Baptism

We are either born into, or adopted by, families. In baptism, we become part of another family: God’s universal family, with our congregation. Promises are made–for us when we are young, or by us when we are able–a set of vows that enter us into a special relationship with Christ. We become united with Jesus and with God in living out the most satisfying and astounding promises of all Creation.

The congregation also makes promises. We promise to support those who are baptized–to do all we can to help them grow in their Christian lives. The baptismal vows are so important to us that we renew our commitment to them several times a year–lest we forget why we are part of God's plan–to ponder how we are doing and consider how we might embody them more fully.

We hold baptisms several times during the year and they are always held during worship on very special Sundays. Those who are baptized (or their parents) are committing to become part of our faith community. We baptize babies, children and adults.

Baptism is forever – when you are baptized you are "Marked for Christ" for life.

If you or your child(ren) are interested in being baptized, join us for worship to see if this is the faith community for you, then talk to our priests.

You can read our Baptismal Covenant here.  It is taken from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979, which is our principle source for worship.


What could be more fun than a baptism? As the Bishop parades up and down the aisle proclaiming: "Ladies and Gentlemen: Please welcome the newest Christian in the world!"

 

At one parish that we attended, the priest never made it through even one baptism without being moved to tears...he had to stop and collect himself EVERY TIME!

Cool.
— A St. Paul's parishioner

Weddings

HOLY MATRIMONY  
Holy Matrimony is the union of two people in heart, body, and mind, and is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.  

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MARRIAGE IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH  
The Episcopal Church requires that at least one of the parties be baptized, that there be at least two adult witnesses, and that the marriage conform to the civil law and in accordance with the canons of the Episcopal Church. Marriage ceremonies are conducted at St. Paul's in accordance with the rites approved by the church. The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage from The Book of Common Prayer has been the standard form since 1979.   In 2015, the Episcopal Church formally endorsed same-sex marriage. Three alternate rites of the blessing of a marriage are available for our use: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing, and two versions of a rite called The Celebration and Blessing of a Covenant Relationship. In other words, we treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples equally, granting in either case the choice of a variety of rites for the blessing of a marriage.  

BELONGING TO ST. PAUL’S  
 Since marriage is a sacrament of the church, our policy at St. Paul’s is to marry members of the congregation. Civil marriage is always an option for those who have no desire to join the church. If you are coming to us as non-members who are curious about the life of a worshiping congregation, we welcome you wholeheartedly and would like to introduce you to the many ways you can get involved at St. Paul’s. We are happy to help you engage all your questions. In addition, you may find our website to be a valuable introduction to life at St. Paul’s and in the Episcopal Church: http://www.stpaulsbellingham.org/about-the-episcopal-church/. 

DECLARATION OF INTENT  
Each couple intending marriage in the Episcopal Church is required to sign a copy of the following declaration:  

"We, _______ and ________, desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the liturgical forms authorized by this Church. We believe it is for the purpose of mutual fellowship, encouragement and understanding, for the procreation (if it may be) of children, and their physical and spiritual nurture, and for the safeguarding and benefit of society, and we do engage ourselves so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God's help thereto."  
 

Or this:  

“We, _______ and ________, desiring to receive the blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, do solemnly declare that we hold this covenant to be our lifelong commitment as provided by The Episcopal Church gathered in General Convention. We believe that our covenant is intended by God for our mutual joy, for the encouragement and support given one another in daily life and changing circumstances, for bringing God’s grace to our community, for the deepening of faith as we experience God’s love in our love for one another, and (if it may be) for the physical and spiritual nurture of children. This covenant shall be nurtured and characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which shall enable us to see in each other the image of God. And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this covenant and to seek God’s help hereto.”

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE  
The Episcopal Church teaches that marriage is, by intention, lifelong and each couple signs a declaration of intention which affirms this teaching. However, it must be acknowledged that divorce does occur, in spite of the best and most solemn intentions. The Church regards divorce very seriously and encourages married persons to do all they possibly can to effect healing and reconciliation before divorce. When divorce does occur, the Church seeks to provide pastoral care to assist each of the parties during a most difficult and painful time of their lives.   The Church allows remarriage after divorce, but the period of premarital preparation with the clergy may be a little longer. Written permission from the Bishop must be obtained by the priest before the priest is allowed to solemnize the marriage. The request for the priest to officiate must be made to the Bishop not less than sixty days before the marriage.  
If either party has been divorced twice before, premarital counseling must be completed not with a St. Paul’s clergy person, but with a licensed marriage and family therapist. St. Paul’s will take no further steps towards your wedding until this process is completed and the therapist makes a report to St. Paul’s clergy.    

