Sunday, May 23, 2010

Confirmation and Celebration

I still vividly remember being in sixth grade and going through confirmation class. Despite being "forced" to do it, I really enjoyed it. I still have my little folder of lessons. I still remember drawing the different symbols for the trinity on the cover as we learned about them. That is probably one of my fondest memories of Dan Kitchens, who was probably one of the most influential ministers I ever had. He was a wonderful teacher.

I never really gave much thought to confirmation and what it means and what it looks like until this year when I started teaching confirmation. I have a unique challenge this year in that I am not teaching 6th graders who could care less or performing an initiation rite into the "fun stuff" of a larger youth group. I am teaching a group of teens, mostly high school age. Most of them were not raised United Methodist and had never even heard of "confirmation". I've used the curriculum from Cokesbury called "Claim the Name" but have tweaked it to fit our needs. So far it all has gone well and been well received.

The culmination of all of this is the confirmation service. Because I am a worship dork, this is something I began thinking long and hard about almost as soon as I made the decision to teach the class. Most religious traditions have some sort of "becoming an adult" ritual that is an important part of their tradition, but some make a bigger deal out of it than others. I remember my confirmation and it really wasn't THAT big a deal. Sure it was a special Sunday. Sure my grandmother came for it. I even got a small gift from my parents. But that was it. It wasn't the big party or the big deal that you see in some traditions.

I feel that confirmation is a very big deal. The ritual is important. The decision and the vows are something to be celebrated, just as the vows taken at a baptism or a wedding are celebrated. Even though a few of my youth that have been in this class were received from another tradition and were received as professing members at that time, to me it is still important to give them this ritual. On some level, even more than the ritual is the celebration!

Life is tough enough as it is. Especially if you are a teenager. There are so many demands on your time and attention and resources. We all need the chance to take a step back from that. To hear and feel good and positive things. There are lots of definitions for the word "confirm". The ones that seem most appropriate are, "to acknowledge with definite assurance," and "To add strength." Of course there is the obvious definition of administering a religious rite, but in many ways this part is secondary to me.

We all need to be confirmed from time to time. We all need to be acknowledged and strengthened. And most of all we need to be celebrated. Not with embarrassing moments in a restaurant or as an excuse for others to eat cake. We should be celebrated with true joy and laughter and praise for what has been, and is, and will continue to be.

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