Members of the Confirmation Collaborative (CC) made a presentation at Rooted in Jesus at the end of January 2020. Four of us (Patrick Kangrga, Jen Enriquez, Lisa Kimball, and myself) gave an overview of what the focus and purpose of the CC is and shared why each of us care about confirmation with young people from our own context. We began by inviting everyone present (there were about 75 folks) to get in triads and share a story of their baptism, confirmation, or how they are seeking to be a disciple of Christ.
In a nutshell, the Confirmation Collaborative is an open group of individuals who desire to reorient the Episcopal Church to what confirmation is all about. We want to be inspirational, but grounded; informative but open to conversation; and provide best practices toward helping young people “make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop” (BCP, 412). You can download the presentation in pdf form here.
We de-bunked some “myths” and shared some “facts”
- Confirmation is a completion of baptism: FALSE
- Confirmation is a reaffirmation of baptism: TRUE
- Confirmation preparation must involve memorizing the Catechism, certain prayers, and/or doctrine: FALSE
- One must be confirmed to receive Holy Communion: FALSE – any baptized person (no matter the faith tradition) can receive the Eucharist in an Episcopal Church
- One becomes a member of the Episcopal Church (and local congregation) when they are confirmed: FALSE – baptism is full membership in the church, not matter one’s age
- When you are confirmed you become an adult: FALSE
- The Canons of the Episcopal Church say you must be sixteen years old to be confirmed: FALSE
- Confirmation “not done well” can be harmful to youth and have lasting repercussions: TRUE
Canon I.17: Of Regulations Respecting the Laity (Sec. 1)
(a) All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, whether in this Church or in another Christian Church, and whose Baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.
(b) Members sixteen years of age and over are to be considered adult members.
(c) It is expected that all adult members of this Church, after appropriate instruction, will have made a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and will have been confirmed or received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church or by a Bishop of a Church in full communion with this Church. Those who have previously made a mature public commitment in another Church may be received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church, rather than confirmed. (from the 2018 Canons of the Episcopal Church)
From the research of the Confirmation Project, we have learned some good news: The Episcopal Church has good curricular resources. We have an opportunity to grow deeper in faith with our young people. The “not so good news”: The Episcopal Church does not have a unified focus (re: age, preparation, time frame) and a lack of continuing formation post-confirmation, including the formation of parents. Diocesan and parish practices are inconsistent. There are four key learnings that we (the Episcopal Church) can be aware of and implement:
- Design: We need to customize what we do and be contextually adaptive to our youth and community. What works in one parish does not necessarily mean it will work somewhere else.
- Leadership: Faithful and committed leadership matters. Leaders need to share responsibilities and be collaborative and relational.
- Ecology: Confirmation is part of the larger picture of congregational life. How is the whole community growing as disciples of Christ and supporting one another in a life of faith within the congregation as well as out in the community?
- Curriculum: Relationships are a key element, even more important than any printed material or “classroom” learning.
At the end of our presentation we distributed some feedback forms to see what obstacles confirmation programs may be facing as well as what is working well. Lastly, we asked what dreams participants had that confirmation could become in the future in their communities. Here is a summary of responses:
- Obstacles: not enough youth; ongoing support from parents; busyness of families (sports, travel); wide range of maturity and knowledge of teens; parents forcing participation while giving little support (parent-driven expectations); find the right time to meet; culture that this is a rite of passage; lack of commitment to attend
- What’s working well: mentors; hands-on learning; committed, diverse leadership; growing relationships
- Dreams for the future: experiential, hands-on learning; mentoring that is flipped and flexible as well as peer-to-peer driven; support from the congregation and parents; discernment focused; post-confirmation opportunities and engagement
Here are handouts that were distributed: Confirmation Collaborative Reading List (including articles, curricular resources, and websites) and Confirmation as Baptismal Renewal presentation (separated workshop I gave during the Forma Pre-Conference at Rooted in Jesus). Stay tuned for more updates as the CC continues to meet in order to respond to ideas and requests regarding Confirmation in the Episcopal Church. If you would like to join the CC as a working participant, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.