This Sunday we welcome Bishop David to St Nicholas Church to conduct a Confirmation service at which eight people will commit themselves publicly to the Christian way of life.
The candidates come from across the Deanery and represent five different parish churches. One is a teenager, the others all adults aged between 30 and nearly 70.
Once upon a time confirmation in the Church of England was an almost exclusively adolescent affair. It was also strongly associated with admission to Holy Communion. Things have changed on both those fronts, and those who remember the previous way of doing things may infer that the ‘new’ ways are more radical than they really are. In fact, the understanding and the practice of confirmation have varied quite a lot throughout history and continue to vary across the Christian world. In some churches, babies are confirmed at the same time that they are baptised, while other churches do not practise confirmation at all. Admission to Holy Communion has only been association with confirmation in some places and during some time periods.
When I was confirmed in my early twenties it was, for me, both a return to Christian faith in general terms after some years away, and an identification with the Church of England as the context in which I wanted to continue to explore and grow in that faith. Others whom I have prepared for confirmation have had different journeys to that point. Each of the eight confirmands this afternoon has followed their own path to reach this point.
I am emphasising the variety, the plurality, of all this because I think it is both challenging and reassuring. It is challenging because we are uncomfortable with the wide range of different practices and understandings that we encounter when we look at Christianity through history and across the world. Which is right? we want to ask. But it is reassuring because it speaks of how God is able to bring people to faith by whatever route can be made open to them.
Please pray for our confirmands this afternoon, and if you haven’t yet been confirmed yourself, why not give the matter some consideration?
May God bless you all,