There were fourteen of us – eight teens and seven mentors – who began the Confirmation journey last spring. And it really was a journey, because everywhere we traveled as a class, we took the words to Psalm 23 and laid them out on the ground and walked them. We chose the Complete Jewish bible translation of this scripture and it became a sort of labyrinth for us to walk and pray.
Outfitted with journals, art supplies, bibles, hymnals, and our own copies of The Unofficial United Methodist Handbook, we journeyed together to discover a faith in Jesus Christ that was both orthodox and personal. The Confirmation curriculum was crafted out of a discussion with a colleague, who holding up her hand asked me, “What are the five most important things to you about your faith (and that every Christian needs to know?”)
And so our Confirmation leadership team put together discussions, activities, and field trips to inform and engage us in some of these essential things: God’s unrelenting love; Sin (missing the mark of who you were created to be rather than a list of your wrong-doing); Soul-work (practicing Wesley’s Means of Grace and Works of Mercy); the Bible (more like baklava – with layers of literature, tradition, law, sweetness, and some nuts – rather than dense and uniform pound cake); Death and Resurrection (with a field trip to a Catholic mortuary); Science and Technology as gifts and revelations from God (with a field trip to Lawrence Hall of Science); and a Weekend Retreat in the country (looking at nature and beauty as portals to God) at Sebastopol United Methodist Church.
Rather than pair up mentors and Confirmands we had group mentors, and the discussions with our mentors became intense and engaging as adult-seekers shared openly with young-seekers about the joys and struggles of following Jesus. (It turns out that wrestling with faith and fear, and certainty and doubt, are part of the human/Christian experience, regardless of age.) Church families provided meals for us and were invited to stay and eat and enter into our conversations. Food, games, art, laughter, confession, and silence became tools we used to mine the riches of the Christian experience. And every time we gathered we walked and prayed Psalm 23: silently, or aloud in unison, or with a cacophony of voices. Psalm 23 became the underlay for our journey and a necessary metaphor to craft faith statements: the words and word-pictures informing us about who God is and who we are as God’s own.
On Confirmation Sunday each of our Confirmands read his or her faith statement and tears flowed as our congregation witnessed faith being handed to and received from one generation to the next. Each Confirmand knelt to receive a cross and a blessing with laying on of hands. One of our Confirmands was baptized and all of his class gathered around him to witness this new commitment he was making.
I shed some tears on Confirmation Sunday, too, in part because the journey had ended; it had dumped me out of the “believer box” and set my feet on the path of seekers where I traveled with a group of diverse companions – some young, some old, some confirmed in their beliefs, some clearly undecided – but together we traveled to those unexpected places of surprise and delight in encountering the living God. I discovered that Confirmation, like any profession of faith, is not a one-time-only experience.
So… how do I create those “surprise and delight” experiences of the Confirmation journey for myself? And how do I create opportunities – and engage others – in journeying to those sometimes unknown and unexplored places of encountering the living God? Psalm 23 beckons me to listen to these questions, to this longing for the journey: “Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He has me lie down in grassy pastures, He leads me by quiet water, He restores my inner person.”
Questions to consider:
- What are your “surprise and delight” experiences of your confirmation journey?