What Does Membership Mean?
Membership in the Episcopal Church does not carry with it the formal expectations of other denominations. By canon (church law), a "member" is someone who attends services and contributes financially on a regular basis. There is not even a definition of what "regular" means!
This seemingly vague approach to membership actually reflects a wider conviction of the Episcopal Church, that of individual readiness and commitment. We each have differing levels of understanding of our relationship with God and with the community in which we worship. We respond to the call to service and fellowship at different rates and depths. In our tradition, the individual seeker decides for himself or herself what membership means, how it will be lived out, and when it is achieved.
Having said that, there are some ways in which we provide guideposts and suggestions. At St. Mary's we welcome people from many backgrounds of faith and experience. People are drawn to us for our traditional forms of liturgy, for our progressive social stance, and through identification and a deepening relationship with the community of believers already here.
When people first arrive they are greeted and ushered to a pew and given a bulletin to enable them to join in the worship. Communion is offered without restriction to all visitors and members. We ask everyone, visitors to fill out one of the buff-colored cards in each pew to let us know who you are. Please place it in the collection plate during the offertory. The information is gathered and the newcomers' committee will send greetings to visitors and forward information to the clergy as needed.
Membership Takes Many Forms
What is membership? First it is a conviction of the heart and a commitment to a community of people. It provides a sense of home and belonging. It's a way of establishing roots and encouraging growth in faith and fellowship. There is an interdependence and accountability for what we say we want and will do for ourselves and the community we hold onto. Members of St. Mary's are expected to attend the services and participate in the activities, supporting events and participating in the leadership of our common life. Members are expected to take seriously their pledge of time, talent and treasure to the work and mission of St. Mary's. Our growth in faith requires action as well as words. That takes several forms, including offering professional skills, financial pledges, and stretching to find interests and skills perhaps dormant as undiscovered gifts of God within each of us.
St. Mary's offers members pastoral care, a good worship experience, supportive community and a place to meet, and the opportunity for a deeper relationship with God. This certainly isn't the only place God is, but it's one of them – a place to bear witness to God's love and to experience that love in communion with others. We welcome all to find a spiritual home with us, and to explore what membership is and what it calls forth.
Learning More about the St. Mary's Community
We offer the newcomer opportunities to connect with other newcomers and longer-term members through our coffee hour on a regular Sunday, meeting with the Rector and twice-annual cocktail reception for newcomers. Find out more.
Membership Classes and Services
Periodically, the Rector conducts classes that provide a historical and spiritual survey of the Episcopal Church, and considers how this tradition is reflected and lived out at St. Mary's.
A more traditionally formal ceremony to join the Episcopal Church occurs at a service of Confirmation and Reception held at the Cathedral of Trinity and St. Philip's in Newark. This is for people who want to embrace membership sacramentally in the historic laying on of hands by the Bishop. Confirmation, whether for youth or adults, is a sacrament of initiation in which we confirm the vows made for us at Baptism by our Godparents. People who have been confirmed in another denomination are received into the Episcopal Church in a way that recognizes and values the original confirmation but welcomes the person into this branch of the Christian faith.