

2 Introduction Recognition of diversity and respecting each other s differences is accorded increasing significance within Irish education. As our communities have changed and diversified, so our education system has sought to respond to these changes. However, some of our most challenging areas of difference in this country have related to our differing faith traditions and churches. It is with that area that this guide is concerned. Teachers have a very important role in helping children to understand about faith and its role in our lives. In many schools there are a minority of children who have a different approach to sacrament from that of the majority. It is sincerely hoped that this guide will offer an additional support to teachers in their important work to include all children and their faith traditions. In particular it is hoped that this guide will offer some insight into how important moments on the journey of faith are marked within the Church of Ireland. This guide has been produced by members of the Church of Ireland involved in the Contemporary Protestant Life Project which was delivered by Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Ltd as part of the Sligo Peace III Rural Peace Project. This project was funded by the PEACE III Programme through the European Union s European Regional Development Fund managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by Sligo County Council on behalf of Sligo PEACE & Reconciliation Partnership Committee. The idea for the guide arose out of discussion and sharing about experiences of children from the minority Christian churches at primary school level and in particular, concern that we, as active Christians, could do more to support teachers to deepen their understanding of the significance of sacraments in the ritual life of the Church of Ireland, and thus of the children in their classrooms from that church tradition.

3 Christian Churches in Ireland today Ireland has a rich diversity of Churches and Christian communities each with their own history, customs and practices. The Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church all have long traditions and established membership. Each have a distinctive expression of the Christian faith in their organisation, governance and doctrine. Alongside these, in varying numbers and distribution throughout the country, are other denominations including the Elim Pentecostal Church, the Baptist Church, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) to name but a few, as well as smaller groups of Christians who band together for worship and support in their faith. The reformed Church tradition is very diverse and a guide on this scale could not do justice to its variety. Therefore, we have focused on the Church of Ireland as the group who have produced this guide come from that tradition. To find out more about other churches within the reformed tradition please refer to: Methodist Church Presbyterian Church Association of Baptist Churches of Ireland Elim Church Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Listing of some of the evangelical churches around the country alliance.ie An interesting project for school children is to find out what churches are in their communities and to visit or invite members from those churches to come and talk to the children about their church. Where schools have engaged in this type of cross-community activity understanding and friendship is increased and the schools often benefit from further joint projects.

4 The Church of Ireland The Church of Ireland has its roots in the early Irish Christian traditions with their influences from Celtic pre-christian spirituality. When the Christian churches in Europe underwent reformation in the sixteenth century, the Church of Ireland emerged as a separate entity from the Roman Catholic Church while still retaining many of the structures and practices of the pre-reformation church. Members of the Church of Ireland are also called Anglicans because the Church of Ireland is a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion of Churches which is a family of Churches that comprises over 70 million people in 164 countries. Within this there are 38 autonomous Provinces which have a shared doctrine, way of worshipping, and mission. While all recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as their spiritual leader, and a focus for unity among all Provinces, the Church of Ireland is led by the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin. Anglicanism rests on the three pillars of Scripture, Reason and Tradition as it seeks to chart a middle way (via media) among the other Christian traditions. The Church of Ireland is organised on a whole island basis with two provinces, Armagh and Dublin. It has a democratic structure where each of the 12 dioceses has representation at the General Synod which is the governing body of the Church. The synod makes decisions on the work of the church and meets annually. Twice as many lay members as clergy are members of the synod. There are over 450 parishes within the Church, where decisions at local level are made by Select Vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish. The Church has one Prayer Book, the Book of Common Prayer which dates from 1662, and was most recently revised in 2004.

5 Sacraments in the Church of Ireland The main sacraments pertaining to children in primary school are Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. The sacrament of Baptism can be administered in infancy, followed by Confirmation, usually at around the age of twelve, when people are deemed to be mature enough to confirm their faith, after which time they may receive Holy Communion. Sacraments have a central role in the life of the Church of Ireland. They are important and special ways in which we unite with Jesus and are nourished in our faith. The definition of a sacrament in the Church of Ireland is that it is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Grace is God s favour towards us, through which our sins are forgiven and we are empowered to do God s work. The inward grace of the sacraments is given to us as a gift by Christ, which we neither deserve nor can earn. The outward signs of sacrament are the rituals we engage in when sacraments are being administered. For instance, water is an outward sign in Baptism and bread and wine are outward signs in Holy Communion. Sacraments unite and strengthen us in our faith. The seven sacraments of the Church of Ireland are Baptism, Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) Confirmation, Reconciliation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Ordination. Of these, only Baptism and the Holy Eucharist are considered necessary for salvation, referred to as the two great sacraments of the Gospel, because they are the only two ordained by Jesus Christ himself. In the Church of Ireland the administration of sacraments, apart from emergency baptism, rests solely with the clergy.

