The Confirmation Project: Two New Congregational Portraits

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The two portraits that we are sharing this April have allowed their contextual reality to shape their confirmation program in meaningful ways. The intimate community of Peace Lutheran Church, where each youth and their home life is known by the pastor differs vastly from the Church of the Resurrection– whose confirmation class had over 120 youth last year. Despite these differences, each program has found creative and relevant ways to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Peace Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington is a city church with a long history of loving its community. This community in Tacoma has struggled with gang violence and homelessness and in response has fulfilled its mission to love their neighborhood through helping meet their needs. In this portrait, by Peter Bauck, we learn how the identity of a congregation can shape a meaningful confirmation program.

Church of the Resurrection is a giant United Methodist church in Kansas City with four campuses and 20,000 members. Kate Obermueller Unruh’s portrait of COR provides a powerful example of a confirmation program that holds youth to high expectations, provides resources for parents, and has made strategic bridges between youth and congregational life to ensure lasting involvement.

I hope you find these congregational portraits to be an encouraging sign of the vibrant activity of the Holy Spirit!

For more information on The Confirmation Project visit: theconfirmationproject.com

The Confirmation Project

In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop. (BCP, 412)

Every year, Confirmation is a hot topic at faith formation and youth ministry conferences across denominations. What are we doing at Confirmation? What are we expected to teach young confirmands? At what age should we be confirming young people? How do we re-create Confirmation as a meaningful experience or rite of passage for our young people?

Most often, these decisions are made at the congregational or diocesan level, which creates wide variation in Confirmation theology and practice across The Episcopal Church.

In response, the Christian Youth: Learning and Living the Faith Project (CY: LLF), an interdenominational project led by Princeton Theological Seminary was established to learn “the extent to which confirmation and equivalent practices (CEP) in five Protestant denominations in North America are effective for strengthening discipleship in youth.” These denominations include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in the USA, and the United Methodist Church. Lisa Kimball, Director of the Center for Ministry of Teaching, and Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, is serving on the Steering Team.

In the next week or two, The Confirmation Project will release a survey to collect data from every congregation that is on official record with its denominational offices as having confirmed at least one young person in the last two years.

The electronic survey will be sent to the contact person of record for each congregation, likely the rector, vicar or senior warden. That person will be asked to forward the survey to anyone involved in youth Confirmation programming this year – kids, parents, volunteer adults, mentors, lay staff, clergy, etc. The more people who respond to this first survey, the more we can learn about how Confirmation is understood and practiced across the church. Everyone who completes the first survey will receive a follow-up survey in spring 2015.

So, you are being asked for two things:

  1. Be sure the right contact person has received survey in your congregation. Go to: http://theconfirmationproject.com/project-faq/ and follow the instructions given.
  2. When you receive the survey, please complete it as quickly as possible and make sure to forward it to others in your congregation involved in Confirmation programming.

This is an exciting time for those of us working with Confirmation and striving to make it a meaningful and relevant experience for young people. Thank you for supporting this project and for participating in the survey!

Faithfully,

Bronwyn

Here’s one Youth Ministry book you need to add to your Summer Reading List

signedsealeddeliveredAs we move into June, my hope is that you have added the new book from Sharon Ely Pearson, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century, to your summer reading list.

This book helps meet the need that I sense among Youth Ministers to deeply consider the rite of Confirmation and bring meaning to it through their ministries and the wider faith community. Signed, Sealed, Delivered brings depth, history, thoughtfulness, truth-telling, creativity, and hope to this persistent sacrament that we can’t seem to fully grasp or agree upon.

An excerpt from Sharon’s recent blog post on Forma:

“Congregations across our Church continue to encourage adolescents to seek Confirmation. Some of this may be due to parental expectation, with the concern that if their children are not confirmed they will ‘leave the church’ or at least, ‘we should confirm them before they go.’ But in many cases it is the young people themselves who wish to take this step. The church’s understanding and articulation of confirmation can help inform how our young people will continue on their faith journey and become active, participating members of our congregations, as well as how the Church supports them.

By collecting relevant information in one place (as well as essays from respected theologians, bishops, clergy, and lay leaders in the Episcopal Church), along with a process for congregations and dioceses to have deep conversations about the meaning and role of confirmation, I hope this book will open up new ways for all our members—church leaders (lay and ordained), parents, and young people—to have such an authentic dialogue.”

Signed, Sealed, Delivered will help you broaden your understanding of and contemplate your own journey in Baptism and Confirmation. Clearly the Spirit is stirring Episcopalians in new directions and this book will certainly help us engage this forward movement as it takes up the who, why, when, where, and how of Confirmation. (For ongoing conversation, be sure to check out the ongoing conversation on the Confirming Episcopalians Facebook page.)

So, along with Signed, Sealed, Delivered, what is on your summer reading list?

Welcoming New Episcopalians

welcomeAs the program year kicks off, we also prepare to welcome new members into our communities.

Here are a few books from Leader Resources that might be useful in helping individuals and families understand and feel at home in the Episcopal Church. You might also consider using them as reading material for Confirmation programs.

Jesus Was An Episcopalian: This little book invites readers to take a fresh look at the Episcopal Church. The author, Chris Yaw, uses his journalism skills to tackle church history, modern changes and deeply rooted theology in a light-hearted, down-to-earth, very readable style that helps us look at who we are and who God is calling us to be. Also view this book in Spanish, Jesus Era Episcopal.

In the author’s words:

“It’s an amazing time to be an Episcopalian. Our church has a renewed sense of vision and leadership that’s all about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. We’re all about standing up for equal rights and the environment. We’re all about welcoming everybody to the table, preaching repentance and accepting forgiveness. We hold together modern thought and an ancient faith firmly rooted in Jesus Christ. We offer vital communities that help families, singles – countless people make sense of their lives and their places in the world. “

Other Resources:

Open Doors: Inviting Families to Church: Episcopalians often aren’t comfortable inviting people to church so it is much easier to focus on children and youth. OPEN DOORS is a plan, a process, events and everything you need to help your congregation become inviters.

Emerging Worship: This resource focuses on mainline churches can learn from  the Emergent Church movement in the United States and the Fresh Expressions movement in England.