Confirmation

Today, (Sunday morning) nine teens were confirmed at my church.  I hope for each and every one of them it was a time of joy.  I hope that they all felt the love from the members of the congregation and know that we care for them. I hope that they continue to be an active part of the church community in whatever way they see fit, as each as different talents to offer.  Most of all, I hope they feel that they fit in and that they are truly part of the church.

I say this as I think back on my own confirmation many years ago.  For me it was not a joyous occasion.  It was a time of stress.  And I definitely did not feel as if I fit in.

Again, this was many years ago and I think things have changed since then.  Each member of the class had a mentor; I did not.  Each member had actively participated in church services in some way, I did not.  I'd like to think each learned something about Christianity and/or the church as a result of their confirmation class, for I did not.  (I can remember many years later as adult learning the Apostle's Creed and thinking that it would have been a good thing to learn during confirmation class.) I hope that they look back on this day and have good memories, I do not.

Here's what I DO remember from my confirmation class and of confirmation day.  There were about half a dozen of us in the class which started in the fall and ended in June.  The class started before the church service and I don't think any of us stayed for church AFTER the class.  The class was graded and got "report cards" (this will be forever burned into my mind).  A day or maybe a week before the day of Confirmation, the group of us met with the ruling body of the church.  Scary adults, very few of who I knew, and who all seemed very remote to me.  (Not necessarily their fault, but the process, as it was, did not make me feel as if I was "part" of something.)  The actual day was my birthday and for a long time it ranked up there as the worst birthday  I had.  I don't think anyone knew it was my birthday, which goes to show how well anyone there knew me (or I them).  The group of us sat in the front pew of the church and none of us knew what to expect.  I remember when the collection plate was passed we all sat there in horror as none of us had any money or knew what to do.  One by one, we went up to be confirmed by the minister.  One "unlucky" member of the class had to be baptized too.  (Horrifying in the eyes of a teen.)  Once it was all over (and I remember very little of the actual service), I couldn't wait to get out.  Maybe members of the congregation wanted to welcome me, but I didn't feel very welcome.  Was it my fault?  Was it their fault?  Probably a little bit of each.  I was a shy, scared teen.  I didn't go out of my way to make friends or even  talk to the "old people" (which is how I saw most of the people in church...a poor observation, but mine at the time).  Did they try to reach out to me?  If they did, I missed it.

When it was all said and done, I told my mother I wasn't going back...EVER.  I pretty much held to that (except for Christmas and Easter) for about eight years.  At that point, I had matured a bit.  I was "officially" an adult.  I had graduated from college, moved back home, had my own car and held down a full time job. Church wasn't quite so intimidating any more.

More importantly it was a time of change in my church.  The minister who had confirmed me had retired.  There several guest speakers and eventually an excellent interim pastor who held my attention.  Most importantly, several members of the church reached out to me (such as the choir director who had  tried several times to get me to sing with the adult choir after my confirmation, but I had always been too nervous and scared to do anything but turn her down).  I "rejoined" the choir and was felt welcomed by the members.  So much so that I eventually joined several committees and thus became an active member and have been ever since.  Pastors and members have come and gone over time, but the one thing that has remained constant for me since returning to the church is the feeling of acceptance and care.

I think the church has changed since I was confirmed.  From my perspective, the teens confirmed, have been active in the church life and NOT just as a class.  They seem confident among the "adults",something that I was not.  They participate in a way that I did not.  Was I not welcomed or was I just nervous and scared?  Probably a little bit of both.  But again, things have changed.  There was no email church newsletter or Facebook page for me to see what was going on.  As far as my recollection goes (again, more time has passed than I care to admit), I never really "learned" anything in confirmation class.  This year's class has given back to  the church and community in a wide variety of ways.  They have learned by doing and I think they know that they have the support of the entire congregation.

I'm sure that they were nervous today.  But I'd also like to think that they knew they had the support and love of the congregation who were there to see them become "official" members of the church.  Despite the nerves, I hope they were able to enjoy the day and to know that it WAS really all about them.  And I hope that they will continue to be active members.  Because they have already made a difference in the church.  They have helped the church grow and I hope as they continue to grow, so will they help the church to grow.

I wish all of the nine the best.  I hope to see them in the coming weeks, months and years as active members.  They are the church's future.  And from where I'm sitting, if they are the church's future, the future is looking pretty darned good.


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