Zion Congregational Church enjoys a unique heritage with many unique and beautiful traditions. Our roots are in the German Congregational Church. While we press forward in faith and mission in today’s world, it is our desire to retain as much of our unique heritage as possible. Our historic faith represents a biblical and evangelical piety that we feel must be preserved and rediscovered in each generation.
A part of our unique heritage is our way of observing the sacraments and practicing confirmation. Because we wish to rediscover and preserve these important practices, we feel it is important to clarify our beliefs and hopes in these areas. What follows have been the practices of Zion Congregational Church since our founding, except when necessity has dictated otherwise. These statements are presented to be a living guide to our practice of The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Confirmation now and into the future. We hope and expect that each new Pastor and Board will work toward the fulfillment of these policies.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Scripture: Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-21; and 1 Cor. 11:17-34.
- Our Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, The Lord’s Table, or Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed by His church to the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance and showing forth of the sacrifice of Himself in his death, and the sealing of all the benefits of his death to true believers. Through this means of grace, Christ spiritually nourishes His people, causes them to grow in faith, calls them to deeper communion with Him and further service to Him, and promotes unity within the congregation.
- In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor is any real sacrifice made at all for the remission of sin. The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice of sin and an appropriation of all of its benefits. In the Lord’s Supper, the church offers to Christ a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for His gracious gifts of salvation.
- The Lord Jesus has appointed his ministers to pray and bless the elements of bread and wine, to set them apart from a common to a holy use, to partake of the bread and the cup, and distribute both to the congregation separately, and not by intinction. Unleavened bread and real wine will always be offered, along with grape juice. No other elements may be used to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
- The normal method of distributing The Lord’s Supper to the congregation is through the practice of “altar communion” where the congregation comes forward to the front of the church to receive the elements from the minister, with the assistance of the deacons, in an orderly and reverent manner. The congregation will come forward in groups until all have been served. The normal practice is to have each group eat the bread together as a group then partake of the wine/juice individually. When Altar Communion is served, the elements will also be served in the pews for those physically unable to come forward in a manner that helps them feel included. The details of the communion service shall be worked out by the Pastor and the Deacons and regularly reviewed for improvement. The Pastor and the Board may choose to serve communion in the pews or in other ways as they find mutually expedient. The intent of this policy is to maintain our historic tradition while giving flexibility to the Pastor and Board. Communion may also be served to individuals in homes, hospitals, or care centers upon request when attendance of church is not possible.
- In the Lord’s Supper, Christ is present in Spirit, and not in a physical and corporeal sense. Believers feed on Christ crucified inwardly and spiritually by faith, and thereby receive all the benefits of His death. Christ is as spiritually present to believers who feed on him by faith, as the communion elements are physically present to their outward senses.
- Our table is open to all born-again believers. We encourage children to complete Confirmation and profess their faith before partaking of The Lord’s Supper. All unbelieving, unsaved, and unrepentant people are unable to enjoy true communion with Christ, and therefore are unworthy of the Lord’s Table. By partaking of the Lord’s Supper, such people sin against Christ, and eat and drink judgment unto themselves.
- The Lord’s Supper shall be observed during Holy Week, on World Wide Communion Sunday, at Christmas time, and at such other times designated by the Board or the Congregation. Notice of a Communion service shall be announced to the congregation for at least two weeks prior to the service. The congregation is encouraged to spiritually prepare for The Lord’s Supper through prayer, self-examination, and repentance. Each member shall make every effort to attend The Lord’s Supper services and receive the Lord’s Supper with a clean conscience before the Lord.
- It is the duty of the Deacons to supply the elements and prepare the table for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. They, along with others they may appoint, help to facilitate the distribution of the elements to the congregation.
- Zion Congregational church recognizes the sacrament of baptism to be the external sign and seal of the inward reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In the great commission, Jesus Christ told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19, 20).
- All baptisms are performed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- The normal mode of baptism for children and adults will be by sprinkling or pouring with water from the baptismal font in the sanctuary.
- In normal circumstances, because baptism is the public admission into the visible body of Christ, baptism is performed during the gathering of the congregation for the public worship of God, and should be accompanied by the preaching of the Word. Private baptisms are not normally practiced. In special situations, baptism may be performed in other places, but in such cases, the congregation must be represented by a commissioned group of at least three members other than the family of the candidates for baptism. There will be no baptisms for the dead.
- Baptism is normally performed by the Pastor of Zion. The church does not permit baptism to be performed by others other than the Pastor, except when he agrees to allow another Pastor perform a baptism at Zion. All baptisms must be coordinated with the Pastor of Zion.
- An adult seeking baptism must first meet with the Pastor and Deacons and provide a verbal testimony of their faith, clearly stating their repentance from sin, confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and their personal trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Based on the candidate’s testimony, the Pastor and Deacons may either recommend or deny public baptism. If the Pastor and Deacons recommend a person for baptism, the Board should be informed, and a date should be immediately set for the baptism to be performed in the presence of the congregation.
