The first recorded celebration of communion in the American Episcopal Church occurred in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. Today, the Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, its English predecessor church, and counts 70 million members in 163 countries. Episcopalians follow a liturgy written in their Book of Common Prayer. They also base their beliefs on the Bible and recite creeds to explain their beliefs about God. Episcopalians participate in spiritual rites, including baptism and communion.
The Episcopal Church has roots in the Church of England, also called the Anglican Communion, which traces its origins to at least the second century when merchants brought Christianity to England. The Church of England was spread to every continent during the period of British colonization. In America, the Church of England has been present since the colonial period, but in the 1780s, the Episcopal Church, as it was known in America, began to consolidate its own worship by creating its Common Book of Prayer and uniting all Episcopal churches under one common national church.
Like other Christian churches, Episcopalians believe that God is the creator of all things and redeems humans from sin to become followers of Jesus Christ. Episcopalians use the scriptures in the Bible during worship service and believe that the Bible has everything necessary to obtain salvation. Episcopalians also teach the importance of living out one's beliefs by worshiping and participating in parish programs, reaching out to the community and seeking God's love in study and prayer.
Worship services in the Episcopalian church are based upon an order of service, or liturgy, found in the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of ancient and modern prayers and worship services; over two-thirds of the book is composed of Scripture. The book is used by other Anglican Communion churches around the globe; therefore, believers are united in a common prayer when worshiping. Each Episcopalian worship service includes a reading from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, prayer and hymn singing.
Episcopalians celebrate the rites of baptism and communion. They teach that the waters of baptism remind followers that they belong to God and nothing can separate them from the love of God, that they are part of an extended family, one with Christians throughout the ages and across the world -- the holy, catholic [meaning universal] and apostolic church. For Episcopalians, communion, or the eucharist, is the family meal for Christians and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet for all persons who have been baptized. During the communion rite, believers receive bread and wine in fellowship, or communion, with God and each other.
Episcopalians also participate in other spiritual rites. The reconciliation of a penitent is a private, confidential confession to a priest to receive forgiveness. Episcopalians also celebrate marriages in which a man and woman take an oath and enter into a lifelong union by making promises before God. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Episcopal church are ordained for the ministry in the church by the laying on of hands. Those who are sick or dying can be anointed with oil in the rite of unction.
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