The Lutheran Church recognizes two sacraments:
— the Sacrament of the Font (Holy Baptism), and
— the Sacrament of the Altar (Holy Communion / Eucharist / Lord’s Supper).
As Lutherans we define a sacrament as a liturgical rite that has 3 characteristics:
- It was commanded by Jesus
- It uses something from the earth (i.e., water, wine, bread), and
- It gives us God’s grace.
Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are both free gifts of God’s grace. One does not need to understand God’s grace before receiving it, so there is no age requirement for receiving the sacraments — nor are those who have mental challenges prohibited from receiving.
Just as we don’t wait until children understand what it means to be washed or fed before we wash or feed them, so there is no reason to wait until they understand the sacraments (as if understanding the mystery of God’s grace is even possible!) before they receive them. As children grow, they learn about hygiene and nutrition; and as they grow they also learn about God’s grace. Salem provides classes for children during their elementary school years to help them understand the sacraments that many of them have already experienced.
Parents who desire to have their children baptized are expected to live with them among God’s faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that their children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.
At Salem we baptize children of active church members. When parents active in other churches desire to have their child baptized at Salem (perhaps because of family geography or history), we are happy to baptize the child and transfer their membership to their home congregation. If parents desire to have their child baptized at Salem, live out of the area, and have no church home, the pastor will be happy to help connect them with a church in their area.
Godparents / Sponsors must be willing to nurture the baptized person in the Christian faith as they are empowered by God’s Spirit and to help them live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church. Godparents / Sponsors are also expected to insure that the parents live up to the promises they have made (see above).
Baptisms at Salem are celebrated during regularly scheduled worship services. The most appropriate days to celebrate Holy Baptism are: the Easter Vigil (Easter Eve), the Baptism of Our Lord (1st Sunday following January 6th), the Sundays of Epiphany (Sundays between January 7th and Ash Wednesday), the Sundays of the Easter season (the 6 Sundays following Easter Day), and Trinity Sunday (Sunday after Pentecost). Baptisms are not celebrated during the season of Lent (the 6 Sundays prior to Easter).
At Salem we welcome all to Christ’s table. We believe Christ is truly present in the gifts of this sacrament – in the bread and wine and in the people gathered. As we are fed by Christ’s body, we become his body. Nourished, strengthened and made whole by these gifts of God’s forgiveness and grace, we go with joy to share God’s love for the world.
Those who wish to receive only a blessing may indicate their desire by crossing their arms over their hearts.