- An adult receiving baptism publicly should profess his or her faith publicly. The following questions should be asked and affirmed:
- Do you believe the Christian gospel as summarized by the Apostle’s Creed (Read The Apostle’s Creed)?
- Do you repent from your sinfulness, humble yourself before God, and trust Jesus Christ for salvation?
- Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and do you promise, in reliance on the grace of God, to serve Him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to put to death your old nature, and to lead a godly life?
- Upon affirmation of all three questions, the candidate may then be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit using the person’s full name; “Joe Green, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The baptism should be concluded with a prayer of thanks. There is to be no waiting for the gift of tongues or display of the charismatic gifts as part of the baptismal service.
- Infants of believers may also be baptized. Infant baptism is the sign and seal of God‘s covenant with the children of Christian parents. It does not equate forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, the removal of original sin, or regeneration. It is expected that a baptized child will grow and confess Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, thus confirming God‘s covenant promise. At least one parent must currently be a faithful follower of Christ, having made public profession of his or her faith in Jesus Christ, and must not be guilty of unrepentant sin, prolonged neglect of the worship of God, or church censure or discipline. The parent(s) should be members of Zion Congregational church. The re-baptism of adults who have been baptized as infants will not be required or encouraged.
- Parents presenting infants for baptism should be asked the following questions in the presence of the congregation
- Do you present this child to be a member of God’s covenant community where he/she will be raised in the Christian faith as summarized by the Apostle’s Creed (Read the Apostle’s Creed)?
- Do you promise to instruct your child in the principles of our holy faith as revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and as summarized in the creeds of this church, and do you promise to pray with and for your child, to set an example of piety and godliness before him/her, and to endeavor by all the means of God’s appointment to bring him/her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
- To the congregation: Zion Congregational church, do you promise to help nurture the faith of this child, to support these parents in their work of raising him/her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to pray for this family as God gives you grace?
- If these questions are answered in the affirmative, the infant is to be baptized with water in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The administration should be concluded with prayer.
- All baptized individuals will receive a certificate of baptism signed by the pastor.
- Two influences have shaped the confirmation practice of German Congregational churches. On the one hand the majority of German Christians were, “reared and educated in conformity with the plan which admitted candidates to church membership and in turn to Holy Communion by the right of confirmation.” On the other hand, “the Congregational church had never regarded confirmation as the door of entrance to the church. It required evidence of regeneration of the heart: it made conversion the prerequisite to church membership” (Pg. 14, “A History of the German Congregational Church in the United States,” by George Eisenach). These two influences have been best expressed by the Congregational churches encouraging the practice of confirmation with the understanding that it should not take the place of the experience of conversion.
- Our constitution recognizes these two influences in its article on church membership (Article V) when it says that, “Membership in this church shall be open to any person who has been baptized and has made public confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Confirmation is one means of public confession.”
- Confirmation is a time when children who have been raised in the fellowship of Zion Congregational church personally confirm their faith in Jesus Christ. Confirmation provides teenagers of our church family with a time of study and spiritual formation under the guidance of our Pastor. Confirmation consists of:
- 1 to 2 years of specific study during the senior high years. The Freshman and Sophomore years are recommended. Generally confirmation class is held during the school year. The schedule shall be determined by the pastor, the confirmands, and their parents. Weekly attendance of confirmation class and Sunday worship is required. Confirmands are also expected to be involved in the everyday workings of the church, such as serving as a greeter, acolyte, reader, and other areas assigned by the Pastor.
- The confirmation class will study the Bible. Each student will be able to identify major sections of Bible history, and show a working knowledge of the main stories of the Bible, especially the life of Jesus.
- The confirmation class will study the catechism. Each student will be able to recite from memory the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, and other assigned questions from the German Congregational Catechism as assigned by the pastor.
- The confirmation class will study basic church history. Each student will attend a Board meeting of our church, and an annual meeting of our church. Each student will read the constitution of our church to better understand how Zion Congregational functions. Students will be assigned readings from important Congregational texts such as, “There Are Modern Day Pilgrims,” “The Congregational Way,” and “Congregationalism in America,” to familiarize students with basic congregational history.
- The confirmation class will be given opportunities to personally grow in their faith. Each student will be able to speak comfortably about their belief in Jesus Christ. Each student will write or speak their testimony of conversion and faith in Jesus Christ and present it to the Pastor and Deacons prior to being recommended to the Board for Confirmation.
- Upon the recommendation of the Board, the confirmation class will be presented to the congregation for confirmation. This is usually done on Palm Sunday or Pentecost Sunday. First Communion shall be served to the Confirmands by the Pastor on their Confirmation Sunday. A group picture is taken for the church record and for each member of the class. The church will pay for the church picture and one for each member and will display the class photo as they are able.
- Teens who were not baptized as infants, upon public confession of their faith, should be baptized as part of their reception as members of the church according to the baptism policy for adults.
- An individual who confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and is confirmed, becomes a member of Zion Congregational church. They become a voting member at age 18.
- Adopted August, 2018