What's the Deal with Confirmation?

by The Rev. Libby Garfield

What Is Confirmation and Why Do We Practice It?

In The Episcopal Church, we have infant baptism. At any point in your life, when you are baptized you are a full member of the Church. The time between baptism and confirmation is a time for learning and receiving from the church.

Confirmation often happens in The Episcopal Church around the eighth grade. Confirmation is the opportunity to say for yourself that you believe all the things spoken on your behalf by the congregation at your baptism. We believe that when the bishop lays hands on the confirmand, the Holy Spirit comes upon them in a different way than at their baptism, so they can live out their Christian life differently than they did before. A confirmed Christian steps into being a full member of the church and takes more responsibility. For example, in The Episcopal Church, you don't have the ability to vote at the annual parish meeting until you're a confirmed member of the Church.

Baptism and Confirmation can happen at the same time if a bishop baptizes an adult candidate who is able to make the mature commitment expected of a confirmand. When an adult is baptized, they become a full-fledged Christian and a member of the Church, so if an adult is baptized by a priest the move from being a baptized Christian to a confirmed adult is a step they can take in their own time.

If you were raised in The Episcopal Church and never confirmed, it's an opportunity as an adult to make that public affirmation. If you're coming from another tradition, it's an opportunity to make this affirmation and to be welcomed fully as a member of The Episcopal Church. Also, The Episcopal Church is not the only church to have confirmation, so perhaps you were confirmed in another tradition. Being received into The Episcopal Church is a public acknowledgment that you are becoming part of The Episcopal Church and welcomed individually by the bishop.

What Happens at a Confirmation Service?

For the most part, a Confirmation service will look like any other church service, with some different aspects. In the beginning, it resembles a Baptism service, which isn't that different from a normal Sunday service. After the sermon, the bishop comes forward and addresses those who are about to be confirmed as a group.

The bishop asks the confirmands some questions about the faith - if they believe in Jesus and the fundamental beliefs of the Church. This is the actual moment the confirmands stand up in front of their whole parish community and say that they believe in the pillars of our faith that we recite every Sunday in the Creed.

The confirmand is also entering into the greater community of the Church. Like the newly baptized, once somebody is confirmed they do not go forth on their own to be Christians. They are entering the community, so the bishop asks everyone in the room if they will support the confirmands as they continue their walk of faith. Everybody then prays together, then one-by-one the individuals being confirmed come forward. The bishop lays hands on them and prays over them that the Holy Spirit may enter them and confirm them. The rest of the service then finishes as normal.

St. John the Divine welcomes the Rt. Rev. Rayford High this Sunday, May 19 to confirm youth at the 9 am church service and adults at the 11:15 am church service. We hope you will join us in welcoming the newest members of our church family!

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