On the Laying on of Hands
The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff will make her Episcopal visit to St. Asaph’s on Sunday, February 3. When she visits, Bishop Goff will preach and celebrate and observe the ancient practice of the Laying On of Hands, laying her hands on those desiring to be confirmed, received or reaffirmed. In the Laying on of Hands, the Bishop is acting for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Church that stretches back to the first apostles and continues through us in this time and in this place.
The Laying on of Hands by a Bishop is an act that follows baptism and requires that we understand the promises we made (or were made for us) at our baptism. In the Laying on of Hands, the Bishop prays that the Holy Spirit will give us the grace to do what we declared we wanted to do when we were baptized. Receiving the Laying on of Hands means we appreciate and understand the affirmations of the Church and wish to make them our own.
In The Book of Common Prayer, the Bishop lays hands on those who wish to be confirmed, received or to reaffirm their faith. Confirmation is the rite appropriate for those who were baptized as infants and who wish to make for the first time an adult profession of faith. Reception is the appropriate rite for those who have been baptized in other traditions and who have made an adult profession of faith and who now desire to be received into this Communion. Reaffirmation is the appropriate rite for those baptized persons who have made a mature public affirmation and wish to renew their commitment.
All three rites require that we appreciate and understand the basic tenets of the faith, the faith which the Bishop is charged “to guard.” In the Laying on of Hands, we are acknowledging that our baptism is not just into a local community of worshipping and and witnessing Christians, but also into the universal Church.
Episcopalians are generally reserved when it comes to making public affirmations. St. Paul, however, advises us to speak up and “to give an account of the hope that is within you.” Giving expression to our hope, making known to others what “I believe” is important not only for us but to others who wonder what all of this “going to church” stuff is all about. If you have never made a public affirmation of “the hope that is within you,” I would encourage you to consider doing so, not just for your sakes but for the sake of the world.
The Rev. Bambi Willis, Priest-in-Charge