One of the cool things about being Presbyterian is that someone always knows someone you know. Sometimes they even know you, or a previous version of you. A few years ago when I was at a conference, I met a man who, after a long discussion, realized that he had been at my baptism. We quickly changed from talking about the churchy stuff and he began to tell me about my baptism. It was pretty cool to hear about something so important in my life from someone whom I would have thought a complete stranger. As he told me about my baptism, I began to realize how connected our church is, and how important baptism is for the community of the church.
Over the time of my ministry, I think one of our most misunderstood practices is baptism. In the simplest of terms, baptism is an outward expression of one’s inward grace. It is a sign to the community that God has blessed the child or adult and that they are accepted into that community. But baptism in our tradition is multilayered. The session approves and ordains the service. The individual or the parents take their vows. And most importantly, regardless of whether the individual is an infant or an adult, the congregation also takes a vow: “Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture ________ by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church?”
There are many ways we do this, from Christian Education to pastoral care, but one of the most important for me is confirmation. The purpose of confirmation is to give children who were baptized an opportunity to confirm for themselves their baptism, and for children who are not baptized, a place for them to come to a deeper understanding of their faith before they are baptized. More than anything, for the way I do confirmation, it is a time for our youth to explore their faith without judgment.
On Sunday we will celebrate the first confirmation class we have had in our church in many years! As any of the elders who were there this Sunday and met with the confirmands would say, this is an exceptional group of youths! Over the past year, while enjoying fancy doughnuts and orange juice, we created a space where we went over many of the basics of the Bible, our theology, our history, with a lot of time for spiritual discernment. From worship to mission, to being part of a connectional church, our hope is that the youth come to see confirmation as important step on their spiritual journey and a calling from God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen