First published in the Bridge Magazine, March 2019
What is confirmation?
So there I was, all set to write a Big Question article about Donald Tusk’s “small corner of Hell set aside for those who backed Brexit” comment when a friend suggested I should spare us all and follow up last month’s Big Question about Baptism with a Big Question about Confirmation instead. So here goes…
What is Confirmation?
The best way to think about Confirmation is as the sequel to Baptism! When a child is baptised promises are made on their behalf by their parents and godparents. They promise to follow Christ as their Lord and master and to set an example of faith to the child by their life and practice, part of which involves raising their child as a practising Christian as part of their local church. But there comes a time when a bouncing baby becomes a big strapping lad or lass, with their own mind, vision and values, and confirmation is the time when that big strapping lad or lass stands up and owns the promises of God for themselves.
Sometimes I’m asked, ‘When is the right age for a child to be confirmed?’ The Church of England’s rules don’t state a number, instead, they wisely speak in terms of a child reaching the “years of discretion”. We know that every child is different and that they mature at different rates, so what matters isn’t how many birthdays a child has seen, but what they understand about the Christian faith, and whether they are ready and willing to take ownership of their own faith journey.
To help them do this, prior to confirmation, candidates are supposed to be able to understand and say the Catechism (an interactive summary of Christian belief) which includes the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. In practice today, confirmation preparation tends not to be quite as rigorous as that. The group of young people I’m preparing for confirmation at the moment are using a video and discussion based resource called Youth Alpha for this, as well as having lots of fun playing games and eating sweets!
So what are the benefits of confirmation? Well, the two most significant ones are about identity and Holy Communion. Making a public declaration of what you believe is a significant step in working out who you are as a person. It’s the time you step out from your parent’s spiritual shadow and go public about your own faith journey. And part of this journey is to regularly receive Holy Communion. In fact, a Confirmation ceremony sometimes includes a Holy Communion service so that the newly confirmed can immediately receive their first communion immediately.
One final thought. We’re having a Confirmation Service with one of our Bishops in June 2019, so now is a great time to inquire about confirmation. If you have a child who you think is ready to be confirmed, or if you’re an adult and haven’t been confirmed but would like to be, then please get in touch with me.