Baptism is the foundational sacrament of the Christian life. As the Book of Common Prayer states, baptism in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (298).

When we say that baptism is a sacrament, we mean that a material thing (water) takes on a new and profound significance and becomes not just an ordinary symbol but something that conveys what is utterly transcendent. Sacraments are visible signs of God interacting with humanity, so that what they signify is actually brought into being in some way and made a reality in the sacramental actions.

In baptism, the bathing of the baptismal candidates with water signifies that the baptized, somehow through the grace of God working through the sacrament, die to their old selves and rise to new life in Christ, as identification with him who became human and was also baptized, who died and rose again. Baptism enables the forgiveness of sins, conversion of heart, and a complete turn around to Christ in terms of how the baptized are to live their lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the baptized become official members of the Body of Christ—the Church, a worldwide and heavenly family of all who have been baptized, those living and those who have died.

The effects of baptism are lifelong, and the lives of the baptized are to be shaped by the model of Christ’s own life. The Christian life, from baptism on, is a practice in becoming more and more like Christ each day. In the sacrament of baptism, God breaks into this world in a tangible way, designating the baptized persons as ones who are to help bring in the kingdom of God and its way of peace, love, and justice.

If you are interested in baptism or having your children baptized, you are invited to speak with one of the parish priests here at St. Peter’s, who will be thrilled to have a conversation about baptism with you. At St. Peter’s, we baptize both infants and adults. We practice infant baptism because living into the fullness of baptism takes place over a lifetime, with the aid of the Christian community.

For infants and small children (who cannot speak for themselves in the baptismal service), one or more baptized persons serve as godparents who present the candidates for baptism and make promises and vows on their behalf, as well as promising to support the candidates throughout their lives. These godparents can include family friends and relatives, in addition to the infants’ parents. It is a serious responsibility to sponsor someone for baptism, and so for infant and child baptisms, the parents and godparents are required to meet with a priest for preparation. These sessions are intended to provide formation for those who are charged by the Church with bringing up and supporting the baptized in their lifelong journeys of faith in Christ.

Adults who wish to be baptized should seek out one of our priests to declare their intention to receive full initiation into the Church. 

The Holy Eucharist is “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 13). The Holy Eucharist is referred to variously as the Mass, the Lord’s Supper, and Holy Communion.

In this great sacrament, bread and wine as fruits of the earth are offered by the congregation, taken by the presiding priest, blessed through the praying of the Eucharistic prayer, and then shared with all assembled. The assembled people then receive what they are as the Body of Christ in the forms of bread and wine. This bread and wine have become Christ’s very Body and Blood through the prayer of all gathered, presided over by a priest.

Episcopalians believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—that is, they believe that through the Eucharistic Prayer, something happens so that bread and wine are no longer just ordinary bread and wine. Unlike some traditions, however, the Episcopal tradition does not define exactly what happens in the Eucharist, nor does it define exactly how the bread and wine become Christ’s Body and Blood given for the world.

The Holy Eucharist is a great mystery. It is the means by which the Body of Christ receives God’s grace to grow more fully into its vocation as a united group of believers and disciples of Christ.

Confirmation is “a mature public affirmation” of faith and commitment to the promises made at Baptism. Confirmation involves the laying on of hands by a bishop, the chief pastor and leader of a diocese (a geographical region of the Church comprised of various parishes and churches). Because many Christians are baptized as infants, Confirmation allows an older, more mature Christian to witness to the Baptismal vows made on his/her behalf as an infant. Anyone interested in Confirmation should contact a clergy member.

Marriage is a public covenant made between two persons in the presence of God. The bond of marriage is indissoluble and intended for life, as well as for the mutual joy of the two persons being married.

All are welcome to be married at St. Peter’s, as long as one of the parties is a baptized Christian (in accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church). Marriage services take place in either the Historic Church or Bank Barn.

Also, either building may also be used for wedding receptions. For more information on having your marriage service at St. Peter’s, please call the parish office (610-644-2261) to speak with The Rev. Abigail Crozier Nestlehutt, Rector. Please read about The High Point to find out how to hold a reception on campus. 

Burial of the Dead may be arranged by contacting the parish office (610-644-2261). The Book of Common Prayer suggests that the parish church be contacted as soon as possible after an individual’s death. This allows for burial arrangements to be made and pastoral counsel to be given. Our priests are prepared to assist anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one, and they can provide more detailed information about funeral arrangements.

St. Peter’s also has a beautiful and historic cemetery. For information on purchasing a burial plot on the parish grounds, please contact cemetery@stpetersgv.org.

Healing (or Unction) was a central aspect of Jesus’s earthly ministry and is still a vital part of the Church’s living witness. Healing prayers are offered by the Body of Christ in worship and daily devotions, by the laying on of hands by a priest, and by the anointing with oil of those who are sick and in need of the healing power of Jesus Christ.

If you wish to request healing prayers, laying on of hands, or anointing, please contact one of our priests.

The Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent (sometimes known as private confession to a priest) is available to anyone who desires it. The practice of private confession is a regular practice for some who find the process of self-examination and naming of sins to be a means of drawing closer to God and one’s neighbor.

For some, this rite offers a means of unburdening oneself of troubling sins weighing on the conscience. The famous Anglican adage “all may, none must, some should” sums up the Anglican view of private confession.

While corporate, general confession is done most Sundays in the service of Holy Eucharist, private confession is a means of holding oneself individually accountable for certain sins in one’s growing relationship with Christ. As The Book of Common Prayer notes, “[t]he secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken” (446).

To arrange for the Rite of Reconciliation, please contact one of our priests.