“Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.” – Book of Common Prayer, p. 860
In the early days of the Church all new Christians were baptized by a bishop in their local community. But as the Church grew, bishops began to delegate baptism to local priests, visiting these communities once a year to “confirm” the baptisms that had taken place. In those early days, Confirmation was intended as a sacrament by which a bishop formally welcomed new Christians into the fellowship of the Church by the laying on of hands. As the baptism of infants became more commonplace in the Church, Confirmation also became an opportunity by which those baptized at an early age made a mature and public affirmation of their faith.
Today, Confirmation serves both of these roles. It is a sacrament in which we believe the Holy Spirit provides strength for continued growth in our discipleship. And it is a sacrament in which we formally welcome new members into the fellowship of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. This happens through the laying on of hands by a bishop, who is the symbol of unity and continuity in the Church.
At St. Peter’s, Confirmation takes place once a year when our bishop visits the parish. In addition to the youth who are preparing for Confirmation, we have many adults who have been baptized at an earlier moment in their lives but have not received this sacrament and now wish to do so. It is also an opportunity for what we call Reception, in which those who have been confirmed in another denomination are “received” into the Episcopal Church by the laying on of hands by our bishop. Many have also taken this opportunity to “reaffirm” their faith in the presence of the bishop. Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation are three rewarding opportunities available during the bishop’s visit this October.
The Becoming Episcopalian course, beginning this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the Library, is an annual class for adults preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, for Reception, or for Reaffirmation. It is also a great opportunity to learn more about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition. I hope those interested will join us for this annual formation opportunity. Perhaps you can’t join us but wish to simply learn more on your own. Our guide for the course is a new book by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe, Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs and Practices. You can acquire a copy through the course or online.
Whether you are able to join us for the Becoming Episcopalian course, or simply wish to join us in study on your own, I hope you will pray for those preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, for those preparing to Reaffirm their faith, for those preparing for Reception into the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Priest-in-Charge