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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I LOVE Confirmation Class!

This is Tim and my fifth confirmation class at St. Paul's and it just keeps getting better every year.

We have 11 kids - great, bright, articulate kids - who are inquisitive and committed to being Confirmed. That commitment comes from the fact that Tim and I figured out after our first class together some things that bring about that commitment.

Like - we ask the kids and their parents to sign a "learning contract" which includes such things as allowing only two excused absences, keeping a homework journal which they must bring to class each week, a commitment to attending all services during Holy Week, an agreement to do 12 hours of community service (two hours as a group project), selecting "Godparents" from their family / adult friends, and a "Church Sponsor" - someone from the church who will sponsor them, etc.

It has really made a difference. We also spend the first hour with snacks and community building exercises and "new games." We tell them that building community is one of the most important things they will learn how to do in Confirmation Class, and we mean it.

We are also deeply committed to finding creative, fun ways to teach. For example, last week was our first week of class, and after we gave them the "low down" we had an exercise wherein we gave them a picture of kids playing on the playground and asked them which one with whom they most identified. It was fascinating to hear what they revealed about themselves without even knowing it.

Their "homework" for this week was that they had to pretend to be either Tim Russett or Katie Couric or some TV interviewer and their task was to ask God or Jesus three questions they've always wanted answered.

What happened next was amazing. Their questions were remarkable.

Like, "Why does God place obstacles in our path?"

Like, "Why is it that some people live in luxury and others are so desperately poor?"

Like, "What REALLY happens after you die?"

Like, "Why did you create the earth? Why did you create me? Why am I here?"

The discussions were full and rich and deeply respectful.

One kid who is autistic but highly functioning began musing about how the world was getting bigger every year and then began talking about quasars, which very few of us in the room really knew about or understood.

Which got another kid talking about the "Big Bang Theory" vs. "Evolution" which prompted yet another kid to lean back in his chair and say, "Oh, man! When I start thinking about that, I can feel the quasars in my brain stretching and it makes my stomach hurt."

We began talking about mystery and the things we can't understand, and I gotta tell you, I haven't had intelligent, stimulating conversations with adults as we had with those kids.

To end the class, I fired up my computer and played The Galaxy Song from Monty Python, which, as many of you know, is simply brilliant. It was a great way to end the class.

Tim and I were reflecting after class that while all our classes have been fun, these kids started trusting us from the very first class. Then it occurred to us: these kids have known us since they were six years old. I think that makes a huge difference. The continuity and relationship really make a difference.

Next class, we look at how the church architecture helps to tell the church's story. It's one of my favorite classes.

Their home work assignment this week is to consider what they know about the community that calls itself "The Episcopal Church of St. Paul" and how the front of the church does or doesn't reflect that identity. They are then to draw or explain what they would do to change it. Fun, right?

See what I mean? I LOVE Confirmation Class.

So, I'll leave you with Monte Python. Enjoy!

(Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you've had quite eno-o-o-o-o-ough)

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power
The sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It's a hundred thousand light-years side to side
It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick
But out by us it's just three thousand light-years wide
We're thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point
We go 'round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whiz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is
So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth


Reverend Thomas Brackett said...

Thank you for posting this! I love your approach and the joy with which you obviously offer this ministry. I'll be sending folks your way to read this.

With hope,


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, God, can I be a teenager for just a few weeks so I can do TELP's confirmation class? It would atone for all the trauma I had at age 13 in my "original" one in the LCMS....the one that I got kicked out of for asking too many questions...questions very similar to those asked in hers...and I had to have the "remedial confirmation class" solo with the pastor after school b/c the lay teacher wouldn't let me back in!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Don't hesitate to contact me, Tom, if you want our syllabus. One of my other favorite classes is, after we study the Creeds, I have them write their own. The trick is that it is a community exercise - they have to find language that satisfies everyone in the group. GREAT fun.

Kirke, darlin', you can come to our Confirmation Class ANYtime.

Malcolm+ said...

At the parish where I am interim priest, we needed to come up with some realistic ways of making confirmation instruction happen. Being Interim at St. James isn't my first job, or even my second. And my wife likes to see me from time to time.

Here was our solution. Reading and reflection - with links to hopefully cool stuff - offered in a weekly blog. Then time together after church and coffe hour on Sunday.

If anyone is interested:

NB, I consider plagiarism the sincerest form of flattery.

suzanne said...

TELP, Can I come too?

I was confirmed in the Methodist church, were we weren't encouraged to used our brains. These classes sound like the kind of fun that lasts a lifetime.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Absolutely, Suzanne. We'll start a whole new class - a Bloggers Confirmation Class!

suzanne said...

Well if one can go to church on the internet, I don't see why we can't have a bloggers confirmation class.

For the life of me I can't remember a confirmation class, meeting or anything when I was confirmed in the Episcopal church.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hmmm . . .I'm not sure how we could do the "new games" part in cyberspace. They are great fun.