Baptism is open to all children and is regarded as one of the two sacraments of the universal church. Baptism of adults, at confirmation or later is now becoming quite common, and this involves a course of preparation. It is customary, where possible and desirable, to have the service with the congregation present in a normal service. Baptism is by pouring water three times over the forehead, ”in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” at the font often of medieval date and richly carved.
Confirmation is still popular in Sweden for those in their early teens. Great stress is laid on the long course of preparation, in which the doctrine and practice of the church is explained, and discussion encouraged on ethical and social problems. There is no examination at the end and this is linked to the emphasis that God's grace is freely given, human achievement not being a pre-requisite.
This course is most often held in the parish but sometimes also in a camp during the long summer holiday. Confirmation is not an episcopal act in the Church of Sweden, and the heart of it is the passage in the service when the candidates give an account of what they have experienced and been taught during their training, the laying on of hands by the priest in charge, followed usually by the first communion. It is not regarded as a sacrament but as a solemn confirming, at the age of discretion, by the candidate of what was done for him or her as a baby.
The candidates wear alb-like garments as a symbol of the white dress worn when they were baptised as babies for this ceremony and many remember it as a solemn moment in their lives.
A marriage in church involves vows of life-long partnership, in sorrow as well as in joy. It is not regarded as a sacrament but as vows made by the bride and groom in the presence of God and whereby they have the church's intercession and blessing. It must take place before witnesses and after the state has certified that they are legally free to marry.
Funerals in church are for all members of the Church of Sweden. It is assumed that a person who has come out of the church does not want to have a church service, and the principle of giving preference to the will of the deceased means that this is the starting point whenever a church funeral is asked for.
The service expresses the sorrow of the bereaved, the seriousness of death, but also the hope and promise of new life, trust in God's mercy and the proclamation of resurrection. Since the Church of Sweden is responsible for almost all cemetaries, every parish has to provide a burial ground, access to cremation and a locale for a non-religious ceremony for those who wish it. There is no charge for the service itself but the undertaker's expenses have to be paid by the next-of-kin.