As noted in a previous post, I have been discovering “treasures” buried in my personal “archives” (aka boxes in a storage unit) of Christian education materials. This posting comes from the September-October 1963 issue of Religious Education, an official publication of the Religious Education Association (REA) which continues in existence today. The particular issue was edited by Randolph C. Miller, once the Professor of Christian Education at the Divinity School of Yale University. He was a prolific author on his own in his day. The particular issue that I have is Volume LVIII, Number 5 that has a focus on the title of this post.
Much of the tension (beyond age) of when confirmation should occur was often related to when one could participate in Holy Eucharist. For many Christians during this time period, confirmation was seen as a “completion” of baptism and confirmation followed catechetical instruction the preceded one’s “first communion.” Today, in the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions, baptism is full initiation into Christ’s Body. This “symposium” of articles struggles with when the best “age” is for one to be confirmed.
The introduction states:
Increasingly the question is being asked about the proper age for a declaration of faith. Whether it is confirmation, believer’s baptism, profession of faith, or Bar Mitzvah, the problem of intelligent loyalty lies behind these inquiries. Is a person capable of making such as decision at the age of seven, or ten, or twelve, or fifteen, or eighteen? The answer one makes to this question depends on his view of the rite, ordinance, or sacrament and its implications. It is also determined by his interpretation of the psychology of growing up. Cultural expectations may play a part as well.
This past Sunday, the confirmands in my home parish shared their “faith statements” to parents, mentors, and Vestry members. With twenty-three confirmands (all about to graduate from 8th grade), it was an interesting “listening session” to hear how those who have spent a year in preparing for confirmation shared what they believed – and what they did not believe. All appropriate for this developmentally “searching” phase of adolescent life. Lots of “I’m not sure of all this Bible stuff.” “I feel closest to God when …” “My favorite experience has been …” “Even though I am still questioning …”
Then this piece came across my screen this week. Tim Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts and known as the creator of Lent Madness, posed a question on Twitter that one of his parish high school confirmands asked him: What difference does it all make?
As I introduced the group to the Confirmation Collaborative. Basically, anyone who is gathered to discuss best practices of confirmation as well as share stories and struggles about making this catechetical time a catalyst for ongoing faith formation in our congregations. One of our discussions centered around having mentors for confirmands. What does this entail? Who does the choosing? What do mentors actually do?
Gail Sheehy, the author who did pioneering work about the various passages of life, recommends some tasks to consider during the fifth decade of life. She said that some of the most important work is in having and being a mentor. Will Willimon writes in Making Disciples: Mentor’s Guide:
If there is anything that creates more conversation and passion in church circles with parents, clergy, Christian educators, youth ministers, and even bishops it’s the topic of confirmation. A multitude of curricula has been written across the denominational spectrum, resolutions put forth at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention over the decades, and dioceses attempting to develop standards and guidelines. For some it is muddy, for others it is something not to be messed with. But where are we (the Episcopal Church) in our understanding, preparation of youth, practice, and forming of disciples in this (what some still say is) “rite in search of a meaning”?
It its 79th General Convention held in July 2018, the Episcopal Church passed 19 resolutions related to care of the environment and climate change. Many resolutions cite their strong theological basis in their first paragraph(s). A013 begins, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24), has been made in and through Christ (John 1) and we are placed in it as a garden planet (Genesis 2).” Similarly, A018 connects climate change to Christian mission and ethics: “Resolved, that climate change be recognized as a human-made threat to all God’s people, creatures and the entire created order, while particularly placing unjust and inequitable burdens and stresses on native peoples, those displaced by environmental change, poor communities and people of color.”
How are we to implement such resolutions in our churches and homes, let alone our national government? For one, the Episcopal Church has a government relations office that can help lobby for the care of creation. In our congregations, we can talk the time to study the issues, understand what we have the power to do and change, then plan a course of action. Below are resources that you may want to consider in your planning for the upcoming program year.