PREPARATION FOR THE MARRIAGE
The period of the Engagement is meant to be a time of planning, preparation and growing together. In the Episcopal Church, the clergy are required to explore with the couple the nature, meaning and purpose of Holy Matrimony. The time of preparation is typically a time when the couple and the priest come to know one another quite well, learning to work together in community with a common goal: the marriage itself and the life of the couple as a new family. The theology of the Church is discussed in detail, the Marriage Rite is carefully reviewed, and planning for the service itself occurs in regular consultation with the clergy. Often, premarital seminars are suggested and certain books and videos may be recommended. Please: do not publicize a date for  your wedding until you are well into this process, and don’t do so without an assurance from St. Paul’s clergy to hold the wedding on this date. The clergy of St. Paul’s are available for consultation and advice during the entire time of preparation. It is our commitment to the couple to make every effort to help them prepare for this important event in their lives. Under the Episcopal Church canons, no clergy other than parish staff will solemnize a marriage at St. Paul’s without the prior consent of the Rector.  

CHURCH RECORDS
The marriage will be recorded in the parish records of St. Paul’s. These records are kept in the parish and are a part of its history. Parish records are legally admissible in any United States court of law and are frequently requested by those researching their family history.

THE MARRIAGE LICENSE  
A Washington State marriage license is required for all weddings at St. Paul's. You may obtain one at any county courthouse in the State of Washington. An application for the license must be completed by both parties. The license is issued immediately, and then there is a three-day waiting period before the marriage may be solemnized. At St. Paul's it is recommended that the license be obtained and delivered to the church office at least two weeks before the marriage. This allows sufficient time for the necessary documents to be prepared prior to the rehearsal and marriage liturgy.

THE WEDDING COORDINATOR  
At St. Paul's, the Wedding Coordinator serves as a representative of the Altar Guild, which is the group charged with preparing the altar for the wedding. The Wedding Coordinator is assigned to each wedding, and it is the responsibility of the couple to contact her at least three months prior to the wedding day, and also to schedule a meeting with her at around the six-week mark. At that meeting, she will answer many of your questions about the mechanics of the marriage service. The Priest is responsible for the rehearsal. The Wedding Coordinator will assist at the rehearsal and at the marriage service. There is no need for a professional wedding coordinator during the rehearsal or the marriage ceremony itself; however, if one is desired, permission must be granted by the officiating clergy. Although an outside wedding coordinator may consult with the clergy and guilds, he/she does not have authority over ritual matters.

THE WEDDING IS WORSHIP  
 The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, and the alternate rites, are public services of worship in the Episcopal tradition. Therefore, the ceremonial customs associated with the worship of this church apply, especially those for processions, entering or leaving the church (which are led by a Crucifer), and, if desired, Torch Bearers. A Crucifer is normally provided by the church from the Acolyte Corps. However, a Crucifer may be a relative, a friend, or anyone who is trained for this function.

Every church wedding is a public worship service. It is customary to allow St. Paul’s staff to publish an invitation to your wedding in the service leaflet on the two Sundays prior to the wedding. You are not required to invite everyone to the reception, of course, nor need you expect a flood of extra people at the ceremony. But neither is your wedding a private event. It is one more occasion for the congregation to celebrate together.

FEES  
If you would like to celebrate your marriage at St. Paul’s, the first step is to arrange an appointment with a priest. That conference explores Christian marriage, the customs of the Episcopal Church, and the wedding policy of St. Paul’s Church. The wedding date is set by mutual agreement with the couple and the church. At that time, the wedding deposit is due to reserve the date on the church calendar. (An explanation of specific fees is available through the church office.) If the amount of the fees is a financial hardship for the couple, they should discuss this with the priest at the initial conference.   An honorarium is a customary gift for the priest officiating at the wedding for his/her discretionary use. Traditionally, the best man gives the honorarium to the priest at the rehearsal. Parish policy requires that it be in the form of a check made out to St. Paul's Episcopal Church (note the priest's name in memo section of the check). Because this fee will be deposited into the priest’s discretionary fund, it is not for the priest’s personal use, so it should NOT be made out directly to the priest. 
 
If you would like to celebrate your wedding on a Sunday morning during our regular worship, let’s talk! To take this option speaks volumes about your understanding of how your marriage fits into the context of this worshiping community. The wedding deposit will not be necessary in this case. However, it is understood that a Sunday morning wedding will take place in the context of Holy Eucharist.  

