Holy Asides
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July 30, 2015, 12:00 AM

Confirmation Re-Imagined

Confirmation Classes, which have been a tradition in the Church for as long as anyone can remember, will begin this fall. Over the years, Confirmation has signified such rites of passage as “Making an Adult Confession of Faith”, “Becoming a Member of the Church”, and the “Ability to Receive Communion”.  Confirmation, being the requirement to receive Eucharist under the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, is probably the aspect that has the strongest influence on how we still perceive Confirmation, because, let’s face it—now days there are not many 12-13 year olds, who are separated from their parents, who must make an “adult” confession of faith. This is because our own experience, and that of our children, shapes how we believe things should be. Many of us were Confirmed at 12-13 years of age. We memorized the Creeds and Prayers and learned the Catechism—all with the goal of being able to take Communion. However, since the “new” 1979 Book of Common Prayer, all are able to receive Communion once they have been baptized. So, now what? What is the goal or emphasis of Confirmation today? And, perhaps, what should it always have been?


I believe that there are three components to Confirmation that should guide us into how we prepare, sponsor, and teach those who wish to be confirmed. Confirmation is first a confirming of what God has already begun in us at Baptism. This is the general understanding of Confirmation, specifically in our individualistic culture, and heightened all the more so by being in a concentrated Baptist region. This is the opportunity for one, whose parents took vows for them as a child, to make the vows their own. They are confirming that they indeed believe that Jesus is Lord, and that they will renounce sin and Satan. Moreover, when the Bishop lays his hands on their head and they receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are also confirming that they are seeking a deeper life in the Church and in Christ.


The second component is also familiar, and it is related to why it is the Bishop (not priests or lay people) who comfirms. In Confirmation, the Church, specifically through the historic Apostolic succession of the Bishop, confirms that God is at work in those who come forward. Through the laying on of hands and calling forth the Holy Spirit, the Bishop confirms that what Christ had begun in them at Baptism has matured into a deeper adult faith.


It is the final component of Confirmation that generally eludes us. The community of faith, the local congregation, as represented through the sponsor/s, confirms that this person exhibits the qualities of a growing and developing faith in Christ. Moreover, they confirm that this candidate takes seriously the vows that the parish took at their Baptism: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” The congregation enthusiastically replies that they will do this. But, rarely, if ever, does this thought reemerge. We hold Sunday School, VBS, and Youth Groups to encourage our young people growing up in the Faith. But, what about their ministries? What about their leadership? How are we drawing them into the larger aspect of the Body of Christ? It is this that the parish is confirming—that this person is committed to Christ, and prepared to serve in ministry. It is this final component that I hope we can stress and encourage—not just for the sake of those being confirmed, but for our entire congregation. 


I have often felt that Confirmation is like a mini-ordination. Similar to the ordination of a Deacon or Priest, the Bishop lays his/her hands on the candidate’s head and asks the Holy Spirit to fill and empower them for the Lord’s service. As we prepare to lead and guide those wishing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, let this be our focus. We are teaching and encouraging the newest ministers of our parish, helping them to discern their gifts and strengths, and providing them with opportunities to serve Jesus Christ faithfully.


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