Reflecting on Confirmation
May 17, 2022 / By Rev. Alison Schmeid, pastor of Lansing United Methodist Church
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the Advocate 2022 Issue I, which focused on children and youth in UNY.
Back in the last century, I loved confirmation class because it met in a relaxed environment. Our pastor wore blue jeans and sat in a rocking chair and talked with us as if we were thinking adults, not children. Today, a pastor in blue jeans is not an anomaly, and worship is much less structured.
More than a relaxed environment, it is important to find ways to convey to students that confirmation is a special time, that they are valued as independent thinkers, and that Christ’s invitation is real, personal, urgent, life-changing, and the best decision they will ever make.
In order to cling tightly to and stand strong in faith, we must know what this faith is. Confirmation class is one tool for helping young people grow in faith and understanding. At Lansing UMC, confirmation class is open to students eighth grade and up and meets for an hour-and-a half on 14 Sunday evenings. We recognize and commission confirmands before the congregation in worship at the start of the class and pray for them in Sunday worship each week until the day the confirmation ritual is offered.
In addition to classroom learning, the confirmation process includes mentors, a mission project, a retreat, and visits to other places of worship. The ritual of confirmation takes place on Pentecost, in the Sunday worship service.
Below, Lansing’s confirmation class leaders Christa Salmon and Dianne Walter express how confirmation class is a deep, spiritual experience for the entire congregation.
For an example of our latest confirmation service, visit: https://bit.ly/Lansingconfirmation2021
or scan the QR code with your mobile device; you will be inspired!
The confirmation process at Lansing United Methodist Church
By Christa Salmon and Dianne Walter, Confirmation leaders at Lansing United Methodist Church
When I was 13, I remember meeting with the Rev. B. J. Norrix in his little office at Christ Community United Methodist Church in Syracuse. There were four of us and we met each week to read the Book of Luke. During this time, I remember deepening my connection with God, my church, my pastor, and my friends. Confirmation has always meant connection to me.
About 17 years ago, my mother-in-law, Dianne Walter, and I joined a Beth Moore Bible study called Believing God. Through this study, God inspired Dianne and me in so many ways, but one was to bring what we were learning to our young people. Dianne and I had participated in confirmation at Lansing United Methodist Church (LUMC) for a couple of years and were active in youth ministry. We wanted our young people and their families to feel that connection to their peers, other families, their church, and most importantly to Christ. With the Rev. Bill Gottshalk-Fielding’s help, we developed a new confirmation journey.
Today, confirmation at LUMC is about young people becoming members of the Body of Christ, thoughtfully setting their intention to seek God, and to follow Jesus.
This is a journey led by the Holy Spirit. Each young person walks the path with supportive witnesses surrounding them: their parents, Pastor Alison Schmied, Dianne, and me, as well as other adult members of LUMC and youth. All of us testify to God’s presence and action in our lives.
By connecting youth with so many other believers, they can feel God's love and presence through all of us. Our God is a God of relationships and confirmation is a chance to build relationships with God and others within His Church. We often celebrate confirmation on Pentecost Sunday, which is a testament to all the work the Holy Spirit is doing within these young people’s lives and within our church and community.
Confirmation begins with a seven-week study of the Book of Luke. Confirmands and their parents study the Bible together and meet weekly with the confirmation team to learn more about who Jesus is. I love this part of confirmation because we ask questions, discuss God’s Word, and we share how we experience God in our lives. We also have blindfolded obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and lots of laughter!
When my own daughter went through confirmation a few years ago, I realized what a truly precious opportunity this was to discuss spiritual matters. So often, we lack the confidence or chance to have those important conversations about our faith with our children. During confirmation, we prayed for one another and shared our faith stories.
Then, the second phase of the journey begins. Confirmands travel the next portion of confirmation with their mentors, and the confirmation team. The mentor is a God appointed member of LUMC who helps the confirmand understand what it means to commit their life to Christ. I like to think of this time as when confirmands “get to look over the shoulder of another Christian” to see what it’s like. A mentor is humble and open and willing to grow in their relationship with Christ too. Often mentors feel a rejuvenation of their faith as well.
Throughout the entire confirmation journey, the confirmand is being faithfully remembered in prayer by their prayer partners. Each confirmand has an adult prayer partner and sometimes a youth prayer partner. These youth are former confirmands who have the chance to return the blessing of prayer that they received during their confirmation journey.
Prayer partners are reminders for our confirmands, and for all of us, of the incredible importance of prayer in our faith walk. Prayer partners commit to remembering our youth by name to God in prayer daily. Wouldn’t we all like to think that there is someone special in our church body who is saying our name daily in the presence of God? This is truly special!
During an average year, we have about four young people participate. With parents, mentors, prayer partners and our confirmation team; this could mean 30-40 people are participating. This is not to mention the Bible study groups and the whole congregation praying for these young people.
As an eye-opener in our class, we often use a ball of red yarn to create a web as each of us says the name of someone we appreciate seeing at church. When I sit in church on Sunday, I often envision this web of string invisibly connecting each of us in the pews to one another.
Confirmation unites our church family and creates new multi-generational connections. At one point, a friend said, “When confirmation is taking place, it’s the most important thing happening at LUMC.” I don’t know if that is strictly true but I like to think so. Every year, I am awed by how the Holy Spirit brings all of us together, showing us God’s unfathomable love and care for us, renewing our connection with one another and God through the miracle of confirmation.