Thursday, June 17, 2010

The longer I am a pastor the more I love teaching Confirmation. The opportunity to engage young adults with the great story of the Bible; of God’s covenant love for us expressed supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus just does not get old. And teaching Confirmation with Martha makes it doubly enjoyable given our small classes and her artistic and theological creativity. Next to preaching and the sacraments, I consider Confirmation one of my highest privileges. It’s the chance to create conversations over a two year period with young people about their personal confirmation of baptismal vows made by their parents when they were babies or helping them to get ready for their own baptisms as believers.

How does faith get transmitted from one generation to another? Recent studies show that parents and families remain the singularly most important factor in the successful transmission of life-long faith. If the parents don’t care, neither will the kids. The second strongest contributing factor is the presence of another, non-related adult in young people’s live (this is not a paid staff position, but an adult who demonstrates care over the long haul of a young person’s life). And the third factor that helps faith get anchored and rooted from childhood into adulthood is a regular devotional habit, a practice of reading the Bible, prayer and worship. We paid religious professionals hover down near fourth or fifth place. Our job is to hand-maid the other stronger factors; to encourage consistency is family spirituality, to recruit men and women to stand along-side young people over the years, and to teach good spiritual hygiene.

At my favorite church in France, St. Trophime in Arles, I think I saw that the other day. There on the steps was a group of children, with a young priest lecturing and a young nun smiling. Surround the children were parents and adults who were chaperoning this trip. I watched from a distance as the priest told the Bible stories carved into the capitals of the columns surrounding the cloister and as he led them through the nave of the church, telling both the history of and the meaning of the parts of the church. Here was confirmation at its cross-cultural best!


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