Rites & Sacraments
Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which one embraces the Christian way and becomes a member of Christ’s body, the Church. The outward and visible sign in Baptism is water, in which an individual is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is the baptized person’s union with Christ, birth into God’s household, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.
At St. Thomas’, we delight in welcoming the newly baptized as partners with us in Christ’s life and ministry. We hope this information will answer initial questions you may have about the sacrament, including the Church’s expectations for you and the practicalities of preparing for Baptism. Holy Baptism is a sacred occasion. We promise to do all in our power not only to make your Baptism a joyous event, but also to support you in your life in Christ.
Who Can Be Baptized?
Anyone who seeks God and is drawn to Jesus Christ is welcome to receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism. God’s invitation extends to people of all ages, from infants to the very aged, and from every kind of background.
When Are Baptisms Offered?
The Christian Church calendar has four feast days on which Baptisms are especially appropriate. They are the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord in January, the Easter Vigil in early spring, the Day of Pentecost in late spring, and All Saints’ Day in November. At St. Thomas’, we encourage baptisms on one of these joyous occasions. Because Baptism is an initiation into the Christian community, and is therefore a public occasion, we will only in rare and demanding circumstances offer “private baptisms” that do not include the presence of gathered Christians beyond the immediate family.
To schedule the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, you may initially contact Anne Browning the parish administrator, to express your interest. The rector will then contact you. She can be reached at 401-949-2260, or at email@example.com.
Who Can Be Godparents?
Every candidate for Baptism is accompanied in their faith journey by sponsors (for adults) or godparents (for children). The commitment of the sponsor or godparent is to support the candidate in the Christian faith and life. A discussion with the clergy will help you to determine the qualities that are essential in persons who are to fulfill these roles.
How Do I Prepare for Baptism?
Candidates for Baptism, or their parents and godparents when the candidate is an infant, enter into a time of holy preparation before the Baptism. The preparation usually includes a session or two with the clergy, but can involve more extension formation, depending on the candidate’s age, background, and desire. During this time, candidates reflect prayerfully on the five promises of The Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305), which serve as a foundation for their commitment to the Christian faith and life.
What Are the Church Expectations After Baptism?
Because Baptism is a rite of initiation and welcome, the Church yearns for the newly baptized to have an authentic relationship with the Christian community. A mark of this relationship will be regular participation in the life of a particular parish. At St. Thomas’, we invite candidates for Baptism to take seriously this aspect of the Christian life and to express their sincere commitment to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 304).
Confirmation, Reception or Reaffirmation?
Our “Episcopal 101” course is offered several times a year, deals with questions of life and faith, and looks at Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer and some history of the Episcopal Church. We also know and believe ourselves to be part of the wider Anglican Communion, part of a world-wide reality called in the traditional creeds the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
Our bishop acts as a symbol and representative of that wider reality, and annually in a formal “visitation” offers prayer and the laying on of hands in a rite called Confirmation. All definitions of membership in the church begin and end with Baptism, the sacrament of inclusion. Adults and mature teenagers may choose to affirm what they did or what was done for them in baptism in this rite of Confirmation.
Because the church respects the wide variety of personal spiritual histories and journeys, our liturgy provides for three expressions of this Rite:
This is the first mature and public acknowledgment of the promises made at baptism.
This is the option for those who have made that mature, public affirmation of one’s baptism in another tradition— Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, or other tradition that has a comparable rite.
This is the option for those baptized as adults, or those who have already been confirmed but have been away from church and inactive for a long period of time.
Talk with the rector if you wish to pursue Confirmation, Reception or Reaffirmation.
Many events take place within the walls of our sacred space, events that cover the range of human experience and emotion. Weddings are among the most joyous. They bring with them the opportunity for great celebration, and the chance to get a glimpse of the love God has for each one of us.
Christian marriage is a covenantal relationship established when two individuals make solemn and public vows to one another in the presence of God and God’s people. By vows of lifelong faithfulness and mutual love, care and respect, the wedding couple becomes a sacrament, that is, “an outward and visible sign,” of God’s steadfast love for creation and of Christ’s mystical union with the Christian Church. Holy Matrimony is, therefore, a gift to the Christian community.
The information on this webpage is meant to help you discern whether St. Thomas” Episcopal Church is an appropriate setting for your wedding within the Episcopal tradition. You will find information about who can be married in the Episcopal Church, how to plan for the wedding day, including expectations for your spiritual preparation, and practical considerations.
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage is a sacred occasion. We will do all in our power to make your wedding a time of solemnity and great joy.
Who Can Marry?
Christian marriage presupposes a connection to the Christian community. In the Episcopal Church, at least one of the individuals to be married must be a baptized Christian. Also, at least two witnesses, reflecting the public and sacramental nature of the solemn vows, must attest to the ceremony.
Couples who wish to marry in the Episcopal Church must agree to pre-marriage counseling with the parish clergy. The purpose of pre-marriage preparation is twofold: First, a couple can discern whether they are truly called and ready for a lifetime covenantal relationship. Second, the couple will begin to experience the confidential and loving care of the Church as a helpful resource for them in their life together. Pre-marriage counseling usually consists of four sessions. Couples are urged, therefore, to arrange to meet with the parish clergy well in advance of the anticipated wedding date. We recommend that an initial meeting happen six months prior to the proposed wedding date, after which the wedding will be scheduled.
If either of the individuals has been previously married, the clergy will wish to explore the earlier relationship and must apply to the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island for permission to consecrate the new marriage. The process of discernment and preparation usually takes longer; therefore, couples are encouraged to make arrangements to meet with the clergy significantly in advance of the wedding date. Only in very rare circumstances will a wedding be scheduled in less than three months of the initial meeting with the clergy.
