Searching for Sunday: Confirmation
Confirmation, like Holy Orders, is another on the list of sacraments that I haven’t had a lot of personal experience with. My United Church growing up did confirmation classes for the teenagers every few years. I didn’t take part when my time came. I was happy going to church, but I didn’t really see the point in confirmation. The same was true when they offered to make me an official member.
In Rachel Held Evans’ discussion around the idea in Searching for Sunday, the chapter that stood out to me the most came from her visit to a monastery. Part of the monastery included a grotto of artwork depicting various places in history and today made entirely from scraps and leftovers. It took me a while to catch on to where she was going with that, but she ultimately made the connection explicit for those a little slower like me: all of our churches are somewhat of a cobbled mess. Confirmation in some ways is simply a declaration of which cobbled mess of a church we choose to be a part of.
Rachel appropriately brings in some of Scripture’s imagery for the Church here, most notably to me the parts of a body. Different parts do different things. They might even be jealous of each other. They might go on strike, refusing to serve their function, because they don’t like how a different part is functioning differently. When that happens, all of the body suffers.
I’ve heard a good debate on this topic a few times: which scale are we talking about with this imagery, local or global? Should every church have its resident charismatics, for example, or is it good enough to remember to cooperate with charismatic churches? I’m inclined to think there’s some value in both. The local church does suffer when it is homogenous, but there are also some factors where being in the same local church isn’t particularly helpful. Rachel tends to focus on the global, which I think is the more common answer, but I thought it was worth bringing up the local as well.
In the church I grew up, confirmation served mostly like believer’s baptism does in other traditions. It was supposed to be a declaration of deciding to be a part of this Christianity thing for ourselves. In traditions with the stronger sacramental understanding, it is meant to be a time for newly-mature Christians to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Rachel didn’t touch on any of that directly, but the other focus of the chapter was on the unpredictably. Perhaps predictably, I had a harder time following what she was going for in that section, so I can’t comment too much on it here. The one point that sticks out to me is how it connects to the previous point: it is only by the unpredictable movement of the Spirit that the cobbled-together Church moves from a pile of garbage to a beautiful work of art.