Did I ever tell you I have the best job in the world? I do and I could count the ways except that I would run out of numbers before I ran out of ways. One of the best parts of this best job is getting to know our Confirmation Class students. I teach the class once a month and am invited along for retreats and other activities. And towards the end of the school year – just this past week, in fact – I get to meet with each student individually while his or her parents are meeting with Barb Chase. I don’t know what Barb and the parents talk about. The students tell me about their faith and what it means to be a Christian when you’re fourteen or fifteen and the year is 2012.
This year’s class has included ten amazing ninth graders and one wonderful eleventh grader, seven girls and four boys. You’ll have a chance to see and hear who I am talking about on Sunday June 3 when they lead and participate in all three services.
It will be at the 9:45 service that ten of them confirm the faith of their baptism and one of them affirms her faith she feels the cool waters splash on her head and run down her face. They will be well-prepared for the service and when the question is asked, “Who is you Lord and Savior,” they will know to say as one, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”
But confirmation is about so much more than rehearsing lines for a Sunday morning show. It is, in a word, about faith.
In his class book, Will Our Children Have Faith, John Westerhoff theorizes four stages of faith development through which most children of the church and Christian homes will go:
- Experienced – this is the early stage of learning to say grace at mealtime, sitting on a parent’s lap and being read a children’s Bible storybook, or being shown that “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
- Affiliative – this is the school-age stage of knowing who we are by where we belong. Children learn what it means to be a member of their particular family through traditions and customs, reassuring routines and lived values. They learn about being a third grader from teachers and peers and about being a Christian from the Christians they meet in church and home and see the things those Christians do and say.
- Searching – in adolescence children begin to question why we do what we do and say what we say. They wonder if there might be other ways of being and doing and they think about those other ways and sometimes try on those other ways. They compare how it feels and see how it works. Searching requires lots of good guidance and just enough free space.
- Owned – “to make it my own because he has made me his own,” Paul says of the gospel of the risen Christ. Sometimes it is in a moment of conversion – a compelling experience or a convicting word. Other times it comes imperceptibly – “I don’t know when, but I know now without doubt that I belong to Him and with those who are His.” However it comes, it is a faith that is owned.
Without doubt, the Confirmation program at LPC is designed to include experience and encourage affiliation; it insists on searching. But owning faith, declaring it “mine,” is not for a program to accomplish. It is for a student to decide and discover.
For six full and wonderful hours this past week, I sat and talked with the young disciples who have been on this journey of faith we call, quaintly, Confirmation. One by one and each in his or her own words, I heard of decisions made and faith discovered: “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.”
Confirmation Sunday is June 3.