This Sunday my six confirmands (all in the 8th grade) will walk down the aisle of the church wearing white robes, vestments they designed themselves, and probably sneakers. They will kneel on the alter, and after responding to questions in the rite of Confirmation, they will be welcomed into full membership of the Church.
I am the graduate of a scintillating continuing education class (8-hours, hardly any breaks all day) that taught me everything I needed to know to have a successful Confirmation year. I learned that Confirmation is done most effectively in an atmosphere of openness that nurtures the creative exploration of faith formation. A successful year of confirmation triumphantly ends with an affirmation of one’s faith journey; and, almost through osmosis, the student gains knowledge of UCC history and polity, enthusiastically participates in mission projects, worship services, and youth group activities. Confirmation is nothing less than a growthful, spiritual, and inspiring rite of passage.
OK. I don’t think that is what happened. Maybe on a good night. We did our best anyway. Actually, a few weeks ago, I concluded that none of them had learned anything. At all. Two boys, when asked a question about the UCC, said they weren’t sure but thought maybe we were Presbyterian. One of the girls asked me what “resurrection” meant. This was after near eight months of meeting together. None of them had conquered the art of praying aloud (we sat in a circle and each kid was to add one line to a group prayer. That almost never happened and least not without laughing and punching the person next to them).
Confirmation felt like a failure and I wondered where I had gone wrong. And then last Wednesday the six students sat at a table and with a lot of sighing and complaining wrote their faith statements– a paragraph by each kid describing what their beliefs were concerning God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Church. The statements were to be thoughtful and personal. I had little hope.
The faith statements are spread out on my desk. They are touching, profound, inspiring. My favorite is from Austin, a red-haired boy who grew visibly taller every week and who never seemed to pay attention. He wrote this about the nature of the Church. “The Church is like the ship in Dr. Who. It is tiny on the outside. But on the inside, it’s huge.”
I guess he was paying attention. And maybe confirmation wasn’t a failure after all.