As whole congregations participate in the formation of new Christians, every person is invited to go deeper into their own vows, Christian identity, and daily spiritual practices.
Feeding the Faith of The Whole Community
Any study of the ancient catechumenate (the formation process that emerged by the third century in which curious seekers or new disciples of Jesus were formed for baptism in community) reveals that preparing even a single person in a community for a sacrament opens the possibility that the entire community can participate in that preparation and grow from it. Too often in our churches today, programs for preparation for transformational commitment or recommitment, like baptism or confirmation or marriage, are siloed away from the larger congregation as they unfold, only to become public at a single public liturgy. By contrast, the history of the catechumenate teaches that sharing the preparation of a few for a sacrament with the whole community calls the whole community to live up to and into their role to be the Body of Christ in word and deed.
As whole congregations participate in the formation of new Christians, or support believers seeking deeper vows with Christ, every person is invited to go deeper into their own vows, Christian identity, and daily spiritual practices.
Carpe Sacramentum (Seize the Sacrament!)
Congregations that consistently seize sacramental preparation as an invitation and journey toward Christ for the whole congregation are blessed and transformed. The baptism or confirmation of one can ignite or reignite the power of that sacrament for all. We know that the Eucharist is a sacramental feast of grace that can feed the souls of all people, every time it happens. Faithful and intentional formation can present baptism (and confirmation, reception and renewal of vows) as similar feasts to feed the faith of all.
Recently, the clergy of Saint Clement’s in Alexandria, VA pondered together how best to prepare two adult members for confirmation. They decided to ‘flip the classroom’ and created a self-directed, on-demand 30-Day curriculum to prepare for Confirmation and Reception assigning each candidate a sponsor. The entire congregation was also invited to join the program so that they can be as prepared and inspired as possible to renew their own vows as part of the Confirmation liturgy at the end of the 30-Day countdown toward it.
A 30-Day Confirmation Challenge
The 30-Day Confirmation Challenge allows for the experiences that are built with prayer, reflection on scripture, and reflection on personal questions to happen ‘on demand,’ in places and at times most optimal for each person with the collective support of the congregation. The Confirmands and individuals seeking Reception or Renewal of Vows have begun to meet with their sponsors from the congregation to share their stories and learnings in real time. Other members of the congregation are encouraged to stay connected through the parish Facebook page, where the daily reflection questions are posted. The page serves as a space for public discussion about the question and scripture of the day.
On the Sunday of the 30-Day Challenge kick-off, parishioners and guests were provided with a printed workbook that includes the daily questions and Bible passages so that they can journal if they choose. In addition to the printed journal, everyone also received a stack of daily question cards on a ring, purposefully designed for portability.
After the bishop visits and confirms, receives and reaffirms, the clergy plan to invite all participants to gather and share their experiences during coffee hour, formation hour, and potluck dinners. The hope is that once people have real and powerful experiences to share and explore, they will be more likely to gather in person to go deeper.
Join the Challenge
Read the full explanation and content of this 30-Day Confirmation Challenge. Perhaps this creative, focused, playful, and church-wide engagement would be a simple but powerful way for you to reinvigorate the transformational invitation to confirm or renew baptismal vows.
Dr. Lisa Kimball is the Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning and the James Maxwell Professor of Lifelong Christian Formation at Virginia Theological Seminary. She recently served on The Confirmation Project Advisory team, representing the Episcopal Church in a five-year study of youth confirmation, and is currently directing Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative, two outward expressions of her passion for equipping people of all ages to live courageous Christian lives.