Sacred Actions In The Life Of The Christian Community

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Ordination And Commissioning

From the beginning, Christians have set apart (consecrated) leaders by invoking the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands. Initially this was done by the apostles whom Jesus himself had chosen. Although not all Christian groups view a chain of successive imposition of hands reaching back to the apostles as crucial, nearly all Christian groups employ already ordained ministers in the ordination ceremony. All Christian groups, as discussed in this section, do recognize some special status for their leaders, even if they reject a clergy-laity distinction theologically.

  1. Historical Origins And Development Of Ordination In The West
  2. A Theology Of Ordination In The West
  3. A Liturgy For Episcopal Ordination
  4. Guidelines For Planning An Ordination

Anointing Of The Sick

Anointing with oil is an act of trust and dependence on God. Throughout the history of the church, anointing has been used at a variety of occasions including confirmation and ordination. But the most frequent use of anointing with oil has been reserved for the anointing of the sick. When the sick person is anointed in the presence of the worshiping community, the whole community declares that it places its trust on God alone for healing. The following entries describe the history and theology of this action, as well as provide a liturgy to accompany it. In this section, note the significance of the scriptural references to anointing.

  1. Historical Origins And Development Of Anointing The Sick With Oil
  2. The Development Of Anointing In The Modern Church
  3. A Theology Of Anointing With Oil
  4. A Liturgy For Anointing Of The Sick
  5. Guidelines For Planning An Anointing Service


A connection between footwashing and the Lord's Supper has survived both in the liturgical church's Maundy Thursday rites and in the regular Communion practices of many smaller denominations that understand its practice as a form of literal obedience to the New Testament. As discussed in this section, it has always been understood as a statement of humility and loving service to one's neighbor.

  1. Historical Origins And Development Of Footwashing
  2. A Theology Of Footwashing
  3. A Liturgy For Footwashing
  4. Guidelines For Planning A Footwashing Service

The Solemn Assembly

Fasting and prayer have been marks of repentance for Jews and Christians for millennia. Wednesdays and Fridays were fast days for Christians since the earliest centuries of Christian history. Four times a year, the Ember days (the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13; the day after the first Sunday of Lent; the day after Pentecost Sunday; and the day after September 14) were special days for repentance and fasting. The most rigorous monastic orders followed a more restricted diet between September 14 and Easter than during the rest of the year, and mandated strict fasts on bread and water certain days of the week throughout much of the year. Protestants in Germany observe a day of prayer and fasting each autumn; the day is also an official national holiday in many countries with Protestant state churches. The following entries describe a recent movement among Southern Baptists to encourage congregations to hold a weekend day of prayer, fasting, and repentance. Although to some degree these efforts build on the American tradition of camp meetings and revivals, the solemn assembly movement places greater emphasis on fasting than has been customary in American revivalism in recent times. In this sense, this movement reaches back to the colonial Puritan approach to revival, which, in turn, has roots in European Protestantism.

  1. Historical Origins And Development Of The Solemn Assembly
  2. A Theology For The Solemn Assembly
  3. Guidelines For Planning A Weekend Solemn Assembly


The following entries deal primarily with the history of the sacrament of reconciliation in the West and, after the Protestant Reformation, in the Roman Catholic church. From the New Testament onward, Christians were convinced that sin disrupted relationships with God and within the church. Hence the church was responsible to deal with sin. From the broader topic of how the church maintains discipline, the following focuses more narrowly on post-baptismal confession of sin and reconciliation with the church.

  1. Historical Origins And Development Of Reconciliation In The West
  2. A Western Theology Of Reconciliation
  3. A Liturgy For Reconciliation
  4. Guidelines For Planning A Service Of Reconciliation