6 Baptism The first sacrament within the Church of Ireland is Baptism. Jesus was baptised by John at the start of his ministry and he also instructed his disciples to baptise believers saying Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18). Baptism as a sacrament initiates the person to their faith for life and once a person has been baptised it cannot be undone: it is a lifelong commitment. People may renew their baptismal vows at any stage. Baptism can take place at any age. In the Church of Ireland most people are baptised as infants. Children are baptised before they can answer for themselves so that they become fully included in the life of the Church. Adults who have not been baptised, or who convert to Christianity, also receive the sacrament of baptism. When a person is being baptised they have a godparent or sponsor whole role is to support the spiritual welfare of the child. These sponsors must commit themselves to living their faith and supporting the child to grow spiritually as a member of the Church. At baptism parents and godparents make promises on behalf of the child, usually in the presence of a congregation engaged in public worship, and affirm their own Christian faith publicly. The person being baptised will then have water poured on their head in the name of the Trinity to declare God s presence and indicate that they are now children of God and members of the Church. The sign of the cross is made on their forehead while these words are said Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of the cross. Live as a disciple of Christ. Baptism is the start of the person s Christian life and a lighted candle may be presented with the words You have received the light of Christ; walk in this light all the days of your life. Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father. Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity does not confer membership of just one denomination, but rather of the whole Christian family. Once a person is baptised they will continue to grow in their faith and learn how to live a Christian life in line with the values of the Gospel.

7 Confirmation Confirmation is when those who have been baptised seek the help of the Holy Spirit to help them grow in their Christian faith. Confirmation marks the moment of transition from a child s to a mature faith and to adult membership of the Church. It is a public ceremony conducted by the Bishop in the presence of a congregation. Confirmation rarely takes place before age 12. The candidates renew their baptismal vows before the bishop; and as in baptism, the congregation is asked to support the candidates in their life of faith. The bishop then asks each candidate by name, Do you... believe and accept the Christian faith into which you are baptized? The candidates then affirm their faith, together with the congregation, in the words of the Apostles Creed. After this, they kneel before the bishop, who lays hands on each one, praying, Confirm... O Lord, with your heavenly grace, that he/she may continue to be yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until he/she comes to your eternal kingdom. Amen. During the confirmation rite, the Bishop asks each one, Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? and Will you seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbour as yourself? and those being confirmed respond, With the help of God, I will. This demonstrates both their commitment and their recognition of their dependence on God to live a Christian life. Once a person is confirmed they are ready to take responsibility for the development of their own faith and for their participation as full members of the Church of Christ. Once they are confirmed they can receive Holy Communion. An important distinction therefore between the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church is that confirmation usually happens prior to a church member receiving Holy Communion whereas in the Roman Catholic Church, First Holy Communion happens before confirmation.

8 Eucharist or Holy Communion Holy Communion, also called the Lord s Supper, is central to the worship of the Church of Ireland. This is when the faithful draw especially close to God. During Eucharist, we give thanks and we follow Jesus direction that we remember him in this way, so that we continually remember and give thanks for his passion and death, we celebrate his resurrection and ascension, and we look for the coming of his kingdom. As part of the Holy Communion Service those present confess their sins and receive absolution prior to receiving Holy Communion. The service of Holy Communion must take place at least once a month locally. All communicants receive both bread and wine at Holy Communion. Within the Anglican Communion there are a variety of understandings concerning the consecration of the bread and wine. The Church of Ireland would be from what is referred to as the low church tradition and for the most part would understand that there is not a physical change in the properties of the bread and wine at consecration. Eucharist/Holy Communion is a meal of fellowship which unites us to Christ and to the whole Church. All those who know Jesus and are in communion with their own church are welcome to receive in the Church of Ireland. This is done in recognition of the validity of our common baptism into the Christian life.

9 Glossary Eucharist or Holy Communion Cross of the Church of Ireland Sacraments in the Church of Ireland The Holy Bible Baptism The Book of Common Prayer Confirmation

10 Acknowledgements The participants of the Contemporary Protestant Life Project wish to thank all who have assisted in the course of the project and in particular to acknowledge the assistance of the Sligo LEADER Partnership s Rural Peace Project for their support of this work. A PDF of this brochure is available to download from the Sligo County Development Board website at: This project has been funded by the PEACE lll Programme through the European Union s European Regional Development Fund managed for the Special EU programmes Body by Sligo County Council on behalf of Sligo Peace & Reconciliation Partnership Committee. Design: JDK Design

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