FLOWERS  
It is the responsibility of the couple to contact a local florist and have them provide altar flower arrangements. Flowers are expected for both altars in the church. The altar arrangements are considered gifts to the church for the wedding in thanksgiving for the marriage and remain on the altars for the Sunday services following. The couple may designate a dedication of the altar flowers and have it printed in the church bulletin by calling the church office.  
Many of the flower shops in the Bellingham area are familiar with the liturgical and physical requirements at St. Paul’s; alternately, the information may be obtained from the secretary in the parish office. Please note, the family is responsible for removal of any extra decorations that are not appropriate for a Sunday service (i.e., pew decorations, etc.). The tossing of rose petals is not permitted inside the church, and any tossed outside the church must be cleaned up. Please contact the St. Paul’s Flower Guild director, Susan McDermott, at 360-224-2411 or susanmcdermott44@gmail.com, and let her know your plans.

MUSIC  
The Canons of the Episcopal Church specify that the music used in all worship should be an offering for the glory of God and as a help to the people in their worship. In addition, the traditions of the Church serve as a guideline as to the appropriateness of music selections. The Organist/ Choirmaster of St. Paul’s will provide consultation regarding the possible choices of music suitable within the limits of Church Canon and tradition. The final authority for music is with the clergy as advised by the Organist/ Choirmaster. The couple should contact the Organist/Choirmaster at least three months before the wedding date to consult about the music. Arrangements for soloists and other musicians must be made in consultation with the Organist/Choirmaster. Please note that we do not use Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner’s Lohengrin. Their use is an invention of Hollywood filmmakers in their quest for music with no historically religious use.

PHOTOGRAPHY  
Photographs are an important part of most weddings, and St. Paul's has a particularly beautiful building. A majority of the professional photographers in Bellingham are familiar with the lighting and physical characteristics of St. Paul's. But Holy Matrimony is a Sacrament: flash pictures during the service are distracting and, therefore, inappropriate and prohibited during the wedding ceremony. Likewise, parishioners are not permitted to shoot photos or video with any device during the ceremony. One video of the wedding is allowed, and the Wedding Coordinator will identify a recording location so that the recording is satisfactory to the couple and unobtrusive during the service. All posed photographs must be completed 45 minutes before the beginning of the service in consideration of arriving guests; if the couple has an official photographer, that person may shoot non-flash photos from the back of the church during the ceremony. The key is for the photographer to remain unobtrusive.  

ORDER OF SERVICE  
The order of service for the wedding is arranged for and produced by the couple, not the church office. The consulting priest will be able to offer resources to the couple in producing it. 

ALCOHOL  
As a sign of respect for the church and the couple, the consumption of alcoholic beverages by members of the wedding party before the wedding is discouraged. Alcohol consumption is not permitted on the property (church, Great Hall, parking lot, etc.) prior to the wedding by friends or members of the wedding party. Alcohol consumption (champagne and white wine) may be permitted by approval of the clergy during a wedding reception scheduled in the Great Hall. In addition, smoking is strictly prohibited within the building and on the grounds.

THE REHEARSAL  
Every wedding requires a rehearsal to provide an opportunity for all of the participants to learn their parts in the service. This is a time for the priest to meet the wedding party and to prepare them for the liturgy. The time for the rehearsal is set in consultation with the priest and is usually set on the day before the wedding itself. Rehearsals at St. Paul's typically last about an hour. If a rehearsal dinner is planned and the priest and spouse are expected to attend, it is customary to send a written invitation (likewise for an outside wedding reception).

RECEPTIONS  
The Great Hall and Sports Hall of St. Paul’s are available for wedding receptions. The St. Anne’s Guild of St. Paul’s Church handles all receptions. For more information, see the Fee Schedule page.

POSTSCRIPT  
The wedding day is just the beginning of a new phase in the life of a couple: a new life empowered by the grace of God. We do not take marriage lightly, but as a sacred commitment between two persons made before their families, their friends, and God. It is our prayer that the life begun at St. Paul’s will be a life lived in the knowledge of the love of God and a profound awareness of unending love. The Church celebrates the mutual love between two people and proclaims that God is the third person in every relationship. May the blessings of God be upon you always. 

Funerals and Interment

The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer has a wonderful description of a funeral, or what we call in our tradition “The Burial of the Dead”.   Here it is:

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy.  It finds all its meaning in the resurrection.  Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.

The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of god in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian.  The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death.  Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend.  So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.”

A funeral typically takes place in our church building.  We are glad to help you pre-plan your funeral service, and encourage you to make your end-of-life plans as well.

In our funeral services, which are conducted according to the provisions of the Book of Common Prayer, we have opportunity to bring our grief, share mourning in community, and find that we are upheld by God and one another.   We celebrate God’s victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we celebrate the gift to us of the person that has died.

