The SacramentsThe New Church recognizes two sacraments, baptism and what we call the holy supper, or communion. Other useful rites are also offered, including confirmation, betrothal, marriage, home dedication, ordination into ministry and resurrection services. For more information contact any New Church minister. Note, however, that baptism and communion are the only rituals the Lord directly taught His disciples to observe. And both are representative events, that is to say, neither one confers either faith or salvation, but they both confirm the fact that one may have faith and be saved if he accepts the Lord and lives according to His Word.
"Baptism" is from a Greek word meaning to wash, and in baptism we conduct a ceremonial washing to illustrate the cleansing of the mind or spirit. We do this because we understand that water represents the truth of the Word. Just as water cleanses the body, so truth cleanses the mind - and it can do so whether one is a child or an adult. Therefore we believe a person may be baptized at any stage of life from infancy on. But in the case of an infant baptism the commitments involved are made by the parents or guardians on behalf of the child, which are, essentially, to raise that child according to the truths of the Word.
Our baptism typically is done with a small amount of water applied to the forehead of the person. Other very simple aspects of the ritual remind the participants of their responsibilities as well as the potential benefits of the ceremony. The purpose of it is to represent the formal introduction of the person into the life and teaching of the church, and to establish an association with angels who are in the same faith. Because our teachings are distinctly different from those of traditional Christianity we welcome and invite people who are drawn to these teachings to be baptized into this faith even if they have been baptized as Christians before.
As for communion, at the Last Supper (Matthew 26, et al.) Jesus took unleavened bread and a cup of wine and passed these to His disciples saying "Take, eat... Do this in remembrance of Me." So from time to time in our worship services we conduct a special ceremony with these two elements which we believe correspond directly to the love and faith that the Lord offered in His own flesh and blood. They are not and never can be real flesh and blood, but they represent the same things flesh and blood do, and so again, this ritual can confirm the participant in the fact that he or she can receive these things and really integrate them into his or her life.
Many churches offer substitutes (like grape juice or water) for wine in the sacrament, but we believe that the symbolic link between fermented wine and faith in the glorified Divine Humanity of the Lord makes it important to use real wine - which typically is offered in your choice of a "common cup" or individual small cups for those concerned about health issues. However if a person absolutely cannot drink wine we believe it is sufficient for the general use that a person partakes of the bread alone.