by Edward L. Lee, Jr.
As a retired bishop (Western Michigan) who is an assisting bishop in the diocese where I now reside (Pennsylvania) I make Sunday parish visitations twice a month on behalf of the bishop of the diocese. This means I have the privilege and pleasure of presiding and preaching at services that usually include baptisms and confirmations. When this occurs, my episcopal heart is deeply gladdened. The opportunity to explore and illustrate the ministry in daily life that is everyone’s by virtue of their baptism is a task to be treasured.
In some parishes candidates for confirmation, usually teenagers, are asked to write a letter to the bishop explaining why they want to be confirmed. It should be noted that this comes at the end of at least a year-long program of significant preparation. It’s clear that the parish, priest, and candidates are serious about what it means to be baptized and to be the church’s first and foremost frontline of ministers and ministry in the world.
This past spring I received two sets of letters. None were frivolous or glib. All were conscientious and insightful. Here are some passages that reflect what the confirmands understand to be their baptismal lives and living.
“Confirmation will take me another step further in my faith journey, which will continue the rest of my life. I have a lot to look forward to.”
“I have reached the age where it comes time for me to make my own decisions about my future. My first and most important decision, however, is not deciding on what college I want to go to. Rather, it’s the decision to affirm my Christian faith.”
“I approach confirmation in a certain mindset. I will be moving forward knowing that this is my decision and now my responsibility to continue in my faith journey. Most of all I remember this: Baptism is having someone else devote you to God, and confirmation is you devoting yourself to God.”
“… when you get confirmed you get to feel you are more connected to God. Since you get confirmed you feel God is more a part of your life. It is the adult affirmation of the baptismal vows.”
“I want to be confirmed because I am ready to take responsibility at church like I do at home and at school. The activities I like to take part in are help with the homeless, animals, and veterans.”
These are samples of other letters just like them that I received. These young Christians are “getting it.” They are getting to know and realize what it means to be baptized, to be a minister, to be a disciple!