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Contrary to the belief and understanding of many Anglican Christians, the Anglican Church provides for, and encourages, individual confession. The Anglican rule about confession is, “All may; none must; some should.”
In the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962, the rite for Confession was printed in the context of the Ministry to the Sick. This is not surprising, given a piety which thought of illness as a judgment upon sin. In the 1918 edition, for example, the priest was counselled to say to the sick person,
“And for what cause soever this sickness is sent unto you, whether it be to try your patience for the example of others, … or else it be sent unto you to correct and amend in you whatsoever doth offend the eyes of your heavenly Father …”.
Doubtless a good deal of sickness is indeed related to poor life choices, or even to flagrant sin. But such is not always the case; nor for that matter, do the effects of sin always manifest themselves as sickness. In this, we may welcome the provisions of the Canadian Book of Alternative Services (1985), which places the rite for the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” immediately following that for Baptism. If Baptism washes away sin, Reconciliation restores the baptismal purity of those who (inevitably) falter and fail.
The Rite of Reconciliation is a wonderfully freeing sacrament, and can meet the needs of Christians in all states of imperfection. It is not reserved solely to those who are conscious of grave sin, or who cannot believe themselves worthy of forgiveness – whether their own, their neighbour’s, or God’s. There are many Christians who practise Reconciliation as gracious means of getting “unstuck” from the destructive habits, and attitudes, and reflexive responses which they otherwise feel powerless to overturn.
The clergy of this, or any parish, are always available to discuss sacramental Reconciliation, and to prepare people for a first confession.
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