Baptism & Communion
What Do Presbyterians Believe about the Sacraments?
Presbyterians believe that Christ is present with believers in the Sacraments just as he is in the written and preached Word. In celebrating the Sacraments instituted by Christ, the Church commemorates the redemptive acts by which believers are united with their Lord and made one. These Sacraments, instituted in water and in bread and wine, are to be received in faith as exhibiting and offering the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The Sacraments are regarded as an essential part of the public ministry of the church, in which all Christians are expected to participate. Presbyterians do not maintain, however, that salvation is limited to those who have received the Sacraments.
Baptism, as ordained by Christ, is the Word made visible. It sets forth the grace of God in Jesus Christ and affirms that believers and their children are heirs of the covenant of grace. It is a consecration to the life in Christ, which means faithful service, obedience and participation in the joy and victory of the resurrection. Baptism heralds a new beginning of participation in the ministry of Christ for all who are baptized. This participation becomes an ever-expanding process, setting Christians on a journey which endures through the course of their lives.
Presbyterians believe that Baptism is a sign that we are a part of the community of believers throughout the world and through all the ages. The reality and validity of Baptism does not depend upon the tradition or form in which it may be administered. In Baptism God claims the believer for all eternity.
The vows of Baptism may be renewed at appropriate times, but the Sacrament is to be administered only once. Baptism is ordinarily administered in the presence of the worshiping congregation. Sprinkling is the traditional mode for administering the Sacrament.
When Christian parents present their infant children for Baptism, they consecrate themselves to the task of bringing up their child in the faith of the church. The congregation promises to surround their child with their love and concern in Christ.
For more information, see What do Presbyterians Believe About Baptism.
The Lord’s Supper ~ Communion
In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, God offers believers continued spiritual nourishment and sustains them in the communion of the body of Christ. The breaking of bread and the pouring from the cup show that Christ gave his own body to be broken and his life to be poured out on behalf of humanity, in the offering of himself on the cross.
The distribution and partaking of the elements show the reality of believers’ union with Christ by faith and their willingness that Christ’s presence should abide in them.
All baptized persons are invited to participate in the Sacrament if they are members in good standing of some Christian body. The invitation includes baptized children who have been prepared to participate in a meaningful way.
The Reformed tradition provides for a variety of forms in the distribution and reception of the elements. The Session (governing body of the church) determines the frequency for the celebration of this Sacrament. The Session may authorize the celebration of the Sacrament with the sick and disabled in their homes or hospitals and with groups meeting in other places.
The Kirk celebrates the Lord’s Supper, Communion, on the first Sunday of each month as well as at other special worship services throughout the year (ex. Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, etc.) as directed by the Session.