Every spring when our church confirms members of our confirmation class, I reflect on my own experience of joining the church. I don’t think we called it confirmation back then—that was something the Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans did. We Presbyterians simply joined the church when we arrived at seventh grade. The point was to be able to take communion.
Sometimes we are most afraid of what we most need. It’s one of the more perplexing mysteries of the human heart. Happiness, peace, healing and all the other elements of fullness of life can be right in front of us, but instead of embracing them, we back away in fear.
Perhaps instead of asking confirmands to confirm the vows made at their baptisms, members should confirm the vows they made to these teens at their baptisms—confirming the validity of those vows and the congregation’s love and commitment to them, no matter what the teens may believe at the moment or where life may take them. The candidates would be asked to receive the love of the congregation and a recommitment of what the congregation offered them at their baptisms. Even if the teens leave the church, as many will, those commitments would be like a light kept in the window until they are ready to return home.
At one of our church’s weekly staff meetings the youth minister said he had a problem and needed his colleagues’ advice. In the course of teaching the confirmation class, he had asked the young people to write their own statement of faith. The problem, he said, was that one of the students didn’t believe much of anything, though he was happily involved in the confirmation process.
When Erik confessed his faith on the festival of Pentecost, the entire family of believers watched and strained to hear his confession. His chubby fingers were surprisingly dexterous as he signed the words, and he also spoke, as if what he was signing was bursting through the silence of his deafness. This is what he said on the day of his confirmation: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not die but have life forever.”
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