I love Confirmation Class. I love to sit with the kids and discuss the issues of our faith. I love to challenge their thinking. I love the way they challenge my well thought-out and treasured theological positions.
Our class runs a little over 12 months, depending on the diocesan schedule. One of the real delights is that I co-teach the course with Tim Wong, the incomparable Missioner to Youth and Young Families at St. Paul's. He does all the community-building exercises with the kids, takes them on Mission Trips and their required Community Service Projects.
I teach the "stuff" - the meaning of the architecture - why the altar and font are where they are, the shape of the ceiling, etc., all the various vestments, and all the symbols of the church - for example, why we ascribe certain images to the four gospels, We also study the history of the Church in general and The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion in particular. It's all the usual stuff of Confirmation Class.
We also have a component about Human Sexuality, along with other contemporary issues like dating, dress, drugs and alcohol, but we talk about it in terms of making moral and ethical choices.
We give them our cell phone numbers and tell them that if they are ever in a situation where they feel uncomfortable about the choices they are being asked to make, they are to call us and we'll come and pick them up. No questions asked. Their parents know this and agree to it.
What happens after that is really between the kid and his/her parents. The only thing we know is that they made a choice not to make a bad choice, and that's enough. The idea is to keep them safe.
Both Tim and I feel strongly that, other than building a sense of community, none of the other 'standard fare' of Confirmation class makes any sense without helping these kids, who are on the brink of adulthood, to understand the importance and consequences of their choices.
We tell them that they will make mistakes as they test out the boundaries of their lives and faith, but that there is always repentance and forgiveness and the opportunity to make amends and change.
My favorite part of the class is the Creeds. We go over the three in the Prayer Book and then look at the Creeds of other denominations. Then comes the real fun.
Using the Nicene Creed as the basis of faith, we ask them to consider adding their own voices to the ancient voices of the church and write their own Creed. We ask them to consider how they would describe concepts like "the Son of God" and "born of the Virgin Mary" and "the Resurrection" to their contemporaries of the faith.
Once we have broken through the initial, expected resistance ("This is soooo dumb") the conversation can get very spirited. This class was especially so. The biggest challenge is to get everyone to agree on all the wording. After three weeks of negotiation, they finally settled on the following.
The other Very Big Challenge is not to put my words in their mouth, even if I think their Creed could be strengthened by my beliefs. It's their Creed, after all, based solidly in the Creeds of the Church. It's their voice, not mine, and their thinking will change over time, even as mine has. Even so, it's hard to hold back.
We finally finished this in yesterday's class. I am so very proud of them, I could just burst. This Creed will be used at the service we'll have the morning of their Confirmation Day. We also have sweatshirts made which has the St. Paul's logo on the front and their Creed written on the back. This year, they all wanted "hoodies" - in red, with white lettering.
They are not only smart, they have a great sense of style. Here's what they wrote: