By Megan-Drew Benfield
This spring marks my second year co-teaching the Youth Confirmation Class here at St. John’s. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on our class, my own Confirmation experience, and the rite of Confirmation in the wider Church. I’ve been remembering small details of my own experience: my sponsor Ruth, being confirmed by the interim Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia (the Rt. Rev. Heath Light!), even the dress I wore. But when I try to remember my classes leading up to the big day, I can’t remember much—not even who taught them or where our classes took place. This phenomenon is often spoken about in Christian Education circles: how can we make this content more engaging? More importantly, how can Confirmation become a springboard for a deeper life of faith? Many have tried to answer this question, and when Rev. Marisa and I were asked to co-teach last year’s class, we wrestled with the same thoughts. In the Book of Common Prayer, Confirmation is described as a “mature public affirmation of [a person’s] faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism” and should take place when that person is ready and “has been duly prepared.” If Confirmation is the foundation for a mature faith, what builds that sure foundation? We want to prepare the youth for their life as adults within the Church and give them the tools and knowledge necessary to navigate that, both as individuals and as members of a community of faith. To that end, our Youth Confirmation classes are based on a series of questions, including questions like “Where do we come from?” and “Who are we as Christians?”. Every week, our youth gather to discuss, and their teachers and mentors work to provide additional context, both from their personal experiences and through historical background. Our first week together, we tackled arguably the biggest question of the entire class: Who is God? Before class, we asked that each Confirmand consider the statement “God is _______” and determine three different ways to fill that in. Why did they choose these particular statements, and where did they learn them? The word cloud above represents the answers from our 2022 and 2023 Youth Confirmation Classes, which are as varied and unique as the Confirmands themselves. I invite you to engage in the same exercise and reflect on your own answers. How would you fill in the blank, and why? How we answer this question, and the other questions of our faith, matters. As people seeking to live out God’s call to us in the world, who we perceive God to be in our lives affects how we relate to our church, our faith, and our neighbors. As Rev. David shared in his sermon on April 16th about “Doubting” Thomas, “In my experience, we all have doubts. We all have struggles and we all wrestle with believing in God and understanding what God’s ways mean for our lives. I know I do, and we shouldn’t be afraid to express them. But I know that’s easier said than done.” Having questions or doubts can feel insurmountable to a life of faith. However, engaging with those questions or doubts is a hallmark of a maturing faith. Our hope is that, through this class, our Confirmands begin to explore their faith, and the questions and doubts that come up, as an opportunity to know themselves and God more deeply.