Confirmation is a checkpoint for youth. Many are baptized when they are infants, and the choice is usually that of their parents. Baptism begins the journey of being centered in God’s love and guiding hand and practicing the teachings of Jesus.
At Confirmation, a young person is now old enough to reaffirm his or her baptism and enter into a renewed covenant with God.
As I entered the 8th grade, I began the Confirmation process in a rural Lutheran church. Our class was small, and we knew each other well. Participating in those Confirmation classes well over 30 years ago proved to be memorable and truly a centering experience in my life.
Although the memories have aged, those nine months of Confirmation kept me reasonably on a path of faith and trying to do the right things in life.
Since we were a smaller church, our pastor facilitated our Confirmation class. Pastor Spencer Brien was his name, and he was a great character in the development of my faith. We used to get together after school on Wednesday afternoons. The first order of class was usually singing. Pastor Brien would play the piano, and it would literally shake with the force of his hands. Pastor Brien seemed to take everything with the energy and force of the Godly spirit within him.
This was the mid-seventies, and one of the popular youth songs was One Tin Soldier. One of the things that I remember about Confirmation was the fervor in which the piano was played and the joy of song. No matter what our tone was, the sound of the piano over-rode our voices and started us each class with jubilation and energy.
Although I do not remember many of the specific classes today, I do recall thoughtful discussions and serious work. There was memorization of the Books of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, and Apostle’s Creed. We never really questioned the fact we had to do these; it just seemed an important ritual in the development of our faith.
Interspersed with the studies was the practicing of our faith, so one of the other things that I remember about Confirmation was the mission work.
To help feed the hungry, we raised money by fasting ourselves for a few meals. Although this does not compare to actual hunger, we had a thimble-sized experience which broadened our perspective on what it meant to be hungry. Working to help lessen hunger in the world must have been one of our themes, because we also went to various local farms to collect donations of grain. We then drove the old truck into town to sell the grain and contribute the money to a hunger relief charity.
The important thing that I remember is that we worked together to put our faith into action and tried to make the world a little bit better.
The final thing tangled in my memory was the Confirmation ceremony. It was a serious event; our whole church witnessed it, and our family actively supported and was present in it. The grandparents and godparents were there, as well as the important uncles and aunts. It was a family and community event which witnessed our reaffirmation of faith. The expectations of this community on each and every one of us was felt and understood that day.
These are the things that I remember about Confirmation.
What I learned from this process is that God is present in our lives, but we need to choose to listen and do something with the life we have. I learned that faith is nothing without action. Sitting on the sidelines is not what was being asked of us. I also learned that there is a support community present to keep nudging us in the right direction and express confirming words as we grew into adults.
In many ways, this post isn’t coming close to expressing what Confirmation has meant to me. When I look at my sons, though, I have tried to re-live my own reaffirmation of faith through them. A better way of saying it is that I wanted them to experience the same thing that I did as they went through Confirmation. However, it is a personal decision, supported and encouraged by many, and we cannot recreate for our children our exact experiences. Today’s clutter of electronics and immediacy sometime clouds experiences and relegates them to lesser importance.
What we can do is provide the foundation, encouragement, and community support for the youth and help them clear the clutter to experience and grow the seeds of their faith. Thirty years from now, maybe they will do the same for their children.
Religion really is a grass-roots movement, passed on by stories and expressions of personal experiences.