Training disciples to share their faith through sacraments

Mount Zion UMC in Philadelphia hosted the Eastern PA Conference’s sixth Four Stations of the Holy Spirit training event July 20, extending a growing initiative to teach and embolden lay members to offer sacramental prayer to one another and to neighbors beyond their church doors.

The itinerating, half-day training drew attendees from several churches, including nearby Haven-Peniel UMC. Conference Congregational Development Team (CDT) leaders, the Revs. Mike Netznik, chairman, and Gordon Hendrickson, coordinator, led the training. The Rev. Elena Ortiz, pastor of Nuevo Naciamento (New Birth) UMC in Lebanon, and Carmen Rosa, a member, joined them to offer the training in Spanish if needed.

Four Stations teaches lay people to 1) pray one-on-one with others; 2) anoint others with oil; 3) serve Communion using elements consecrated by one’s pastor during worship; and 4) help those in search of “newness of life” in Christ to affirm their baptism. Some clergy also attend, eager to introduce the ministry to their congregations.

The sacramental teachings are rooted in biblical theology and our Wesleyan heritage of empowering lay evangelism. There are always candid questions, concerns, opinions, suggestions and testimonies. Participants also engage in practice sessions, anointing and sharing Communion with each other.

“What continues to amaze me is how the Holy Spirit always shows up, especially when we do the anointing, reaffirmation of baptism, and Communion,” said Hendrickson. “It truly is a mystery how much power there is in these elements when used as an extension of prayer and when people are open to receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.”

CDT member and conference Associate Lay Leader Suzette James was pleased to help host the training at her church. “One of the biggest takeaways is the opportunity to look at the sacraments from the point of serving others,” she said. “Adding this experience to one’s personal witness gives laity a transformative feeling that makes them want to share more with others. It’s about making disciples who can share their faith in tangible ways.”

The next Four Stations training will be Nov. 2 at Netznik’s church, Covenant UMC in Bath Township.