This last weekend, our church was able to serve our Diocese by hosting a training event looking at confirmation and it’s place in today’s church. The event was led by Pete Maidment and Susie Mapledoram based on their new book Reconnecting with Confirmation .
The event was a chance to look at confirmation and it’s place in today’s church. This is something that I continually struggle with worshipping as I do in an evangelical church and with the added complication to thinking of the Church of England’s policy on communion before confirmation. So what was the purpose of confirmation historically and what is its impact on our ministry to young people today?
For a number of years, I have personally felt that confirmation as a right has become outmoded and seems to serve a similar purpose as full immersion baptism, as both are substantively a public declaration of faith. Particular issues are raised of course in an evangelical context in that offering confirmation to those who are already baptised seems on the face of it to be offering a second opportunity to engage with a rite that seems to do the same thing, in that both are about a public declaration of faith.
In the Church of England, confirmation is still heavily tied into being the gateway to communion. Even though for some time communion before confirmation has been available in the C of E, the fact is that surprisingly only 15% of churches have taken that offer up. So the question remains, if we can publicly profess our faith through the rite of baptism, and we can take confirmation before we are confirmed, what on earth is the purpose of confirmation?
The conclusions that I came to at Saturdays event are twofold:
1. When we make our own decision to be baptised (whatever that baptism is called) or to renew our baptismal vows, that baptism is about acceptance into the Kingdom of believers, therefore the Church globally. The act of full immersion (or indeed sprinkling with water) is a physical reminder of the way God washes us in the Spirit, bringing us to new life in Him.
2. The decision to be confirmed is rooted in the wish to be a member of the church nationally (ie membership of the Church of England)
Whilst both rites entail a similar decision and response from the candidate, the difference for me is what happens with that raw material. I also have other reflections about the timing of confirmation in terms of when we ask young people to consider it given this is largely during a period in their lives of great instability, upheaval and change both relationally and personally. Would the early twenties not be a better bet?
Pete and Susie’s input was very valuable and I wholeheartedly encourage you to buy a copy of the book (linked earlier in this post).
As ever I value your input.