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Hallo again to all.

Recently we attended a confirmation service in a parish far from ours, not only in a different diocese, but a different country. It's likely rare for anyone to attend confirmation services anywhere but their own parish or diocese. We largely haven't. At nearly every confirmation we've attended, we've known many of the confirmands (or perhaps their parents). A bishop with the newly confirmed

Having nothing invested in the personal aspects of confirmation ('Doesn't Robert look so handsome in his new suit?') or the community aspects ('Who would have known that we had that many children that age in our parish?'), we were able, perhaps more than usual, to focus on the theological aspects of confirmation.

There have been days when we weren't sure that there were any. Confirmation has always seemed an odd service, judged for centuries not to be a sacrament or to be a sacrament in search of a theology. Baptism is held to be the key rite of Christian initiation. Of the five non-dominical sacraments in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the purpose of the others — Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction — seem more or less clear to us. But it's easy to be a bit fuzzy on Confirmation.

So sitting in a church far from home, watching a bishop we'd never seen before confirm young people that we didn't know and would probably never see again, we thought about what it is that we were watching — rather than carefully watching it. But then a funny thing happened. Thousands of miles from home, we were drawn in; the act of confirmation made us feel tangibly closer to these young people. Each time the bishop said

Janice, God has called you by name and made you his own.

and then

Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit

we remembered our own confirmation and the feel of our bishop's hands. We remembered the confirmations in our own parish and the excitement surrounding them. Watching these confirmations drove home for us the power of corporate worship. At the end of the service, the rubric said 'The bishop leads the newly confirmed through the church'. Each confirmand carried a lighted candle as they processed out behind the bishop, smiles of joy on all their faces. As the procession passed our pew, we (successfully) fought the urge to jump in and follow, so strongly did we feel the link between their confirmations and our own.

It is of course baptism, rather than confirmation, that incorporated these people into the Body of Christ. But it wasn't until their confirmation that we felt it and it was entirely real to us. It all made us wonder if perhaps in these troubled times, we oughtn't have a 'Service of Reconfirmation'. No, bad idea; most bishops are already quite busy enough, thank you, with regular confirmations. Better to express our joy at being part of corporate worship by regular attendance, faithful giving, energetic participation — and inviting our friends to attend, too. How better to reconfirm our place in the church than by taking it?

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 16 May 2004

A thin blue line
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