May 2017

“Confirmation Transformed: Wrestling with Doubts, Learning to Pray”
By Barbara Meachin

 

Confirmation Is Not What It Used To Be.
“During the years Paul Wolfe taught Confirmation classes as Senior Pastor, we had no youth pastor, no seminary interns, no group discussions, and no Youth Sunday as we know it. The program consisted of formal weekly lectures and a test by the Elders at the end. The concept of bonding did not exist. Pizza was not available in the neighborhood for another ten years,” said Tom Robinson, Elder and Co-Chair of the Stewardship Committee.

The Session meeting left an impression on Grace Diggs, who was confirmed in 1967: “What I remember vividly was how formal and scary the interview with Session was. We also had a very long list of questions and answers we had to memorize. Confirmation and our first Communion took place at 7 a.m. on Easter, and there was no time to celebrate – many of us had to change into choir robes for the next worship service.”

The histories of Brick Church say little to nothing about confirmation. It is not a Presbyterian sacrament and is not mentioned specifically in the Bible. Each church seems to treat this coming-of-age ceremony in its own way and adapt it to the changing needs of its congregation.

Faith Formation And The Eternal Questions
Today, Rev. Adam Gorman says, “Confirmation is a time for the group to bond and tackle the challenges of faith formation together. We encourage open-ended questions about what the Bible means and wrestle with the answers.”

“Confirmands ask the same questions that many adults do:  Is Jesus really the Son of God? If God has a plan, why are bad things allowed to happen? Can you still be a Christian if you don’t believe every Bible story?”

“We use the Bible as a lens through which to see the world, the lens of Christ. And through our belief in God and our relationship with Christ, the Bible and its stories help us to become better, kinder and more loving people.”

Sharing Food And Ideas
The class meets for two hours most Sundays of the school year and once a month participates in Takeout, a youth worship service. On regular Sundays, students spend the first half hour of confirmation class praying, eating and discussing their written reflections on the topic of the week as well as life’s recent highs and lows. Then they learn hymns and sing with Amanda Smith, Director of Children’s Music.

Learning To Pray
The second hour is devoted to the curriculum, spiritual practices and discussion. Topics include creation, Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, prayer, feeding the hungry, what it means to be a disciple of Christ, what it means to be Presbyterian and many more.

Rev. Gorman has included in the curriculum a practice many people don’t know about – the “squeeze” prayer. After Confirmands have discussed their week’s highs and lows, they gather in a circle and hold hands. Each person in turn prays out loud for the person to the left and squeezes their hand when the prayer is complete. Everyone has a chance to pray what is on their heart and to pray for their neighbor on their left. This intentionally helps them become more comfortable with prayer and teaches them how to pray for thanksgiving, petition and intercession.

Parents: The Greatest Influence
Despite this extensive program, “Parents and home are still the number one place where kids learn their faith,” Rev. Gorman says. “So parents can influence the family by their daily behavior and – of course – bringing their children to church.”

 

Rev. Dr. John Rodgers’ Sermon from Dec. 11, 1783
View the PDF here