The rite for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage is found in The Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 423. The service consists of a declaration of consent, readings, vows, pronouncement, prayers, and the solemn blessing. The service can also include, if the couple wishes, an exchange of rings and a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In the Episcopal Church, couples must use the marriage vows of The Book of Common Prayer.
Brian Larkin, the Acting Director of music at St. Thomas’, plans the music for all weddings. If available, he will play for your wedding. Any exception must be made with the consent of Dr. Larkin. If you wish for music to be played or sung at your wedding, please make an appointment with Dr. Larkin within at least six weeks of the wedding date to plan for music that will enhance both the joy and the liturgical integrity of the service.
If you desire, a wedding program outlining the Order of Service together with a list of participants, can be prepared by the church office. This program will be simple in design and photocopied; St. Thomas’ cannot offer printing services. If you prefer to have a program produced at a commercial printer, we can show you samples from previous weddings. A draft of the program must be approved by the officiating priest. The deadline for submitting materials is three weeks prior to the date of the ceremony. To coordinate production of the program, please have all information in to the office three weeks prior to the ceremony.
Because the wedding ceremony is a solemn occasion, no photographs are allowed during the service except from the back of the church, and these must be without flash or noise. The same restrictions apply to video cameras. If ushers notice wedding guests with cameras, video equipment, or other recording devices, they should politely request the guests not to use them during the service.
The wedding party may arrange to have photographs taken immediately after the ceremony. The clergy will be delighted to re-create moments in the ceremony for the purpose of photographs. The photographer and/or videographer engaged for a wedding must contact the officiating priest, in person or by telephone, at least one week prior to the wedding date.
Flowers are most appropriate on the reredos, where they are a symbol of new life. Another lovely setting for flowers are as pew markers. After the service, flowers may be left to grace the Altar during parish worship services. This gift will be acknowledged in the Sunday worship bulletins and in the parish prayers. Please contact Anne Browning, the parish administrator, for the specifications of the parish’s altar vases, 401-949-2260.
We request that the principal participants in the wedding ceremony attend a rehearsal on the day before the wedding. Please remember to schedule the wedding rehearsal at the same time you schedule the wedding itself, in order to ensure that the sanctuary will be available. Please bring the marriage license to the wedding rehearsal, as well as any checks for the payment of fees, so that you will have two less details to worry about on your wedding day.
Scheduling the Wedding
If you would like to hold your wedding ceremony at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, you may initially contact Anne Browning the parish administrator, to express your interest and confirm that the sanctuary is available on your preferred date. She will then confirm with you the next steps for your marriage preparation. She can be reached at 401-949-2260, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A death in the family should be reported to the clergy as soon as possible, calling the office at 401-949-2260. The rector will assist with funeral or memorial plans and can recommend the services of an undertaker, if needed.
The Burial of the Dead is a liturgy of the Christian Church by which we commend a loved one who has died into the blessed rest of God’s eternal peace and affirm our belief that death is never the end to human meaning. At St. Thomas’, we offer companionship and prayer to those whose loved ones have died, helping them to plan a funeral or memorial service that will authentically express their gratitude for their loved one now gone, their grief, and their hope in God’s promise of new life in Christ.
The service of The Burial of the Dead in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer comprises scripture readings, prayers, a commendation, and at the burial site if desired, a committal. The service may also include hymns and sung anthems, a homily by the officiating priest, and a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
The body may or may not be present for the service, depending upon the wishes of the bereaved. When a body is present, the custom of the Episcopal Church is for a closed casket covered by a pall, a special liturgical vestment of the church. Instead of a body, the ashes of the deceased may also be present, placed near the Paschal Candle that symbolizes the light of Christ.
The officiating priest will assist you in planning the service, including helping you to decide who will participate. Sometimes family members and loved ones of the deceased desire to offer readings or music, or to serve as pall bearers or ushers; other times, they wish simply to be present in quiet grief. Being candid about your preference will help you in a time of mourning.
Preparing for a holy death is a Christian spiritual practice, and St. Thomas’ encourages you, as a gift to your loved ones, to make plans for your own burial. We offer you a form to record your preferences, which we will keep on file in the parish office. This record of your preferences is not a legally binding document, but simply a starting place for your loved ones to plan your funeral or memorial service.
The rector of the parish will serve as the officiating priest. If you wish for an Episcopal priest from outside the parish to officiate or for other clergy, regardless of faith tradition, to participate in the service, you must first speak with the rector of St. Thomas’.
In consultation with the clergy, Dr. Brian Larkin, the acting director of music at St. Thomas’, plans the music for all funerals and memorial services. If he is available, he will play for the service. Any exception must be made with the consent of Dr. Larkin, and he receives his usual honorarium in order to compensate him for the time spent orienting guest musicians. The rector will be glad to connect you with Dr. Larkin as you prepare for the service.
Flowers are most appropriate on the reredos behind the altar, where they are a symbol of new life. Another lovely setting for flowers are at the base of the Paschal Candle, which is lit at burial liturgies as a symbol of the light of Christ. Otherwise, we encourage you to designate a giving opportunity in lieu of flowers for people who wish to express their sympathy to you. After the service, flowers may be left to grace the Altar during parish worship services. This gift will be acknowledged in the Sunday worship bulletins and in the parish prayers. Please contact Anne Browning, the parish administrator, to learn the specifications for the parish’s altar vases, 401-949-2260.
If you desire, a bulletin outlining the Order of Service, together with a list of participants, can be prepared in the office. This program will be simple in design and photocopied.