Two years into the pandemic, we had some interest in preparing for confirmation from a few teens in our parish. Leading a class in normal times is always a bit of a challenge, but at this particular place– with our Covid numbers high and our volunteer numbers low– it seemed almost insurmountable. We decided to give it a try and created a class that matched the resources and the time we had available.
The Way Of Love
We focused our class on the Way of Love. The Way of Love is an initiative from the Episcopal church, “More than a program or curriculum, it is an intentional commitment to a set of practices. It’s a commitment to follow Jesus: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest.”
Each gathering focused on a practice from The Way of Love, which we paired with the corresponding questions and promises of the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant. Prior to our gathering each week, students watched a brief video introducing the practice; there was often a brief activity to do or a question to consider.
Our Nine Sessions
We met online, in person, and on several occasions a mixture of the two, for eight sessions (we each completed Session #8 on our own). Each class was 60-75 minutes in length. We followed the same format whether we were online or in-person:
- Check-In/ Icebreaker
- Introduction to Way of Love practice and baptismal promises(s) for week
- Activity and discussion
- Worship and prayer (Maine Episcopal Youth Compline)
We tried to be as experiential as possible for our activities, acknowledging that the class was a buffet where we were just getting a little taste of each dish. We incorporated Lectio Divina, prayed with interactive prayer stations, and made summer gift bags for the guests at our monthly community meal during a discussion about homelessness in our city. This document shows how we paired the practices and promises, and what our activities were for each week.
What Worked Well
- Having a warm-up activity that could be done in pairs easily. Our Bible scavenger hunt was tricky, but not impossible, with one person online and one onsite. Pairs made the online student feel a little less isolated.
- Using a slide deck with videos embedded for each online gathering.
- Leaders and students alike participating fully in all activities.
What Was Challenging
- Due to the pandemic, our short time frame, and a short planning/preparation period; everything felt very last minute.
- While gathering online felt pretty normal, having one student online and two onsite was much harder and I wish I had planned better for this.
- I had five great volunteers who were available for 1-2 classes each. Scheduling was tricky!
- I wish we could have had another 3-6 weeks before the Bishop’s visit.
Despite the pandemic craziness, I loved this confirmation class. Using the Way of Love as a framework created a focus on active formation and practice, a growth of faith rather than just knowledge. It felt practical– here you go, here’s a road map for trying to follow Jesus, with God’s help. I was able to let go of the need to feel like I was including “everything” the students needed to learn– even with a long model class, as we usually do at our church, we never include “everything”! We tried to experience the practice as best we could, and we prayed and read scripture together each week.
The class was full of unexpected joy every week. That we were healthy and well and together felt like a small victory. We did the practice of rest on our own and talked about it as we shared a pizza dinner right before the confirmations. I asked about the experience, and one student shared that they had gone stargazing, and had seen six shooting stars! They had never seen one before. Even as COVID transmission climbed in our community– leading to a need to mask at the confirmation service– there was a sense of gratitude that we were able to travel the Way of Love together in this time and place.
Image provided by author: Confirmands with Bishop Thomas Brown of Maine.