Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Confirmation - what's it all about?

This article is taken from our own confirmation leaflet and is available in print from St Paul's, Oadby

Have you thought about being confirmed this year?

Most of us can identify with the idea of a faith journey. Over time, our awareness of God and our relationship with him can deepen and grow.

Perhaps as you reflect on your life, you might feel a strengthening of your relationship with God and a feeling that he is leading you on.

Don’t be shocked! Although our relationship with God can ebb and flow like the tides, it would be surprising if, over time, we didn’t find ourselves drawn to an ever-closer walk with him.

Many people at St Paul’s find encouragement and support through our services of worship, in housegroups and in friendships with other Christians.

This leaflet is intended for people who are wondering about what confirmation is all about. If this might be you, or someone you know, then read on…

Confirmation and Baptism (or ‘Christening’) are closely linked.

Baptism is the moment that marks the beginning of the faith journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. The New Testament contains many examples of people being baptised as they turn to Christ. The actual service of baptism takes place at a single moment in time, but it symbolises the longer journey of faith. When children are baptised, very little of that journey has been begun, so the service looks forward to the future. When adults are baptised, it includes a personal commitment as a response to God’s call, so the service reflects the past as well as the future aspects of the journey.

Confirmation follows baptism. For a person who was baptised as a young child, confirmation offers an opportunity to make a commitment for themselves. But confirmation is about more than ‘confirming’ our commitment. The service is centered on a prayer, which is prayed by the Bishop individually for each candidate. The prayer asks God to confirm the candidate by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, confirm means empower, encourage and strengthen. It follows from the practice of the early church, described in the bible, in which Christians received the laying on of hands and prayer for the Holy Spirit.
Here are some examples of different people’s stories, which help to show how confirmation can work in practice:
Sam is 14. She was baptised before she could walk and has been a member of the church ever since. Recently, she’s begun to think more deeply about her Christian faith. She realises there’s lots more to discover but she knows deep down that this is the time for her to make a personal commitment. Sam wants to be confirmed because she feels God’s calling her to take the next step forward.
Tom is now retired. He went to church regularly as a youngster, then again for a short while as an adult. Now he worships at church most weeks.
But he was never confirmed. For some reason, he ‘missed out’. Now he’s thinking about confirmation again. It feels a little odd, because he doesn’t feel that much has changed. But confirmation feels like ‘unfinished business’ that he’d like to get on with.

Dave is a bit shy about going public about his faith. A lot has happened for Dave this year, not all of it good news. But among the problems, Dave knows God’s at work in his life.
Dave wasn’t baptised as a child. He wants to be baptised soon. His confirmation will take place not long afterwards but Dave’s not sure what difference it will make.

Gill has recently started coming to church, though she was baptised as a child. The difference this time is that she feels like she’s in a relationship with God, not just being a member of something. She is nervous about being ‘up front’ but can’t help feeling that God is nudging her towards confirmation.
At St Paul’s, there are two main routes towards confirmation:

For teenagers, we regularly hold confirmation courses, such as Youth Alpha or Youth Emmaus. These are highly interactive and allow young people to bring their special interests and issues. Joining the Youth Emmaus course doesn’t mean you have to be confirmed. It’s okay to just check it out and make a decision later.

A good reason to be confirmed as a teenager:
  • you feel ready to make a personal commitment to following Jesus
A not-so-good reason:
  • other people are putting pressure on you
For adults, the preparation for confirmation is tailored to suit you and your situation. It might involve joining The Alpha Course for adults, or another form.

It’s really important to us that we follow the pace set by God. We don’t try to fit people into our plans. Instead, we want to support people in the best way possible as they make their own journey.

The next step?

Talk to a friend or family member. You might ask someone else to pray for you (and don’t forget to pray yourself!). Contact Simon or another member of the clergy or leadership team.