The Episcopal Church: Last Rites

by Andrew Lisa

The Episcopal Church is the American counterpart of the Church of England, which is also called the Anglican church. There are seven sacraments in the Episcopalian religion: baptism, holy communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, ordination, and finally, unction, which is often mistakenly referred to as "last rites."

Unction

According to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, "Unction is the rite of anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God's grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body." Virtually all Episcopal churches have clergy available to visit hospitals, nursing homes or residences to perform the sacrament, and most hold services of healing at the church throughout each week. The church points out that they seek to offer spiritual healing and cleansing, not a cure for disease.

Appropriate Terminology

The Episcopal Church recognizes several names for the sacrament, including the sacrament of the sick, anointing and extreme unction. The church rejects the term "last rites," as inaccurate because it is not reserved for terminally ill or mortally injured people, as it is in the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations. The sacrament may be sought and received by anyone who seeks healing due to a sickness of the body, mind or spirit.

Process

The sacrament may be sought at any point during an illness, recovery or prior to a surgery. Anointing always consists of a clergyman reading from the Scripture, praying and anointing the receiver of the sacrament with sacred oil, sometimes called Oil of the Sick, and sprinkling them with holy water. The rite may, but not necessarily be coupled with the rite of confession. The rite of holy communion may also complement the sacrament of unction.

The Prayer

Ministration of the sick is outlined in the Book of Common Prayer, pages 453 - 461. The sacrament is received with the following words: "As you are outwardly anointed with this oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and strength. May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. A graduate of Hofstra University, he was a section editor for "amNewYork", the most widely distributed paper in Manhattan. He was a nationally syndicated columnist with Gannett News Service, the largest news syndicate in the country, and works as a writer in Los Angeles.

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