Expressing Our Faith
We celebrate important milestones in life, such as marriages, funerals, baptisms and thanksgiving for the birth of a child. These are particular 'rites of passage' and deserve special attention.
The most important 'ritual' for us however is our weekly worship - a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, who we believe meets with us as we gather in his name.
Worship has a central place in the Christian life and is one way people respond to the God who gives them life. It lets you be reminded of God's faithfulness and goodness, to hear God's word and to respond in praise, thanksgiving, confession of sins, and acceptance of forgiveness. It lets you pray for yourself and the world, and rededicate yourself in God's service.
We hold a variety of worship services throughout the day, from formal liturgy to informal gatherings and spontaneous meeting-style sessions. While we actively encourage the use of formal liturgy, ministers and members are not bound to follow a particular set liturgical formulation in our approved services (called Uniting in worship).
The lectionary is a collection of readings from the Bible, both Old and New testaments. It offers an organised way to read and study the Bible, which is especially useful for worship services. Many congregations use the lectionary readings each Sunday in their services, and sermons often involve reflections on these readings.
A sacrament is a ritual and symbolic act of the church through which it is believed that God expresses his love and grace to individuals and to the church. The Uniting Church recognises two sacraments, baptism and Holy Communion (or the Lord's Supper).
Baptism is the church's rite of initiation. It incorporates a person, infant or adult into the church, which is the body of Christ. It is a sign of God's gracious act for all people, giving himself in Jesus Christ, "who died for us all while we were still sinners" and bringing people to faith through the Holy Spirit.
We do not have our own baptismal certificate and do not believe baptism can be repeated. In other words, there is no second baptism recognised for adults who were baptised as children.
The sacrament of the Lord's Supper (or Holy Communion) is central in worship. It is a sign and seal of Christ's continuing presence with his people. The Lord's Supper is based on the New Testament accounts of the meal Jesus shared with his disciples shortly before he died. The simple elements used then were bread and wine, and they are still used today, though different types of bread and wine are used in services of Holy Communion throughout the Uniting Church.
The Uniting Church practises an ‘open table policy’. This means anyone who loves the Lord is invited to share in Holy Communion at a Uniting Church. It is not necessary to be a confirmed member or even a baptised member to participate in Holy Communion, though it is seen as appropriate that the person or child has been baptised.
The following make up the principal dates of the Western Church calendar:
- Advent: The beginning of the Christian Year. Four Sundays before Christmas, Christians set aside time for reflection and preparation for recalling the coming of Christ.
- Christmas (December 25): The celebration of Jesus’ birth
- Christmas to Epiphany: Marks the traditional 12 days of Christmas. Epiphany marks the arrival of the magi or wise men at Jesus’ birthplace.
- Lent: The 40 days of preparation and penance which begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes at sundown on Holy (Easter) Saturday.
- Easter: The holiest period of the Christian calendar. It begins with Good Friday, which solemnly commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion, and continues until Easter Sunday which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.
- Ascension Day: Takes place 40 days after Easter and celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
- Pentecost: The celebration of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on earth after Jesus’ ascension. It takes place 50 days after the Jewish Passover festival. It is popularly accepted as the birthday of the church.