Confirmation, Reception, Reaffirmation....

"In the course of their Christian development, those baptized...are make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop." - Book of Common Prayer (page 412).

The sacrament of confirmation has endured some criticism in recent generations.  It continues to be a meaningful affirmation of faith and connection to the broader church for many.  As we begin our confirmation classes once again, I am reminded that it is paired with reception and reaffirmation as well.  This bears some explanation, more than we are able to offer in the course of the rite itself.

Each of these are a public affirmation of faith.  The particulars of each depend largely upon one's personal history.  Baptism precedes each, as a rite that is shared with all of Christendom.  Baptism is a declaration of God's saving grace in our lives.  Confirmation is an affirmation of the baptismal promises.  Further, it is a way of showing that one intends to live out their faith in a particular denomination.  Ascension maintains a tradition that requires persons to be confirmed in order to serve on vestry as well

Reception applies to those who have been confirmed in another denomination.  Often someone has been confirmed in the tradition they were raised.  Just as we do not re-baptize those who have been baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; so too we honor prior confirmation by receiving those who have already received this sacrament.  Most often those being received have attended the same preparation as those being confirmed, as a continuation of their formation and study of our particular denomination. 

Reaffirmation then is an opportunity for those who have been confirmed to publicly reaffirm this decision.  While all present at a baptism or confirmation will renew their commitment and say the Baptismal Covenant, the reaffirmation is a bit more involved.  At times, a reaffirmation follows a time when one has been absent from the church, or even placed themselves a part from God.  At times, it is done to acknowledge a spiritual development in one's life.  Perhaps it is something we should all consider from time to time, a public reaffirmation of the commitment we have made to God and one another as a body of faithful disciples.

If you are interested in participating in any of these rites, please let me know.  While our confirmation classes are underway, I welcome the conversation and possibility of your participation, now and in the future.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul 

Scripture, Tradition, Reason

"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars." - Martin Luther

Scripture, tradition and reason each hold a special place in the authority of our church (and our faith).  Richard Hooker (c. 1554-1600) is an early Anglican theologian who noted these are like a three-legged stool.  Scripture, tradition and reason each rely upon one another; when one is neglected the whole thing can fall over.  We have continued to honor the balance in these aspects throughout our heritage as a church.

The place of scripture varies widely among Christian denominations.  In the Episcopal Church we honor it in reading expansively as we gather each week.  This discipline is further supported in the Daily Office and other devotional material.  Some have suggested we are less knowledgeable, as we are less able to quote chapter and verse than others, yet the stories are a part of who we are.  Our holding 'scripture' in conjunction with 'reason' also sets us apart from those who hold to a literal interpretation of scripture.  We are more likely to sit with the contradictions than try to explain them away.

The traditions of the church are important.  They help us to learn from those who have gone before us.  Here, we can both learn from the successes and learn from "mistakes".  Honoring traditions can slow change too.  While change is important, we do well to temper it with an understanding of the traditions we inherit.  The Gospels are full of stories where Jesus pushes against traditions, particularly where there seemed to be tradition for traditions sake.

Reason may be listed, but there is no least in this list.  Our use of reason as central to the authority of the life and doctrine of the church has served us well.  It may be particularly meaningful in our current era.  Technological and scientific advancements have revolutionized our understanding of the world around us.  Some perceive this as a threat to their faith, whereas many Episcopalians embrace this.  Our church can reconcile our understanding of scripture and tradition with these advancements more readily.  Perhaps it will help us to connect with those who are struggling in other denominations.  May these aspects continue to guide our faith and our church in the years ahead.

Blessings -
Fr. Paul