A short essay by Fr. Ram Lopez
Baptized member. Baptized, communicant. Baptized, confirmed, communicant in good
standing. All of these are technically definitions of “membership” in an Episcopal Church.
Technically correct but not really helpful to someone new to Episcopal ways and making
their way along one’s spiritual walk.
So, what does membership mean in an Episcopal Church? More specifically to the
reader of this essay is this question: How do I become a member of St. George? Over the
next few paragraphs, I want to unpack that question in ways that might help us make sense of
the canonical categories. My main goal, however, is to help the reader make some
determinations of how they will nurture their ever unfolding faith life and how the community at
St. George can support that growth.
Before we can get there, we need spend time reflecting on the notion of “belonging.”
“Belonging” is a basic need. All humans have a need to belong. We belong to our parents. We
belong to our schools. We belong to clubs and other groups. To belong is to become a part of
something larger than just our own individuality. We understand and grow in our own sense of
self-identity as we mix and mingle with others.
Belonging to a faith community has one key difference to other types of belonging. We
make a choice to actively participate in a group that may or may not share our specific affinities.
In fact, we can say with assurance that when we are at Church we are often in proximity to
people who are very different from us: we hold different political ideas, we have different life
circumstances and commitments, we come from different cultural or generational backgrounds.
The folks right next to us in the pew—as unfathomable as it may seem—might be Lakers fans
and not Spurs fans! Yet, in spite of our external differences, we choose to belong to the same
church, share the same bread and wine and share the same call to serve our Risen Lord by
worshipping, learning, and growing together as part of the same faith community.
Belonging—that is, claiming our place as ones who belong to St. George, who are a part
of this faith community—is the first step on this particular phase of our spiritual journey. If you
are reading this, it is likely you are new to St. George. If you choose to belong to this vibrant
community, you need only express your desire and say that you belong. And know that once you are a part of the St. George family, you are always a part of the family—even if life moves you from here.
YOU belong. As such, you are a member of the Body of Christ in this place.
After a time of belonging (and this is different for each of us), we find it a logical next step
to be baptized (if we have not been already) or be confirmed. The Canons provide different
ways for us to connect to the larger Body and the Prayer Book gives us rituals to mark those
moments of passage to more intentionally responsible categories of membership. As we
worship, learn, and grow we discover that God has invited us to be baptized (or, if we have been
baptized already, to reclaim our baptism) in ways that allow us to share with our sisters and
brothers in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. This makes us a “baptized communicant,”
meaning we are a baptized person who receives communion. To receive communion at a
minimum of three times per year, we become a “communicant in good standing.” After a time
of connection and conversation with others who are seeking to reaffirm their faith, we can be
confirmed. This makes us a “baptized, confirmed communicant.” If we are a “giver of record,”
that fact and our “membership” status” is listed as “baptized, confirmed, communicant in good
standing,” then we have opened to us opportunities to lead and serve in the local and wider
Church—Vestry, ministry leadership, Diocesan participation and leadership, and ordination. The
priest of the congregation or the Bishop can baptize. Only the Bishop can confirm and ordain.
It is important to note that baptism, being a communicant, and confirmation are deeper
manifestations of “belonging.” These levels of “belonging” balance our giving and receiving.
Early in our life of belonging, the Church might have many offerings that meet our needs—or
the needs of our family—for learning, growth or healing. As we move through the sacraments of
Baptism and Confirmation, we balance our receiving with increasing levels of giving (financial
and time) to meet the needs of others both inside and outside the congregation. Obviously,
everyone’s experience is different, but this is a general sense of the movement from belonging to
If you desire to belong to St. George, then please contact the priest of the congregation
and that can be done. If you wish to take your belonging to deeper levels of service and
responsibility, please speak to the priest about baptism (if you are not already baptized) or
We are delighted that you have chosen to belong to this vibrant community and are
eager to see what God brings to St. George in you!