I am studying the possibility of offering confirmation classes here at Methodist Children’s Home. For those of you from other traditions, Here’s a brief bit from our (The United Methodist Church’s) website:
Confirmation refers to the decision a person makes to respond to God’s grace with intentional commitment, publicly reaffirming his or her baptismal vows before the congregation. Most confirmands are youth between the ages of eleven and fourteen, who have been nurtured in the church since their baptism as an infant or young child. Most churches offer a deliberate time of preparation before this service. During confirmation class, confirmands learn about the meaning of Christian faith; the history and teachings and The United Methodist Church; and an explanation of the baptismal and membership vows they will be professing.
More can be found here.
A conversation with one of our youth yesterday had me looking at this matter in a different light. I asked her what she thought or knew about baptism. She answered that she had been baptized in the Catholic Church as a baby. I asked if she had also been through first communion and confirmation, and she replied yes to the former and no to the latter, and then asked me what confirmation was.
I explained it, and she said she was interested. I asked if she was interested in Roman Catholic Confirmation, and she said that if we offered confirmation here she would prefer that. “I haven’t been to a Catholic Church in a long time,” she offered in explanation.
As I processed her answer, I asked myself into what I would be confirming her (and others). Upon completion of a confirmation class here at the Methodist Children’s Home, would I receive the confirmands into membership?
If so, membership into what? We are not constituted, consecrated, declared, or in any way designated as a local church; we are a community of people who worship together, but there has never been, to my knowledge, any membership pledged. In fact, one of the biggest differences I have experienced between this appointment and others is that the congregation is made up entirely of people who have not made any particular commitment to this church.
Some are likely to remind me of the “Church universal,” or the “holy catholic church” as referred to in the Apostles’ Creed. But I don’t find membership in an abstract body useful to someone who is trying to follow Jesus.
I have no intention of inviting people into membership in the abstract universal church unless I can, at the same time, offer them membership in a community of people who committed to caring for one another and helping each other follow the way of Jesus.
I look forward to reading your perspectives!