Rector's May 2014 Letter

Confirmation

 

In the past, once every two years has seemed about right for arranging confirmation preparation, and with 8 candidates last time, I thought that might be the case this year, but I have had a number of enquiries this year already.  So preparation classes will start on May 18th at 5pm for young people and as arranged for adults or anyone who cannot make that time.  The venue is not fixed as we go to press, but may be Woodbury Church Rooms – contact me for details.  Confirmation is open to for adults, teenagers and children in year six or above.  I already know of some candidates in all those categories, but more are very welcome to join us.

 

So what is Confirmation?  The word itself means to strengthen, or consolidate, and it is a chance to do just that; to build up our faith both by learning more about what we believe and by asking God for the gift of the Holy Spirit as our guide and helper.  If we were baptised as babies, it is the time when we take the promises our Godparents made on our behalf and make them our own.   And in the Church of England, it is the usual stepping stone to taking a full part in church life, including receiving the bread and wine at Holy Communion.

 

And most importantly, like Baptism it is known as a ‘sacrament’ – ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’.  In other words, God will really be doing something in the lives of those who come forward.  It reflects back to the times in the Bible (as celebrated this month at Pentecost and told in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’) when St Peter and St Paul and others of Jesus’s followers laid hands on new believers and prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit – with life-changing results.

 

So who should be confirmed?  It used to be more or less automatic for everyone to be confirmed at the age of 13 or so, but nowadays this doesn’t tend to happen.  This is a good thing if it means that people have a chance to make this important decision for themselves, rather than being almost herded into it, but in my view we have perhaps gone too far in the opposite direction.  It would be a great mistake to feel that you shouldn’t come forward for confirmation unless you feel 100% rock solid in every aspect of your beliefs.  Confirmation is a step on the way, not a finishing line!  The preparation is a chance to explore and find out what you do believe, in the company of others, and if anyone feels unsure I would always say, ‘Come along, and see – if you decide not to be confirmed at the end, at least you will have explored what it is all about.’  If you have read this far in this article, and it has set you wondering, then perhaps the Holy Spirit is giving you a nudge.

 

I was confirmed myself as an adult, when I started going to church after a twenty-five year gap, in my early forties.  I had gone to one of the Christmas services and found myself longing to be able to receive Communion.  It took a lot of courage to phone the vicar, particularly as I wasn’t very sure at the time just how much I did believe, but he was wonderful, and his faith was so evident that after a chat with him I felt he would get me there somehow.  And over the next month or so, it was as if God had signed me up to some kind of heavenly correspondence course as gradually my questions were answered and my faith became stronger.

 

So how is the preparation arranged?  It can be suited to individual circumstances.  I have prepared candidates from the age of nine to over eighty.  Usually, it makes sense for children and teenagers to meet as a group with those of similar age, which makes the sessions enjoyable social events as well.  Adults sometimes prefer to meet privately with me, though if there are a number of adult candidates, a group meeting, perhaps over coffee or a meal, can be even better.  Together we will review the basics of the Christian faith and ask God to help us understand the path where he is leading us.  There will also be a session on the practicalities of receiving Communion so that those who are new to it will know exactly what to do.

 

It doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t know – no question is too simple, and doubts and queries are welcome.  Nor does it matter whether or not you are already baptised – every confirmation service includes the baptism of those who haven’t previously been christened.   God always starts from where we are.  Could this be the next step for you?

 

Revd Karen Spray  church@revdkaren.org.uk                       01392 877400


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