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Pastoral Care/Sacraments

PASTORAL CARE

Call the Parish Office (732-787-1075) for your pastoral concerns and needs. Our congregation seeks and offers ways to appropriately serve each other and be part for each other’s lives, sharing with each other our joys and sorrows as families do. Clergy and laity work together to help during the transitions in life such as the arrival of a new baby, sickness, separation, celebration of new job or a positive health report, difficulty of limited resources, the death of a child, parent, spouse or partner, the or any other critical moment you are experiencing.

SACRAMENTS AND OTHER PASTORAL OFFICES

We are a sacramental church. This means we believe that together, certain material items and particular actions communicate God's love, grace and commitment to us. When as the church we break bread together, or baptize with water, or bless the bond of love between two people, we participate with items and actions that speak a word that is both a word from God and to God, assuring us of God’s great love and mercy, of God’s active presence in our lives.

Sacraments are not magic. We believe that the sacraments are a grace in and of themselves, inviting us further into the divine life and love shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Book of Common Prayer describes a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace,” a good description for the mystery that takes place in these rituals of the church.

Sacraments are practiced in the context of a worshiping community. As we believe God lives in relationship within God’s self (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit), so we also believe that sacraments are meant to lived out and shared in the relationship shown in a faith community.

Holy Baptism

The doors of Saint Mark's are open to anyone who seeks God or a deeper knowledge of God. Whether you have a new child and are looking for a place to have your child baptized, or are an adult seeking full initiation in the life of a Christian community, the Church, you are welcome.

In baptism, we become full members of the Body of Christ. It is our ‘yes’ to God’s ever present invitation to live as God calls us to live—embracing a life focused on God and God’s priorities of love, mercy, justice, seeking and serving Christ in others, respecting the dignity of every human being. Through the waters of baptism, we are adopted into the household of God, identified as one marked as Christ’s own forever, and given the gift of this new life. As members of the body we call the Church, our involvement finds it highest meaning in our receiving Holy Communion. This is why the church links baptism with the meal of thanksgiving that we refer to as Holy Eucharist.

We believe that baptism is a practice of the entire church community, which is why baptisms take place during a Sunday service. In general, baptisms are practices as prescribed in the Bookf of Common Prayer at appropriate intervals and after sufficient preparation of all participants. Designated dates include All Saints Sunday (First Sunday in November); Baptism of Our Lord (Second Sunday of January); Easter Vigil or Easter Day; Feast of Pentecost; and on the occasion of the Bishop’s Visitation During the service, the congregation is asked whether they will support the newly baptized in their Christian life. We answer heartily, “We will!” And we mean this. Therefore baptism makes sense to those who are currently - or wish to become – active in the community. Becoming a member of the church involves a commitment from you to Christ and to the Church, as well as a commitment from the members of Saint Mark's to you. We take this joyful commitment seriously and so there is a preparation process to help you be sure you understand and want to make that commitment.

Arrangements for preparation and baptism are made by talking with the priest. This can be done by calling the Saint Mark's office at 732-787-1075 or emailing the priest-in-charge at revkathleenmurray@comcast.net.

Holy Eucharist

The 1979 Prayer Book affirms that all baptized persons, including young children, may receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. There is no set age for participation in this sacrament, and such participation is a matter of personal decision on the part of each family.

PASTORAL OFFICES

Confirmation

Baptism is full membership in the Body of Christ. Confirmation provides the opportunity, especially for those who were baptized as infants, to learn more about and then take on those baptismal promises for themselves. It is a mature affirmation of faith in the presence of a Bishop through the laying on of hands for the strengthening of God’s Holy Spirit in one’s life. Adults from other faith traditions, may elect to be received into The Episcopal Church. Adults seeking confirmation or reception should contact the parish office for preparation information.Persons seeking to publicly reaffirm their commitment in faith, need to be prepared through a series of classes or one-on-one meetings with the Priest-in-Charge.

Holy Matrimony

The clergy will gladly meet with couples desiring to be married with the Blessing of Almighty God through the Curch. FOr a first marriage for both, the Canon Law of the Episcopal Church requires a minimum of thirty (30) days notice. Saint Mark's follows the Canon Laws of both the national Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey concerning Holy Matrimony. According to these Canons—which govern the operations of the church—at least one partner must be a baptized member of the Body of Christ. These Canons also require that if either or both of you have been married before and ended that marriage by legal annulment or divorce, you must ask our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. William Stokes, for permission to be remarried in the Church. (The Priest-in-Charge) will help you do this.)

An initial meeting with the Priest-in-Charge is preferred at least four months prior to the wedding to allow for at least 3-4 pre-marital counseling sessions provided by the priest or someone designated by the priest. Both persons being married must be present for the pre-maritial counseling sessions. Please call the Saint Mark's office at 732-787-1075 or email revkathleenmurray@comcast.net.

Ministration to the Sick

The people of Saint Mark's offer care to each other in times of joy and sorrow, crisis, and need. The clergy are available at all times as primary pastoral caregivers. Hospital calls are a priority, but you must notify us because most hospitals do not. Communion to the sick and shut-in is available and can be coordinated with the priest and/or deacon. Pastoral counseling may be arranged by appointment for a limited period of time.

Reconciliation of a Penitent (Confession)

The most common form of Confession in Anglicanism takes place during the regular Sunday liturgy. Some are surprised to learn that the Episcopal Church also offers confession privately For those desiring it. In fact, this option is characteristic of the majority of Christianity, including all of the Orthodox family of Churches, The Roman Catholic Church, and our own Anglican tradition. Please see pages 446-452 in The Book of Common Prayer for the two rites that we use. The difference between us and some other traditions is that we offer private confession; we do not require it. An old saying captures it well: "All may, none must, but some should".

Private confession is good for those times when we need to unburden our hearts and seek God's forgiveness, in the presence of a fellow human being, who is sworn to secrecy and who is serving as an instrument to declare God's forgiveness and the restoration of right relationship to the broader Church.

Lent is a particularly good time to engage in such unburdening. As in our sister churches, what is confessed to a priest is kept in the strictest confidence. The priest also gives counsel and encouragement. If any one feels a need to make a private confession and would prefer not to do so in my presence, I will be happy to find another priest for you and set up the arrangements.

The Church has come to value the discipline of private confession because it is a way of spiritual growth. Our perspective on our own actions is always limited, and we are not necessarily the ones best able to assure ourselves that God forgives us. In this form of confession to a fellow Christian, there is an opportunity for shared perspective, and the benefit of encouragement from another person who is on the same journey. When the confession is made to a priest, the absolution pronounced by him or her is given by one authorized by the community to declare God's forgiveness. The priest is bound absolutely to keep confidential the contents of each confession, and never to bring them up again unless invited to do so by the penitent.

Burial of the Dead

The clergy at Saint Mark's are always available to assist in celebrating and honoring the life of those who have passed through the gate of death into eternal life, and walking with their loved ones in this time of grief. It is desirable that when a death occurs the clergy be notified before the family begins making funeral arrangements. The clergy will be able to help a family begin with the often difficult decisions, as well as provide the Christian perspective in the midst of personal loss.

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