This year St. Paul’s embarked on a new journey to the sacramental rite of Confirmation. Our bishop is going to visit us on Palm Sunday, so we are using the program year to prepare 10 youth for the sacramental rite of Confirmation. Or, rather, we are preparing them to decide if Confirmation is “rite” for them. (lol)
In some traditions, baptism is something that only adults who can freely consent take part in. In the Episcopal church, even infants can be baptized and become full members of the Church. Confirmation, then, is something that happens later, at the threshold to adulthood, and has become a rite of passage into adulthood. It is referred to as “the sacrament seeking a theology” because it is somewhat unclear what place it occupies in our theology that emphasizes Baptism and the Holy Eucharist as the main sacramental expressions of Christian life.
Traditionally, Confirmation has required a good deal of preparation, including a good deal of Christian education, teaching the tenets of the faith.
This year, we have begun to use a new program to help us prepare for Confirmation. It is called Confirm Not Conform. Rather than teaching only one right way to believe, Confirm Not Conform trusts teens to draw their own conclusions about various matters of faith as we discuss the many different things Christians have believed through the centuries.
It differs in that it is not a classroom setting, but rather a discussion group. However, some guidance for how things proceed is necessary. Enter the “Rules of the Road.”
In the first session, everyone gathered determines how they want their own group to function. There are some suggestions from the developers of the program, but groups are free to adopt or ignore their suggestions, and decide together how this group will go.
The Confirm Not Conform teens came up with this list of rules, and I designed and had this poster printed. Having a large physical poster in the room shows that these decisions they made are important, and having it well-designed and printed instead of written haphazardly on an easel pad shows that whatever they come up with will be taken seriously in this group. We’re short on spaces to gather during the Sunday School time, so we’re using a space that is shared with many other groups throughout the week. Having some permanent things in the room shows that we’re not just being thrown somewhere, this is a space set aside for us.
Here are our Rules of the Road for this year of preparation:
- We will respect one another, and listen to each other’s opinions without judgment, even if we don’t agree.
- The leaders pledge to begin and end each session on time, and students will be here on time. We are respecting each other’s time by staying on schedule.
- This is a safe space and the things that we discuss are of a personal nature. We won’t discuss them with anyone outside the group, not even with anyone’s parents.
- We will all commit to being here if we are at all able. We can’t go on a journey together if we don’t show up for each session.
- We will all participate in every activity, even if we think if it’s scary or boring. We can’t progress if we’re holding back.
- Only one person will talk at a time. We will take turns speaking, and we won’t talk over each other.
- When we’re here, we’re in this 100%. We won’t be distracted, and so we won’t be on our cell phones or other distracting devices.