Presbyterians have two sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion.
Sacraments are holy practices of the church that are unique means of receiving God’s grace. The original definition of “sacrament” for Christians held that these were practices initiated by Christ himself.
Baptism is a “seal” to make clear what God has already done – just like sealing a letter with wax, and putting an official seal on it. No ritual with human hands will change the mind of God, but this ritual signifies that this person – whether infant or adult – belongs to God, who has already claimed him or her. Baptism is a very important ritual for Presbyterians, bestowing a life-long identity on the believer. For us its most important significance is for the parents and the congregation – who promise in baptism to raise that child according to the Christian faith.
In our theology, Christ is “really present” in the elements of communion, but that presence is a spiritual one, not a physical one – and it becomes the spiritual presence of Christ when it’s received by the believer in faith. Calvin gave what he thought was a simple and no-nonsense way to understand that.
Willow Grove generally celebrates Communion on the first Sunday of every month as well as on other special occasions.
While confirmation is not a sacrament for us, it’s extremely important in our understanding of baptism. We baptize infants to show that God reaches toward us in love, before we have any ability to choose, to behave well, or to become loveable. That’s the bedrock concept of Presbyterianism: God loves us despite any virtue of our own. God chooses us, not the other way around…and this has radical implications! But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have choice…. It’s often said that Presbyterians don’t believe in free will – we do! But the time when a child is able to choose is through the ritual of confirmation, when that child (around age 13) is taught about the Christian faith, given a mentor to help him or her understand it, and then is faced with whether to embrace the faith into which he or she has been baptized.