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How we need to support our Confirmands

Bishop Carlye Hughes

Bishop Hughes notes that this year's Confirmands are giving different reasons for seeking confirmation than in previous years. Instead of saying they're doing it because it's expected, most are now saying it's because "I want to know God more" or "I want to take my place in the church." For those of us who've already found our place in the church, Bishop Hughes has some suggestions about how we can support our Confirmands as they find theirs. (Time: 5:19.)

Video Transcript

This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark, and it is confirmation season. We do something quite wonderful with confirmation in our diocese. It happens in the most festive time of the year, during the Great 50 days of Easter where we are celebrating and continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It happens at a time of year where churches have had the fullness of the program year to prepare people for confirmation, so they're not having to run, dash, “Quick, get them ready, because the bishop is coming!” They know that they're going to be doing it at this time of year. So there's a chance to prepare in an intentional, full and practical kind of way for confirmation.

And it also happens in a way in which we unify the diocese, that confirmations are spread around regions, groups of churches gathered together. And when people are confirmed, regardless of their age, if they're young, or if they're older, if they're reaffirming their baptismal vows are being received into the Episcopal Church, whatever is happening, they're doing it with a large group of people – more than the people who would just be in your parish. And it helps open up this sense of being called to this next part of being a faithful person, being someone who has professed your faith publicly, in front of family and friends and congregation and before God and before the bishop. It's a wonderful joyful experience that we have together.

I want to share with you just a little bit about something that happened in confirmation retreat this year, that I would say in my fifth year of being with you, and in my fifth year of doing confirmation retreats – but we had one year where we were off because of pandemic. But across the confirmation retreats, one thing that I've heard over and over and over again, especially from our young people, is how important it is to them to take this step because they know it is something that is expected in their family, that they come from a faithful family or they come from generations of Episcopalians or generations of people who have been confirmed, and they want to take their place. And that is important. And I'm so delighted that so many of our young folks have family around them that are modeling something for them, that gives them a sense of how to grow into their faith.

This year's group is a very different group. It reminds us that the world is changing, and the church has got to change with the world. In all of my meetings with them during the retreat this year, I had fewer than five people say to me that they wanted to be confirmed because it is something that happens in their family. The vast majority, dozens of young people said to me, I want to be confirmed because I want to know God more. Or, I want to be confirmed, because I want to take my place in the church, this place has been very important to me, and I want to take more of a responsible role in the church.

Those are very different responses. It doesn't make previous responses wrong. But it is a change. And it means that we have to change with it. When these folks are confirmed – again, regardless of age – they're going to truly need us to support them in their desire to know God more and to take their place in the church.

And so I asked every member of a congregation who has someone being confirmed – and your priests will be telling you and the confirmation sponsors will be telling you who's being confirmed – I ask every single one of you to put their names on your daily prayer list. Pray for them personally, each day. I also ask that you reach out to them personally. Let them know that you are praying for them, that you're praying for their relationship with God, that you're praying that they find their place in the church.

And then the thing that I think is the next important thing for you to do is to invite them, to specifically invite them whether you know them well or not – maybe you need to invite their parents with them so you get to know their parents better – but to invite them into the activities of the church that will support them in getting to know God better or support them in being a full and active member of the church.

Our tendency is to diminish people who are new or diminish people who are young, to put them into low-responsibility areas of the church. That's not what these confirmands are asking for. They are saying, I am a person of faith, I want that faith to grow deeper, and I want to find my place in the church. So it is on all of us to change, to open our arms, welcome them into the church and welcome them fully. Help them find that deeper faith and help them find their place in our church.

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