Sunday, May 08, 2011

Confirmation questions - and a liturgy responsive for confirmation

Today was a big day in my daughter's religious education: along with the rest of her confirmation class, she answered a series of questions on the Bible and the Christian faith to show that she has an understanding of what she has been taught. Next week she will be received into the congregation as an adult member.

But every year at confirmation time, I can't help but wonder: Do we ask the right questions of our youth? They have demonstrated that they know the Bible both in its books and in its main messages. They have shown understanding of the law of God, and about repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life. They have stated their understanding that the most important teaching of the Bible is God's goodness and love. They have shown knowledge of key passages of the Bible that inform the Christian view of the world. They have studied the ancient creeds and how they summarize the Bible. But what would the right confirmation questions be? What would the right "mastery" questions be for understanding, and again what would the right questions be for beginning the walk of adult membership?

Some good material is already covered in the existing confirmation service. The youths who are becoming full adult members are asked, "Do you believe in God the Father?" and respond with the first article of the Nicene Creed. They are asked again about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, responding with the second and third articles of the creed. They are asked to consciously and deliberately reject evil, to pledge to follow the Christian faith, to pledge to participate in a congregation of believers throughout their lives. It's plain that careful thought has been given to how they are received as adults into the congregation.

Still, I like the orders of worship that follow Scripture closely. So if some key questions in Scripture had been reworked into a liturgy, they might go like this:

Q: Tell me today: whom will you serve?
A: As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Q: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
A. To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Q: Jesus asks, who do you say that I am?
A: You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Q. What is the reason for your hope?
A. Christ is risen from the dead.

As with many of my liturgy projects, this is a beginning. It's more to consider possible directions than a finished piece, at this point.


Sue said...

I was confirmed into the Lutheran church.

I was easily the top pupil in my confirmation/catechism class.
That is I was capable of given the "correct" answers.

Looking back it was all a tragic farce.

Theoretically confirmation should be an initiation into the adult culture of the church. It should have required profound testing in every area of ones life, and not just the ability to give the "correct" verbal answers.

Profound and real life-and-death testing especially in the case of young men as used to occur in tribal societies.

When they were truly required to put aside childish and adolescent things, and thus submit themselves to the continuous process of growing into full adult maturity. Either in the men's culture, or the women's culture.

No such testing process ever occurred with either me or my brothers.Or anyone that I knew for that matter.

Weekend Fisher said...

Interesting thoughts.

Some of that, I think, is that with all the theological arguments going on, we've persuaded ourselves (or the leadership has structured it to seem) that the most important thing is to take the right side in all the disagreements. "Faith" becomes an intellectual thing. Which on paper we know better, but ...

And the other half is: It's so much easier to test what someone knows than to test other things. If someone had a temptation to gossip dangled in front of them, is it pass or fail whether they reject that chance?

And the issue of Jesus' mercy: is there a required answer to anything other than Jesus' call, "Follow me"?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Romans 6:1-2 would also work here, I think.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey, thanks for the contribution to the project.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF