In 2001, as a seventh grader, I took part in Confirmation at Glenn. I still remember moments from our confirmation retreat, the sparkly teal blue dress I bought for the Sunday service, and, of course, my friend-in-faith, the marvelous Barbara Antley.
I will admit, however, that I didn’t always take the idea of Confirmation seriously back then—probably because there was so much to try and comprehend in a short span of time, not to mention that what we were trying to comprehend was, well…somewhat incomprehensible, to be honest. Did I really believe what I had repeated on Sunday mornings for most of my life—“in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit” etc., etc.? Was I ready to make a public commitment to God, Jesus, and the church? Really, the very teenager-y, longing-to-belong part of me felt kind of affronted—I’ve been involved at Glenn since I was born and I’m only just getting my membership badge now?
On that Sunday in April sixteen years ago, we lined up on the marble steps to take photos, we mumbled through our recitation during worship, we knelt and felt hands laid tenderly on our shoulders and heads, we chowed down on potato salad and fried chicken on picnic blankets. We went to school the next day. Was anything really different?
In 2017, as an almost-30-year-old, I’m taking part in Confirmation at Glenn—this time as one of eight friends-in-faith/mentors walking with all 15 of our young teenagers on their own confirmation journey as they decide if they want to join the church. Along with my fellow mentors Laura Reece, Jeff Henry, John Wiley, Jennifer Scott Ward, Reid Lockwood, Kara Johnson, Andrew Johnson, and our fearless leader/youth minister Blair Setnor, I’ve had the privilege of sitting alongside these confirmands on Sunday mornings as we wrestle with the questions of faith, many of which I still don’t have answers to. We’ve explored topics ranging from “Why should I choose Christianity?” and “Can science and faith exist together?” to learning more about John Wesley and traits inherent to United Methodism.
In the midst of our confirmands’ insightful (and refreshingly blunt) questions—and our frequent inability to give them a solid answer—I’ve spotted the same facial expression that I imagine I also had during my own confirmation process: overwhelmed at having to take it all in, let alone hash out what you actually believe.
Because the truth is, my confirmation experience didn’t confirm much for me—except for the fact that I was loved. Loved by this community of faith, loved by a higher power of some kind, loved greatly and enough to continue to navigate learning how to be (and become) myself. My confirmation experience did confirm that I wanted to be (and become) myself within a community of faith, whether or not I could confirm exactly what I believed on that day or any other. And being unable to confirm those beliefs didn’t bother me, because I knew I was—and would be—loved.
So though nothing was certain on Confirmation Sunday 2001, it became a quiet foundation for me to jump from in the coming years. A foundation that kept me active in youth group, spurred me to seek out a fellowship group in college and get involved in planning weekly worship services with the chaplain’s office. A foundation that gave me an open mind and made me glad to embrace friends of other faiths or none. A foundation that brought me to a pastoral internship to see if preaching and leading a congregation was right for me—and when I found it wasn’t, a foundation that gave me the self-knowledge and self-love to move forward as a strong and active lay person. A foundation that has led me to opportunities and people who have shown me the Jesus I find I believe in more and more: not the Jesus who exists to block out those who don’t believe, but the Jesus who stands with the oppressed and marginalized of all faiths, who speaks love to neighbor and enemy, who is a presence of peace over power, which is the greatest power of all.
Knowing all of this—where I started and where I am—it’s been especially important for me to watch these confirmands’ faces. To listen to their questions (“What’s the difference between serving the poor and doing good things in a community that isn’t religious and doing it as a Christian?”). To stumble through an explanation of why I’ve chosen to claim Christianity. To talk with them as together we crafted a creed that those who decide to be confirmed will recite on Confirmation Sunday. To discuss the meaning of words like “witness,” “advocate,” “prevenient.” To see eyes brightening as they consider the significance of Jesus working as a carpenter, creating and building with his hands. To pass the peace with them in worship and to spot them turning the pages of the Bible as the Gospel is read.
Being part of their confirmation process has certainly strengthened my own faith. And here’s what I hope our time together (so far) has shown them:
You don’t have to be certain. The journey doesn’t ask you to be sure, only that you start walking and see where it leads. It’s likely that on April 23, 2017, you may not feel that anything is confirmed—except for the fact, the truth, the God-given grace that you are loved, by the human beings you can see and by the Spirit you can’t.
And for now—forever, really—that will be enough.
Claire Asbury Lennox