Today I received a copy of the newly released second edition of Klara Tammany’s book, Living Water: Baptism as a Way of Life. First published in 2002, it had an unusual trim-size and layout that was cost-prohibitive to reprint so it went “out of print” despite numerous backorders. During my last years at Church Publishing, I advocated it be re-published as Klara agreed to update it. Approved for publication (again) in 2019 right before my retirement, it fell to two colleagues – Wendy Claire Barrie and then Milton Brasher-Cunningham – to see to its completion. I give thanks for their passing the baton toward publication. I had been asked to write the foreword, but alas the page count was tight, so it was not included. So I share it here:
My first memory of God involves a baptism. I was almost four years old, gathered with family around a font in what seemed like a private room adjacent to the church sanctuary of my childhood. Sunshine streamed through the stained-glass windows, dancing on the concrete baptismal font and red carpet. It was the occasion of my brother’s baptism and I knew that I was present for something important. I experienced warmth, community, the sacred — the important stuff of life that I could not yet articulate. I felt love. That visual and visceral memory has been etched into my being and has sustained me throughout my life.
The Episcopal Church has changed since that day of private baptism in which only family and close friends participated following the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. As a child I did not know what it meant to be a full member of the worshiping community and receive Holy Communion. Baptism was not central to Episcopalians at the time — at least not overtly. Being a Christian and going to church each Sunday was a given. Being formed in faith was not a common phrase; I needed to memorize the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and “My Bounden Duty” before I could be confirmed at age twelve, allowing me to receive communion (once a month). Four generations (the Lost, the Greatest, the Silent, and Baby Boomer) of a single family could fill a church and Sunday School classrooms; Sundays were days for worship and family, with local sports’ fields dormant and stores locked up tight.
Of all my files, book collections, workshop presentations, and webinars, the topic that far exceeds any other subject is that of confirmation – the preparation, the history, the resources, and the rite itself. I’ve written on it and testified about it at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention (too many times to count). A dream of mine has always been to have a single place to share all that I have gathered along with the ideas and suggestions of others from around the Episcopal Church.
Now it exists!With the formation of the Confirmation Collaborative in the spring of 2019 (read about our initial gathering and press release) one of our goals was to create such a site. Thanks to the generosity of the Baptized for Life project overseen by friend and colleague Lisa Kimball (the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and the James Maxwell Professor of Lifelong Christian Formation at Virginia Theological Seminary), there is now a “confirmation tab”with multiple pages jam-packed with resources, infographics, and best practices for “all things confirmation” in the Episcopal Church. It is only fitting that the topic of confirmation be tied to its roots in baptism on the web as well as in real life.
There was a time when dioceses created and published materials for their congregations for forming and empowering lay leadership. Granted, these were also times when adults regularly attended church, participated in adult education before or after worship, or attended traditional Wednesday night offerings of study. It was also a time when education was a priority exemplified in diocesan and church budget lines. In the 70s and 80s there was an educational focus on spiritual growth and discipleship with the creation of resources to assist that growth. Deja vu? Yes (and no).
While planning confirmation programs may be at the bottom of your “to do” list, I’ve been compiling resources for a project and one of them was to update my confirmation curriculum chart. Here are two resources you may find helpful when it comes time to discern what resources you may wish to tap into for the upcoming program year as well as a list of links to some great resources to use with whatever you choose to do online or in person.
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.