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Hallo again to all.

We grew up in a Christian tradition that did not baptize infants. It focused instead on the importance of 'believer's baptism' and an 'age of accountability' when one could be truly held accountable for one's actions. The line for this fell somewhere around the time that Anglicans or Roman Catholics would confirm a teenager. For the record, we prefer the Anglican practice as it comports with the goodly example of the church in all ages, but it does leave us in the position of remembering our baptism quite vividly.Jesus among the doctors with Mary and Joseph, from the Enkhuisen Book of Hours, 15th century

Someone (precisely who no one ever seems to cite) once called confirmation 'a sacrament in search of a theology', which to our mind misses the point of it altogether.* It is a pastoral response to the need for rites of passage. However old we may be, we need a chance to own promises to God and our community of faith anew. Today we attended for the first time a service based around the two-year Rite 13 curriculum of the Episcopal Church.

For Anglicans who might be less familiar (as we were until recently beyond a passing reference), this is a curriculum that grew out of the 1980s and a tendency to confirm teenagers at older ages—born from a belief that confirmation was a commitment weightier than a thirteen-year-old might make. (And admittedly, also the belief that a sixteen-year-old could be believed that they were making such a vow for her or himself and not for parents' sake at the zenith of teenage rebellion.) Rite 13 mirrors the form of Jewish bar/bat mitzvah, when a young adult is acknowledging a transition to adulthood, but stops short of the promises made at confirmation, situating the latter not as a transition to adulthood but as part of an adult's growing faith. No less than the New York Times took note of the new practice in 2003.

We were, it may be fairly said, skeptical. The parish youth programme planned and executed such parts of the liturgy as a layperson is able. Some aspects of the service ran utterly contrary to any of our preferences. (The Message is not our cup of tea, 'the Life-Light was the real thing' indeed!) But, we also trusted that our parish youth would acquit themselves well running the show, and we were not disappointed in that regard. The Word was proclaimed, the members of our parish on the cusp of the journey to adulthood were acknowledged before the congregation, and our priest celebrated the Eucharist.

Even if it was a bit foreign to our own experience, the younger members of our parish made a fine showing, bringing their talents—literary, musical, and oratorical—to the worship of God. Really, in the face of that, what does carping over a paraphrase used for one Sunday matter? We are hardly old enough to claim the title of curmudgeon ourselves.

We appreciate the church in our life for this among many other reasons: it acknowledges that we all—young, old, and middling—are making our transitions and changes in this world. God promises to be there as in the words of Psalm 139:

If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast.

What rites of transition—formal or informal—have nourished you? Write us a note if any come to mind, whether in the formal liturgies of the church or the informal moments that we recall years later.

See you again next week.

Our Signatures


All of us at Anglicans Online

6 May 2018

* The earliest citation we have traced back is a reference to William J. Bausch, A New Look at the Sacraments (1983) in a 2011 article (Van Slyke), but that citation itself treats the phrase as common place, so it must date earlier.

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