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Redesigned Confirmation Retreats combine serious and fun in one-day program

The confirmands made blankets for sick children in one of their Confirmation Retreat workshops.
The Rev. Sheelagh A. Clarke
The confirmands made blankets for sick children in one of their Confirmation Retreat workshops.

Following a series of meetings and listening events in 2017, a small group of youth leaders and clergy worked with staff from Cross Roads Camp and Retreat Center to redesign the diocese’s Confirmation Retreats, which took place in February and March.

The planning group came up with three regional locations and opened enrollment at each, capped at 60 youth participants.

The new one-day program aimed to provide a mix of fun and games with more intensive workshop activities focused on the promises that youth will confirm in their confirmation. These workshops were on deepening engagement with the Baptismal promises, creating models of the future church, making blankets for sick children and listening to a panel of young(ish) adults who have made intentional choices to reflect their faith in their career and life choices. The highlight was an opportunity to hear the Bishop’s story, and ask some really profound and difficult questions of him.

In addition to learning amazing fun games and new songs, the youth engaged with deeper spiritual activities such as walking the Labyrinth and baking communion bread. The youth also designed and led parts of the closing worship service.

Our learnings were enhanced by a simple evaluation exercise using sticky dots that led the planning group to tweak the retreats as we went along. We quickly discovered the need to mix up the activities a little more, and so worked in an additional games session in the afternoon. Overall evaluations were on the positive side, mostly OK and Good – with a good number of “Awesomes!”

On March 24, we had hoped to “live stream” the Bishop from the March for Our Lives in Washington DC. This proved difficult as the cell service was too weak to sustain a signal. We did have some pre-recorded videos of the Bishop, although we will say that his presence was missed.

We learned a lot, and had three long days of fun. Thanks must go to the youth and their chaperones, who came and were a part of the retreats. Thanks must also go to our panelists, Janelle Grant, Rosie Grant, Carrie Cabush, Alicia Strathum and Peter Angelica, for giving so freely of their life stories. Thanks go also to diocesan staff members Jane Jubilee; Randy Johnson and John King; and to Janet Hager for help with back office arrangements and technology.

We are extremely grateful for the hospitality and welcome offered by our three host churches, St. James in Upper Montclair, Christ Church in Pompton Lakes, and Grace in Madison, and for their help in setting up and taking down.

Members of the Confirmation Retreat planning group: Anthony Briggs, Cross Roads’ Director; the Rev. Sheelagh Clarke, Interim Youth and Young Adult Coordinator; Kathryn Schaeffer, Cross Roads’ Program Director; Kathy De Walt; the Rev. Archie Palmer; the Rev Kathryn King; the Rev Nate Huddleston; the Rev Joan Conley; Sandy Sullivan; and Cross Roads staff Jonathan Sterling, James Nowoslawski, Alicia Stathum and Amy Frielink.

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