Our Episcopal Witness: Confirmation

Rev. Vicki MouradianBy the Rev. Vicki Mouradian, Interim Associate Rector and Director of Children & Family Ministries

As a child growing up in the Episcopal Church, I couldn’t wait to be confirmed.  In those days Confirmation signaled not only strength received from the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by the Bishop, but also first communion.  My Sunday School friends and I thought we were making a grand entrance into the adult life of the church.  I turned eleven, most were already twelve, when I joined the Confirmation Class.  An exception had been made for me to be confirmed as long as I passed the class.  My sister was twelve and in the class, and my parents though it would be wonderful if we could be confirmed together.  I don’t remember much about the class but I do remember we had to memorize many Bible verses, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.  The day of reckoning would come when we individually had to recite verse, creed, or prayer in front of our teacher.  I remember the feeling of dread.  What if I froze and couldn’t remember a particular verse?  What would happen if I failed to recite the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer?  No Confirmation? No Communion?  On the day of reckoning, I was so nervous I thought I would fail.  Thankfully that did not happen and I proceeded on to the next step, shopping.  In those days girls were to wear white party dresses with small white lace veils on their heads and boys were to wear suits and ties.  I’m sure we all looked adorable.  After Confirmation, I remember receiving communion.  What a thrill; I was now a full member of the church.

What I didn’t realize was that I was already a full member of the church.  The water of baptism had initiated me into the church in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Ghost) and the chrism oil placed on my forehead sealed me to Christ forever.  I had therefore already been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  What I couldn’t do was receive communion and what I didn’t realize was that Confirmation and communion were not necessarily linked.  Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist were essential sacraments to life in Christ; Confirmation was not.

The Episcopal Church has since evolved in its theology toward Confirmation.  Instead of marking a particular passage in life, like an initiation, as a follow-up step to baptism in order to receive communion, Confirmation is now understood as a rite in which a baptized person makes a mature and public affirmation of faith in light of our Baptismal Covenant (no memorization required).   Baptism is understood as the rite in which a person becomes a full member of the church and which includes being welcome at the Lord’s Table, regardless of age.  A person receives strength from the Holy Spirit in the rite of Confirmation to continue in the life of Christ.

Episcopalians are very subtle in their approach to evangelism. We seem to try to live it as opposed to speak it.  Quite frankly, that is one of the best ways to evangelize, because if you don’t live according to life in Christ, you really can’t speak it.  Making the decision to be confirmed in the church means you are publicly stating your belief and your willingness to live life according to our Baptismal Covenant.  You are professing your faith before God and witnesses and testifying to your spiritual journey.  There could be no better witness to the church!  In light of our upcoming visit by Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce on February 22 I invite you to review our Baptismal Covenant.

The Baptismal Covenant

 

Do you believe in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will with, God’s help.