Last Sunday my church celebrated as 8 youth celebrated their rite of Confirmation. I remember little of my own Confirmation (for those who don’t know me, I have issues remembering everything), except for my faith statement and that the only other person Confirmed that day was one of my best friends.
But what is Confirmation?
I managed to find a report on the ELCA website (a miracle, I know) on Confirmation. Granted, it is from 1988, and much has changed in the church since then, but it’s as good a place as any to start.
Confirmation ministry is a pastoral and educational ministry of the church that helps the baptized through Word and Sacrament to identify more deeply with the Christian community and participate more fully in its mission.
Quick overview of Confirmation in the Lutheran church:
Also known as Affirmation of Baptism, Confirmation is a time when young people in the church publicly affirm the promises that their parents made at their Baptism: to participate in the community of faith, to learn the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, and the Ten Commandments, to learn the Bible, and to learn to live a Christian life.
In the vast majority of Lutheran churches this is usually preceded by a class that teaches those things, often spanning anywhere from one to three years (Note: It is a sad fact that while parents all promise to do these things, most never do, so the class is necessary if the kids are going to learn any of this).
Then, on Confirmation Day, a rite is held during the worship service in which the Confirmands affirm and confess their faith. Many choose special verses from the Bible that really speak to them (Fun fact: My verse was 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”)
One of the actions that can be performed is called the laying-on-of-hands, in which the Pastor lays his or her hands on each person’s head and asks God to stir up in the person the Holy Spirit. It’s an ancient rite in the Christian church, and one that I wish we used more often.
I experienced this again on Sunday, though from the opposite side. I seem to recall having the Pastor lay her hands on my head for the blessing when I was confirmed, but on Sunday, Pastor, myself, the education director, the kids’ sponsors and their parents all participated in the laying-on-of-hands. Now that’s powerful! Physical touch is a powerful and vulnerable connection, so to have all of these people showing support for the young people in such a close way was moving.
I hope that these kids don’t go the way of so many youth who go through Confirmation. So many treat Confirmation as a “graduation”–they’ve done their “duty” to the church, and now they never have to come back, right?
Except that the purpose of Confirmation is to more deeply connect people to the community. It’s an introduction, not a graduation. Yet, because of the curse of 1950’s American Christendom, sending their kids to Confirmation has become an obligation for many parents instead of a voluntary choice made by the youth.
I know for a fact that there are a few kids in Confirmation class here who are only there because their parents are making them come. I hate that. If the kid doesn’t want to affirm the promises made in their baptism, no one can force it. Let the kid be.
Confirmation is not necessary to life in the community–Baptism, not Confirmation, is when we are welcomed and adopted as God’s children. Confirmation isn’t even a sacrament in the Lutheran church.
But I hope that experiences like Sunday will show these kids, in ways that a three-year class just can’t, that the church is a community to which they are connected, a community which cares about them, supports them, and wants them around.
10 thoughts on “Confirmation Sunday”
Thanks for this Ken,
I agree with the laying on of hands. It is done where I am at now and it is a powerful witness and moving experience for the pray-or and pray-ee. I went through confirmation as an adult with the Catholic Church while serving in South Korea (it was the only type offered), so I missed this experience but I now find it rewarding to be a part of. I have heard confirmation described simply in this day and age as the young people “making a commitment to continue to struggle and wrestle with the word and with their faith.” I know I can’t give them all the answers, I don’t even know all the questions, but I hope I am instilling in their hearts a desire to continue to struggle.
I like that, making a commitment to keep struggling. Not the most uplifting, but definitely honest.
Sorry to hear that you do not remember much from your Confirmation :(. Actually, we did practice the community laying-on-of-hands, however, was hoping that you remembered some of that! Have to comment on the subject we have discussed in the past. Yes, to some, the practice of “forcing” your child to attend Confirmation, (or Sunday School, or church for that matter), seems harsh, but actually, this mandatory attendance of church learning starts very early in childrens’ lives. How many children would actually attend these church educational opportunities if not for the mandatory “nudging” of their parents? In reality, how many children would attend secular school without parents and laws? You must remember, when your father and I baptized our children, along with their godparents, we PROMISED to raise you up in the Christian (or particularly Lutheran) faith. That promise, in our eyes, included Christian schools, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Bible story reading and videos at home, and yes, the dreaded Confirmation. We have kept our promise to God and the community. After Confirmation, you are an adult in the eyes of the church and are free (to some extend) to do what you will with all of your faith education. Please see the resent shown in the tweens of the Confirmation class as a normal reaction to schools and authority in general. Just worry if all the kids in Confirmation class were on board,. THAT would be cause for concern!
Drat, I knew something got left out–at one point in this post I did mention that Pastor did the laying-on-of-hands at my Confirmation, but it in the movements and edits it got misplaced. If I remember, was it only Pastor who did it?
I can concede making kids go to Confirmation class (not a bad idea for adults either, which is why I’m glad we have a new member class here)–but I definitely disagree with making them go through the actual Confirmation rite if they don’t want to. I don’t see that they or anyone learns anything from it.
Not only Pastor, but parents and godparents participated in the laying-on-of-hands. And, OK, I can see that the rite of Confirmation might be difficult for some kids, but parents are proud of their kids and want to share in the joy of the day-something kids find hard to understand…..
This is why I hate my memory–I am VERY glad to hear that all of those people were involved! That’s the kind of awesome experience I like to see in Confirmation. I just wish I could remember it 😦 . Which probably doesn’t help my argument that it is, in fact, an awesome experience, but I generally assume that my memory is much worse than the average.
“And, OK, I can see that the rite of Confirmation might be difficult for some kids, but parents are proud of their kids and want to share in the joy of the day-something kids find hard to understand”
If we want to make Confirmation just a graduation, this would be great. But that’s not what we’re doing–we’re asking them to publicly make a commitment. If they aren’t willing to make that commitment, I don’t see the logic in forcing them to say the words to make their parents feel better. It’s like forcing your kid into the military because it’s what you always wanted them to do (obviously, the military has ways to actually MAKE you stay though). I think it’s morally wrong to force people to make promises–it’s coercion.
Oh, also–you and Dad raised us in the church from the moment we were born. I guess what I don’t understand is parents who have their child baptized, never bring them to church or anything, and then show up for Confirmation. The cynical side of me comes out and wonders, “Why is it an obligation now, but never was before?”
Yes, this does seem perplexing. But like the Chreasters (people who only show up for Christmas and Easter services), we, as the “practicing” Christians have to thank the Holy Spirit for leading the lost to the occasional service or Confirmation studies, even if they only participate rarely, they still have the opportunity to feel God’s presence or learn God’s word.
This is consistent with what we Catholics say Confirmation is. It completes the grace that was started with Baptism. It and Baptism together are considered Sacraments of Initiation. The priest (often it’s the bishop — the bishop comes to confirm the youth; but he can’t be everywhere at once on Easter for us candidates, so it’s delegated then to the parish priest) anoints the forehead of the person receiving Confirmation with the oil of chrism, and that’s seen as a seal or mark, marking us as Christ’s and sealing us with the Holy Spirit. Our sponsors laid their hands on us. The youth have classes to prepare them for Confirmation, I think. I think it’s a beautiful and powerful and important rite.
This is what the Catechism says about Confirmation:
Thanks for the link!