RE: When did the Church appear?
Hi Victoria, I thought i'd keep this going since it seemed to have died at an interesting point.
The practices of Baptism and Eucharist as we know them have indeed evolved over time, I think that to deny this would be a great discredit to the Church. Regardless of this, we know that they existed in a set way from the turn of the 1st Century. In the Didache (Teaching of the apostles) we can read that they practiced a highly ritualised Baptism, closed communion and wed/fri fasting (8:1) as the copts do now.
The Eucharist as we know it is also mentioned in the writings of Justin Martyr, he speaks of a closed communion with the Eucharistic prayer and transubstatiation of Bread and wine to body and blood.
"so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh" First Apology Ch 66.
Interestingly they also practiced Sacramental confession, not allowing communion to those that had not reconciled all differences with others and confessed their sins, since it would defile the offering to recieve it without this. This practice has of course evolved but appeared to be certainly formalised at least in those communities that practiced what they were taught without altering it.
As you have said, These were not formalised in many cases until the Ecumenical Councils, which of course leads to some ambiguity (as one would expect in any community with norms but no formalised ruling). It is important to remember though that the St James Liturgy has existed since between 60-100AD, so there must have been some form of formalised worship, at least in a reasonably influental and central christian community, at that time for it to have survived and developed into the liturgies we know now.
"The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland." - St Herman of Alaska.