Church Beliefs and Rites
We rejoice to see God preserve and enlarge His family through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and of course we seek to be a family for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. (For a full explanation of baptism and the saving power of the Word when attached to mere water by the power of the Spirit, please link to our beliefs and practices.)
Every baptism is an adoption into the family of God. Baptizing anyone, young or old, goes hand in hand with giving that person a new spiritual home and family in the church. As our Lord commanded us to baptize and teach, we offer Sunday school, confirmation classes, adult Bible studies, and, most importantly, regular worship services as ways of nurturing the faith of our whole family. It is important that baptism never be separated from life in the church, just as adoption is never separated from giving a child a new home.
Who can be baptized at Faith? We normally baptize those who are joining our congregation or who will be raised in our congregation. Exceptions can be made for those who wish to be baptized here but whose home church is elsewhere, but only with the permission the home church’s pastor.
When are baptisms done? Baptisms, except in emergencies, are also normally done as part of the worship services, so that the whole family can witness, bless, and participate as they receive a new brother or sister in Christ. Exceptions are possible but not encouraged.
How do I schedule a baptism? Simply call the office during the week. The secretary will ask for all the needed information. Often it is wise (but not absolutely necessary) to set up a meeting with one of the pastors prior to talk over the importance of this big step for everyone involved. On the day of the baptism, everyone involved should arrive about fifteen to twenty minutes early so that the pastor can give an overview of how it will all work during the service.
Do we have to have Godparents (sponsors)? How do we choose them? No, there is no requirement for baptismal sponsors. It is a fine (but not necessary) tradition in the church, so most people choose sponsors (usually two or three people, but there is no “correct” number), especially when it is a baby or young child being baptized. The sponsors make a promise as part of the service to help raise the candidate in the faith, to pray for him or her, and in general to make sure the baptized person remembers his or her identity as a child of God. Therefore, sponsors must be practicing Christians (in order to make those promises) and really ought to be of the same confession of faith. If this is a difficulty about this, one solution might be to select at least sponsor from among the family here at Faith—maybe someone who always sits near you, the
person who invited you to church for the first time, or someone you think is a good Christian example to other-- and select other sponsors from among your family and friends.
Confession & Absolution
Most of our services include a corporate confession of sins and absolution (forgiveness) from God through the pastor. Occasionally we have Matins or other services which do not include this brief rite. We always offer individual confession and absolution by appointment and encourage our members to make use of this great gift of God.
Holy Communion is celebrated every Sunday in at least one of the services and on certain other special occasions. In accordance with the historic practice of the Christian Church, our congregation practices close communion, meaning that normally our members and members of our sister (LCMS) congregations commune here. Please speak to one of the pastors about exceptions to this general practice. Please also note that this practice in no way intends to comment on the state of anyone else=s faith; we simply understand our communing together as also a public profession of unity in doctrine, which not everyone shares. Those who do not commune here may come forward for a blessing (simply fold your arms over your heart to indicate that you are not communing) or remain in the pew during communion and pray, particularly for visible unity in the Christian Church.
Funerals are a Christian’s last confession of faith and a chance of for the bereaved to mourn and celebrate the gift of a life and the context of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and hell. Christians in the past often worshiped in catacombs, and later surrounded their churchyards with cemeteries. Here at Faith we have no cemetery, so we remember the faithful departed with the Vine and Branches Memorial, the beautiful, growing bronze monument that is the first thing you see when you enter our church. It includes the names of every member whose funeral we have done here in the history of the congregation.
We encourage our members to plan for church funerals for themselves and their loved ones, and traditional burial in a cemetery if possible. When the time comes the pastors will work with the family and the funeral director to plan the service, but it is very helpful to everyone concerned when people write down favorite hymns and Scripture readings, confirmations verses, or other information that might help your family in Christ prepare your funeral.
Why not just hold a private service for close family members? No life is entirely contained by family, and no death involves just family. When a person dies, there may be old classmates, neighbors, co-workers or other people whose lives were profoundly affected by the one who is now gone. These people deserve the chance to pay their last respects and to have their grief acknowledged. In fact, in some cases the person who died might never have known how important they were to somebody else. For this and other reasons, we recommend a church funeral rather than a private service, though of course that is a recommendation, not a rule. Faith will be supportive of grieving families whatever they decide in this regard.
What about cremation? In the past Christians did not support cremation because burning the dead was a pagan practice and expression of nihilism, while burying the dead expressed confidence in the Christian confession of faith, that the dead will be raised on the last day. As pagan influence waned and as cemetery space grew sparse in urban areas, Christians gradually became more comfortable with the idea of cremation. There is no hard and fast rule on this either way. Christian burial with a grave marker is still and excellent way of confessing the Christian faith even in death.
Why waste money on a funeral? It isn’t a waste. Certainly a funeral does not have to be extravagant, but there is nothing wrong and much that is right with holding a service, burying the dead, and gathering for a meal afterward that is both sad and celebratory. Faith volunteers are happy to assist with funeral meals.