The Clergy are available to consult with you on an individual basis to plan your funeral or that of a loved one.

All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Columbarium at St. Paul's Bellingham

In continuation of our honor for those who have passed on, and as an expansion of our sacred space and communal life, in the summer of 2014 we established the St. Paul’s Columbarium: a place for prayer, meditation, and final rest for the cremated remains of the departed.

Cremation is fully in accord with the custom and teaching of the Episcopal Church and is an increasingly common burial option. The Columbarium provides a holy place for those who have chosen this option. They rest in what our Book of Common Prayer calls the “sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.” Cremated remains are interred by burial in an above-ground marked crypt.

If you are interested in arranging a place in the Columbarium for yourself or a loved one, contact St. Paul’s Church Office for information, or

Read about our Columbarium by clicking here.

Reconciliation

It isn’t easy to confront the awareness that we’ve done wrong, but it’s a necessary part of being fully human. We’ve hurt others, made unethical choices, and betrayed a trust or responsibility, or ignored evils and injustices when we could have made a difference. Jesus taught us to live in right relationship with God, with neighbor (and everyone is our neighbor), and with the world, and this involves growth over time as we live and work and make common cause with others.

Christian life is support of one another in this growth, supported by prayer, study, and the companionship of others. We also support one another in acknowledging when we’ve been wrong and in seeking the grace of God which leads to renewal and forgiveness of one another.

Our Sunday and weekday services of Holy Eucharist include a “general confession,” a time for each of us together in community to recognize that we’ve gotten things wrong both by what we do and by what we leave undone. We confess this and ask for Christ’s forgiveness. All of us are encouraged to reflect before worship on what aspects of our lives should be silently offered to God at this time in order to receive the gift of forgiveness and renewal.

There are times when individuals will find a need for something more particular and personal than this time of “general confession.” We may, because of a troubled conscience, need further help in acknowledging our wrongs and seeking forgiveness.  In these cases the priests of the church will meet on a confidential basis with individuals to compassionately share the burden – as one sinner with another – and to ask God’s forgiveness and the grace for a renewed life. This “rite of reconciliation” is not required of anyone, but provided for those who find it healing. Some make it a regular part of their spiritual lives, while others seek it out occasionally or in special circumstances.

If you would like to participate in the rite of reconciliation, or to learn more about it, speak to one of our priests.

Memorial Garden

St. Paul's Memorial Garden is immediately adjacent to our Columbarium. In the Episcopal service for The Burial of the Dead we are made powerfully aware of the presence of God’s love and Spirit in the act of committing those we cherish to eternal rest. In recognition of this, and as an expansion of our sacred space and communal life, we carefully maintain St. Paul’s Memorial Garden: a place for prayer and meditation for all.

Confirmation

Confirmation is a rite that is entirely related to Baptism.

If we are baptized as babies or small children, our parents/caregivers and faith community make the promises on our behalf, committing themselves to help us grow into the Christian way of life. Part of that growth is arriving at the time to make those promises our own, taking personal responsibility for our faith journey. This arrival will come at different chronological ages for different people, from late adolescence throughout adulthood.

Confirmation is the service in which we publicly take on those promises, with the support of our community and the blessing of God. It is led by our bishop, who serves as the chief pastor of our region of the Episcopal Church.

We offer programs to help our members consider these promises and whether it is time to commit to them personally. Our high school-age youth are offered the opportunity to undertake a confirmation journey.  Adults consider deepening their faith as part of our Journey process.

Healing

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. –James 5:14

Jesus’ ministry here on earth was one of bringing healing to many.  He prayed for people to be restored to health from sicknesses of body and spirit.   The Church, then, follows his example and invokes the name of God for healing.

St. Paul’s offers healing prayer as a component of Sunday Eucharist and on the first Thursday of each month at the 10 am weekday service of Holy Eucharist.

The priests of St. Paul’s also will visit and pray with you as part of a hospital visit or at any time by request.  For those who desire it, this prayer may include anointing with oil, blessed by our bishop for this purpose.  Healing prayer may also be offered on behalf of others, for whom we seek God’s wholeness.

Healing prayer and anointing is for any time during our lives, not just at the time when we are near death.   Our priests are indeed available to pray with the dying and their loved ones, seeking peace and release from pain for those we love as we commend them into the gentle hands of God. However we do not restrict this sacrament only to the end of life; healing prayer may be sought at all times and for all conditions.

If you are interested in healing prayer, come to one of our services which include it, or talk to our priests.