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Sermon Archives

Confirmation Reflection

Sarah Higginbotham
Sun, May 20

Every other year, First Church’s 8th and 9th graders embark on the journey of Confirmation. It begins with an orientation session, where we ask students and parents to share what their understanding of the word “Confirmation” is, what they imagine the process might be, or perhaps how they experienced it when they were kids. Since many of us did not grow up in the United Church of Christ, we spend a bit of time clarifying what it means in the UCC to affirm one’s baptism and seek to be confirmed in faith as an adult member of this congregation.

We share the syllabus for the class, which includes sessions with intriguing titles like: “Creation Meets Evolution,” “Meeting God through Scripture,” “Jesus Christ, Human and Divine,” “Forgiveness and Grace,” “Living in a Religiously Diverse World,” “Making Meaning of Death,” and “This I Believe: Ancient Creeds and Modern Covenants.” Sounds good, huh? We’ve had lots of parents remark that they wish THEY could take the Confirmation Class — in fact, the Christian Formation Committee is taking that request seriously and thinking about how to weave parts of this curriculum into our Adult programming in coming seasons.

But I think the most important thing we share with kids and their parents in that orientation session is the importance of allowing the Confirmands to be on this journey of theological exploration and discovery without dictating where it will lead. Specifically, we say to parents that it’s fine to insist that your child attend Confirmation Class — we actually request that families prioritize the class for the year, so that the group can have the consistency needed to bond and to develop a safe space for discussion. But we are clear with parents that it is up to the students to decide if they wish to be confirmed and become members of First Church in Cambridge.

In our Christian tradition, Confirmation is a “coming of age.” It’s a time for young people to wrestle with big ideas and to consider how they make sense of God, the Church, and what faith means in their daily lives. This year’s class was significant for their thoughtfulness and their willingness to engage. Conversation often flowed easily, and while we didn’t necessarily answer all our questions, we cultivated a space where we could each weigh in and express ourselves in a way that felt comfortable for each person. Sharing our own opinions on matters of theology and faith was the first step in developing a personal Statement of Faith, the final product of the Confirmation journey.

We also set aside time at the end of each class for a bit of journaling. Karin found the cutest little notebooks — and I mean “little,” they were about this big! — that we kept in a cabinet in the Harter Room. Each week, the Confirmands jotted down a few reflections or responses to the session, as a reminder to help them get started on their Statement of Faith. As we moved into the final months of the year, the students received a “how-to” guide on writing one’s own Statement of Faith. The guide asks kids to answer questions like, “Who or what is God?” “How do you understand God in relationship to yourself? To others?” “How do you understand or know Jesus in your life? In the world?” “What does the Church mean for you? For others?” “What do you care about in the world? How does it connect to your faith?”

Just last Sunday evening, the Confirmation Class gathered to make pizzas in the church kitchen and to share their Statements of Faith with each other. It was a joy to hear how these young people are thinking about their faith at this point in their lives. With the Confirmands’ permission, I want to share excerpts from their Statements with you, so you can celebrate these thoughtful, curious, and compassionate youth with whom we have the honor to walk on the journey of faith and the journey of life.

First, hear some of their thoughts on God:

“It’s essential for you to love yourself and who you are to be able to connect
with God.”

“I think I am still discovering who God is to me, and I will continue to
discover this in life. I know that God is someone I can always turn to in times of sadness, times when I need comfort, or times when I need guidance. There have been many times when I have needed forgiveness and turned to prayer, and through this I feel that I establish a connection to God as someone that will always be there for me. God is someone that connects us all. I feel that through God, humans in generations past and today are able to bond and lift each other up.”

And some of their reflections on Jesus:

“For me, Jesus is someone who proves to me that the greatest people still
struggle. He had human struggles, just like all of us. God left him feeling alone sometimes, yet he still loved God. He healed people, and yet he needed to be healed at times. And so with that, he is an inspiration to me.”

“I do believe that Jesus was our savior; he saved us from our own fear. People say that Jesus conquered death, but I believe more that he conquered our fear of death. And he came back to show that we are not alone and that the love of God lives on, even when it seems to have walked away.”

Some of the Confirmands’ reflected on specific topics we covered over the year:

“I’ve never deeply thought about forgiveness before this class, but I’ve now
come to realize a lot. Forgiveness, in my mind, doesn’t really have to do with the people you’re in conflict with, but yourself and really only you.”

“My own self image has gotten better since we spoke about being “Made in
God’s Image” because I’ve thought of myself as God’s creation and everything about me and others as God’s creation and everything about me and others was created by God. Our personality was made by God, we are God’s creations; everything we don’t like about ourselves, he created, and he loves us, and that is a great reassurance.”

“I care a lot for this world, I care about people, equality, family, the wellness
of others, and justice. All of these connect to my faith, not only because some of these things are focused on in the Bible, but also because my faith gives me hope for the future and for people in general.”

And finally, a few excerpts on what First Church means to them:

“I find that some of my atheist friends from school think religion is dumb and pointless, but I have grown to understand and appreciate mine. It connects to some of my beliefs in the world. Our church stands for social justice and welcoming all, and I believe that everyone should be welcomed and respected, regardless of who they are.”

“I believe that the church is God’s house as well as Jesus’. It is also a place for people to feel closer to their loved ones that have passed away. I feel closer to my grandmother when I am in church. Being part of the church means a lot to me. It is a place where I can feel cared for, and a place where I feel I am a part of a large community of people that care for God like I do, like a family.”

“First Church is a community where everyone from anywhere with any kind of belief is accepted. This is something that is very important to me, because I value the openness and kindness of our community, and I like to be able to make connections with the people in it. Whether these people are similar or very different than me, connecting and bonding with people embodies the spirit of God. I am very grateful to be able to have a place where the doors are always open to the person I am today and the person I will grow into and become.”

“I would love to be confirmed and be an official part of the First Church community, not only because I agree with the beliefs of our church, but also because First Church in Cambridge is like a family to me, and I would love to forever be a part of that.

I hope these excerpts bring you joy. I am so grateful that First Church is a place that welcomes seekers of all ages, including these six adolescents who have found a home here. It has been an honor to walk the journey of faith with them through this Confirmation year, and Karin and I are so pleased to welcome them as full members today!

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