Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Creed of St. Paul's Confirmation Class 2008

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:

The St. Paul’s Confirmation Creed of 2008

We believe in God, the Holy Being and Unseen Spirit
whose presence is felt in all good things around us.
There is no sin too big that cannot be forgiven by God.
We believe there is a piece of God in all of us.

We believe in Jesus, our Teacher and Rabbi
a prophet, messenger and the Lord,
our leader who shows us The Way.
We believe that He loves us with a selfless love,
He died for us and the sins of the world.
He performed many miracles and always puts His people first.
We believe that Jesus lives in each one of us
to spread the word of God’s love in the world.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who is
a gift of the Resurrection of Jesus
and part of the mystery of the Trinity.
We believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside us
to guide us to The Truth. 

We believe that the Church is God’s gift to us:
A sanctuary – a safe place from the world
A Holy place where we can pray
and express what we believe.
A place to find forgiveness and hope.
A place to know Jesus.
We believe that the Church is God’s house,
our home, our community.
now and forever. 


Josephine- said...

Elizabeth what amazing kids. They had me in big weepy tears, no wonder you are so proud of them.

It is a beautiful creed.

Jim said...

Those kids could teach a lot to the whole church. Amazing!


Brother David said...

¡Ditto a lo que Tandaina dijo!

Bill said...

Where were those kids in 325 CE. They could have used them at Nicea. I like there version better.
Out of the mouths of babes.

EYouthWNY said...

Congrats to you and Tim, you've obviously done a great job. And you've done it the right way IMO. By making sure that they see themselves as part of the community of faith there's a better chance they'll want to continue.

as a diocesan staff person I'm always looking for good ideas. Any chance you have this in some written form that I could have?

St Edwards Blog said...

This is outstanding. (oh this is Fran from FranIam BTW!)

I am working with our newly formed youth group on getting a blog going, I am going to show this to them.

I feel like Tandaina did- big weepy tears and my heart feels so open.

These kids sound amazing.

Jane R said...

Oh, Lizbeth, this is wonderful. Congratulations on this confirmation program and thank you for sharing this with us.

I'm going to share this with my campus minister colleague and with our diocesan youth minister.

Tell the kids the church is a broad and vast community and we belong to each other in that broad and vast communion, even as we belong to God.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. What a wonderful exercise. Thank you for sharing.

RFSJ said...


Wonder came over me as I read this. Could I get one of them to preach for me at St. T's? Clearly they have got a better sense of the Gospel than I seem to, most days.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Where were you when I was 13 and got kicked out of my Lutheran confirmation class for asking too many difficult questions?

Great story; I got the "remedial" class with our pastor, who was less weirded out by my questions than the lay teacher, and knew I was sort of under the gun by my mother, who was stressed that she had reared a child that was evil enough to have been booted from confirmation class. But the bottom line was confirmation as a 13 year old was, at best, a means to an end.

Getting "re-confirmed" at 40something in the Episcopal church (especially after I told our vicar, "You have to know, I am a confirmation class juvenile delinquent," was a much better experience...and he liked my answer to "tell me why you want to do this." I gave a lot of the usual, "I like this place, I like the people, I like the way God is presented here," stuff...then I leaned forward and said, "But you know, what I'm really worried about is if I drop dead, and I'm 'unchurched', they'll get some doofy Baptist preacher with Conway Twitty hair to do my funeral and say I went to hell...and I deserve better than that!"

He just burst out laughing and said, "This is going to be fun."

Let the healing begin!

Lindy said...

This makes me want to love church again.