Sacraments & Ceremonies
In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite that mediates divine grace, constituting a sacred mystery. The root meaning of the Latin word sacramentum is to “make sacred”. Views concerning both what rites are sacramental, and what it means for an act to be sacramental vary among Christian denominations and traditions.
INFANT & CHILD DEDICATIONS
Every human life is a gift from God. In the Psalms it says, “Don’t you see that children are GOD’S best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” In response to this gift, God’s people have honored him by dedicating their children to his purposes.
We find this in the story of Jesus’ own life: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22).
We believe that children belong to God, and are entrusted into our hands for but a season. It’s a call to love and protect, to challenge, and to gradually and eventually release these precious children. It requires every resource we have.
The good news is that we don’t have to do this on our own. Jesus talks about God’s mother-like desire to “gather (her) children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings...” (Matthew 23:37). God is there all along the way of a child’s growth, and his resources are there for the asking.
And within the Church, we’re called to ensure that no parent stands alone… that no child is without many aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. We’re here to help them bear this awesome responsibility of raising children.
Dedications will be once a month on the 2nd Sunday of the month. If you’d like to dedicate your infant or child, please contact our Office Administrator at (734) 477-9135 x111, or send an email with the following information:
* child’s name
* the name of each parent
* your phone number and e-mail address
* the child’s birthdate
* who would you like on the stage during the dedication
* which pastor you would like to perform the ceremony
* photo of the child
PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING & WEDDINGS
Premarital Counseling provides each couple with a framework for investing the time, energy, thought and prayer that a commitment of this magnitude calls for. Often in the hustle and bustle of modern life, this energy is absorbed by the practical details of wedding planning, work and other pursuits—and the more important, but less urgent demands of marriage preparation are neglected.
Even couples who know each other quite well before deciding to marry discover that there are certain issues they either haven’t thought of or may even avoid for various reasons. Most couples discover important things about themselves and their partner during the premarital process. Skills are learned that equip them for the challenges of married life. When the process is working well, couples are able to love each other more deeply and effectively.
Premarital counseling helps couples to appreciate the value of talking over issues affecting their marriage with a trusted third party. When challenging issues arise in the course of married life (as they inevitably do) couples who have been through premarital counseling have already crossed the threshold of getting some outside help. They are less likely to try to struggle through issues alone, when help is called for.
We view Christian marriage as a lifelong commitment that requires a vital connection with Christ. Our premarital counseling ministry is designed to help couples discern their readiness for this awesome commitment and equip them for the joys and challenges of married life. Because one out of every two marriages in our society ends in divorce, we require any couple married in the church to first invest in a thoughtful premarital counseling process. The pastoral staff, as ministers of Christ and the church, perform Christian wedding ceremonies—in the presence of God, making vows in the name of Christ; in order to do this with integrity (rather than simply “going through the motions”) we feel it is important for the couple to have a relationship with Christ. The marriage preparation process is holistic, covering all aspects of a couple’s relationship: practical, emotional, social, and spiritual.
What about premarital sex and/or living together?
We believe that God takes a very high view of sexuality–that it is something holy and good, to be shared within the protective context of a committed marriage. Therefore, we recommend that couples refrain from lovemaking and living together before their wedding. Not only is this biblical, but some studies have shown that the risk of divorce is significantly higher among couples who co-habitate before marriage. In certain cases, where children are involved or the couple is already living together, special arrangements are sometimes made (please talk to a pastor).
What about the Church Connection?
Since a meaningful church connection is an important factor in successful marriage, we think it’s best to first find the church that works for you and begin the marriage preparation process in that context. (Most churches take marriage preparation very seriously these days!) When couples with no previous connection with Vineyard inquire about the prospect of getting married at Vineyard, we usually recommend that they first begin attending the worship celebrations to see if the beliefs and values of this church make sense for them. It makes the process more meaningful for all concerned.
We want to help you to have the best marriage possible. In doing this we require that all couples who intend to get married by a Vineyard pastor complete premarital counseling. The officiating pastor will ask you to make arrangements with a professional counselor to work with you. We require at least two sessions with a professional counselor in addition to meetings with a pastor.
1. Time Frame: It is recommended that the couple begin the premarital counseling process at least 6 months before the wedding.
2. Scheduling: To reserve the church facility, contact the church office at (734) 477-9135 ext. 111 or email. Normally 6 months advance notice is necessary. You will also need to confirm with your officiating pastor that he/she is available on that date. (If you have a preference for who officiates your wedding, please let us know. Otherwise a pastor will be assigned.) Please note that Saturday weddings must be completed by 3:30pm, as we have Saturday evening events.
3. Premarital Inventory: Each couple is required to take a premarital inventory called Prepare. You may take this inventory online. First email the church office to obtain a username and password. Include both individuals’ full names and email addresses. You will first need to provide a check for $35 made out to “Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor” with “premarital” in the memo line. Once we receive payment, a username and password will be emailed to you. This inventory will give us some information that will help us to recognize some ways we can help you in the preparing process.
4. Premarital Counseling: The officiating pastor will meet with the couple after the Prepare inventory is scored and returned. This will be one of the three sessions he or she will have with them (one before premarital counseling and two afterward). After the first session, the couple should contact a professional counselor to schedule premarital counseling sessions. A minimum of 2 sessions are required, based on a couple’s need. More sessions are required if deemed necessary by the counselor and/or pastor. Following the sessions with the professional counselor, a follow-up meeting will be arranged with the officiating pastor.
5. What you need to know before you set a date: Occasionally, serious obstacles to a successful marriage surface during the premarital counseling. Since one goal of the process is to understand the couple’s readiness for marriage, the pastor does not commit to performing the wedding until the premarital process is well underway. On rare occasions, the obstacles as such that a pastor is not able, in good conscience, to perform the ceremony. Therefore, the decision to perform the wedding will only be made after the process has begun and sufficient information is available to the pastor and the couple.
6. Last Sessions: Upon completion of the premarital counseling, the couple will meet with the counseling pastor for a final meeting, and then with the officiating pastor for the ceremony planning.
The Wedding & Reception
If you are interested in having your wedding at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor, please contact the church office by email to get a packet sent out to you.
Professional Counseling Services
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor does not provide professional counseling, but does have relationship with many of the fine Christian counselors in our area. If you have no Insurance coverage you may want to contact an agency that can provide counseling on a sliding scale fee structure.
Family Counseling Center: 3840 Packard Road Suite 220, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 Phone: (734) 477-9999. Recommended: Greg Hocott
Samaritan Counseling Services: (Insurance Accepted) 2890 Carpenter Road, Suite 1600, Ann Arbor 48108 Phone: (734) 677-0609. Recommended: Gordon Prepsky or Jocelyn Pyett
Raphael Counseling Services: 5475 Morgan Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. (734) 572-0255. Recommended: Gordon Prepsky
In what has come to be called the Last Supper, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his most intimate followers on the night he was betrayed. At that meal, Jesus taught his disciples that the Passover was a sign that pointed to him. He was the spotless lamb whose body would be broken and whose blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding the continuing practice of this meal:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
Today, Christians acknowledge this new covenant by celebrating the communion meal (also known as the Lord’s Supper, or the “Eucharist” – from the Greek word meaning “thanksgiving”). At Vineyard, we celebrate communion at our weekend celebrations by sharing bread and grape juice (the fruit of the vine). If communion isn’t something meaningful to you, please feel free to simply pass. Some small groups also celebrate communion together.
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
THE WEDDING ILLUSTRATION
Imagine a wedding. The bride and groom stand side-by-side in the front of the church. They take turns promising “till death do us part.” These two young lovers don’t look any different on the outside, but in just a few moments they will be married—united for life by invisible cords. Signifying that unseen union, the bride and groom exchange rings. These bands of gold tell the world they are now married. They identify the couple as husband and wife.
Baptism is like a wedding in this respect. It is a public declaration of unconditional devotion to a person—Jesus Christ. Like the wedding rings, baptism signifies our union with another. It is not a promise to be good for the rest of our lives. It is not a religious version of the Boy Scout pledge. Like marriage, it is a relational promise—a promise to give ourselves, body and soul, to Jesus. In baptism we’re not saying to Jesus, “I’ll be good!”, but we’re saying “I’ll be yours!”
BIBLICAL PASSAGES CONCERNING BAPTISM
Of course, the real significance of baptism cannot be defined merely with the analogy of a wedding. Let’s look at the Scriptures:
Jesus commands his followers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20). Baptism is the means by which disciples (followers) of Christ are publicly identified. In the New Testament, it is evident that baptism follows an individual’s decision to trust Christ alone for salvation (Acts 2:41, 8:12, and 10:47-48). Baptism was never intended to provide salvation for an individual (faith is possible without it and salvation does not depend on it), but rather to publicly identify a person with Christ.
Most importantly, baptism identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A New Testament writer named Paul explains it this way: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4). Going under water during baptism signifies Christ’s death, and coming out of the water signifies his resurrection. It’s a powerful statement.
When a person is baptized, he or she is saying, “My old life is over—dead and buried like Jesus in the tomb.” Secondly, when a person is baptized, he or she is saying, “From this point on, my life and my future are in the hands of the Risen Lord. As he lives, I live.” Even more powerful, it is something that God is saying, “Your old life is over. From this point on your life is in my hands.” It’s not just something we do, it’s something that God does.
A WORD CONCERNING INFANT BAPTISM
We believe the New Testament teaches that baptism is reserved for those who have made a mature choice to follow Jesus. This is commonly called “believer’s baptism” as contrasted with “infant baptism.” The age at which a child is mature enough to make this choice will vary, but at the Vineyard we ask that children wait until the 5th grade to be baptized. For students 5th grade and older interested in baptism, the Youth Ministry offers a class called Faith Basics a few times a year.
Within the church, we dedicate the children of believers as a reflection of the fact that the children of a believing parent belongs to the Lord (see 1 Cor. 7:14). However, we recognize that many Christians view the baptism of infants as a valid practice, noting that the New Testament refers to the baptism of whole households, and, as early as the fourth century, it was the common practice of the church to baptize infants. While we do not practice infant baptism, we respect those who consider their baptism as infants as valid when followed by repentance and faith in Jesus. We don’t insist that those baptized as infants be baptized as adults, but we do offer to baptize any who wish to be baptized as adults.
AM I READY TO BE BAPTIZED?
Baptism is for believers. A believer is someone who has realized that their sin separates them form God. They have given up all efforts to reach God through good works or religious activity. They have concluded that only Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for their sins can bridge the gap between them and God. A believer is someone who has decided to trust Christ alone for their salvation. If you have come to that point in your spiritual journey, then the answer is yes, you are ready to be baptized. Just as the bride and groom tell of their love for one another through the symbol of rings, you can tell the world through baptism of your union with Christ.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
REGISTER FOR THE NEXT BAPTISM
We have baptisms throughout the year at both celebrations. Usually, we’ll announce them several weeks in advance. You can register for the next baptism by mail, fax, or email. Please register at least one week in advance of the baptism. You can register by sending an email to the church office, or faxing your information to (734) 468-0119. Also, you can mail it to:
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor
Attn: Baptism Registration
2275 Platt Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Please include the following information: your name, age, date, address, home phone #, cell phone #, and email. We also ask that you include a few paragraphs regarding your personal story (see next section). Please indicate if we may read your story aloud at the baptism celebration.
YOUR PERSONAL STORY
As you know from reading the information in this booklet, baptism is for believers, those who have clearly decided to trust Christ alone for their salvation. If this is true of you, please write a paragraph or two describing how and when you decided to trust Christ. Here are a few things that you can include:
1. What was your contact with Christianity as a young person?
2. What was your life like before you decided to trust Jesus?
3. When and why did you decide to trust and follow Jesus?
4. How has this decision made a difference in your life?
If you’re comfortable with your story, we’d like to read it aloud to the church at your baptism. It’s been our experience that believers find these stories encouraging and an opportunity for celebration, and seekers are often challenged by the spiritual journey of others. Otherwise, we will simply introduce you. Thanks for taking this time to tell us your story!
After we receive your registration form and story, someone from our pastoral staff will call you to discuss the subject of baptism, give you some helpful information regarding the baptism service itself, and answer any question you may have. Also, you can call our office at (734) 477-9135 to speak with a pastor about baptism.
On the weekend you get baptized, bring an extra change of clothes and a couple of towels. Wear the clothes to church that you want to get baptized in. Be sure to wear something you can get wet it (women especially). The baptisms will happen after the sermon, before closing worship. After the baptism and the prayer ministry time, you can change in the restrooms.