Becoming a Member

_DSC4356We often get asked what needs to happen in order to “join” the Church. This is, unfortunately, not a simple question to answer. Does membership mean becoming a Christian? An Episcopalian? A member of St. Martin’s? There are different ways to define membership in the Church. In response to this complex question, we have put together a brief summary of how the Episcopal Church defines the terms of membership. Of course it is vital to remember that the most important thing in discussing membership in the Church is that people are drawn ever more deeply into relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Who is a Christian?
A Christian is any person who has been baptized in the Episcopal Church or any other Christian church in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What is Baptism?
The sacrament of Baptism is the initiation rite into the Christian Church. To be Baptized, as an infant, child or adult is to become a full member of the Church with access to the sacraments.

Who may receive Communion?
At St. Martin’s, and throughout the Episcopal Church, any baptized Christian, regardless of age or denomination, is welcome to receive Communion.

Who is a member of the Episcopal Church?
A person is a member of the Episcopal Church if they have been baptized, whether in an Episcopal church or another Christian church, and the baptism has been recorded in the records of a particular Episcopal parish. A person may also become a member of the Episcopal Church if they are Confirmed or Received by a bishop.

What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is a sacrament of the Church. It is an informed profession of the faith that may be made by teenagers or adults. To be Confirmed is to outwardly proclaim your choice of the Episcopal faith and tradition. It involves the laying on of hands upon the head of the individual Confirmand by the bishop.  

What does it mean to be “Received” into the Episcopal Church?
If you have been Confirmed in another liturgical tradition (such as Roman Catholic or Evangelical Lutheran) you are Received into the Church rather than Confirmed. A person is Received into the Episcopal Church by a bishop.

Why officially join the Episcopal Church?
We believe that God speaks to people in a variety of ways and that no one particular expression of this faith is “right.” For Episcopalians, this way of relating to the divine balances scripture, tradition, and reason. The Episcopal Church is a sacramental and liturgical form of Christianity that respects the ancient nature of the church yet allows room for a prayerful discussion of theology.

What is a Letter of Transfer?
If you are a member of another Episcopal parish and would like to transfer your membership to St. Martin’s, please contact the parish office to let us know. We have a special form we send to your former parish that “transfers” your membership to St. Martin’s.

Who is a member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church?
An “official” member of St. Martin’s is a baptized person who requests to be placed on the membership rolls of this parish. If you are Baptized, Confirmed, or Received at St. Martin’s, you automatically become a member. A person who is a member of another Episcopal church can transfer their membership to St. Martin’s through a Letter of Transfer.

What if I don’t want to officially join the Episcopal Church or St. Martin’s?
We consider our parish family to be a wide net of individual beliefs and situations and while we encourage people to seriously consider official membership, it is not a requirement to partake in the life of the community. According to the canons (governing laws) of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Louisiana, the only thing non-members may not do at the parish level is serve on the Vestry, vote at the annual parish meeting, and serve as a chalice bearer.

What about pledging?
Giving money is not a requirement for membership at St. Martin’s, however, we firmly believe that stewardship of our financial resources is an integral part of being a Christian and we rely on the generosity of our community to support our common ministry. Episcopal Churches do not receive financial assistance from the Diocese or the National Church. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: we pay a yearly apportionment to the Diocese of Louisiana to support the mission and ministry of the larger church.

What is expected of members of St. Martin’s?
We expect members of this parish community to strive to lead a life of faith. This means sharing the joy of corporate worship as regularly as possible; recognizing that God is the source of all that we are and all that we do; loving one another and respecting the dignity of every human being; understanding that we don’t have all the answers about faith but we’re always seeking to learn from God and one another; offering of ourselves to the church through our talents, time, and financial resources; helping to spread the message of Christ’s love in whatever way is possible for you.