Youth Confirmation Guidelines
The Diocese of Connecticut believes that individuals who are presented for Confirmation should be 16 years or older (10th or 11th grade). Since Confirmation is making a “mature” commitment to one’s faith, we believe these age guidelines will support young people in making decisions that can have a life-long impact. Candidates must be active members of the congregation for at least one year prior to beginning preparation instruction, since affirmation of one’s Baptism is rooted in living in community.
Due to the comprehensive and encompassing content in which the Diocese of Connecticut desires for preparation of its Candidates for Confirmation, it is recommended that two years be dedicated to Confirmation instruction. At a minimum, instruction should take place over the course of one academic year (September - May). In recent years we have experienced more prepared candidates for Confirmation from those parishes that have been more intentional about taking the time, energy and integrity in providing instruction and formation programs for adolescents.
To fulfill this requirement, St. James’ has a 3 year “Preconfirmation” class which meets every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 8 PM in the Youth Room. The year before the candidate is to be Confirmed, they will receive the instruction from one of the clergy to prepare them. The course of study will include:
The goal of studying scripture in a Confirmation program is to insure candidates have an understanding of our Salvation History so that he/she can articulate “who they are” and “whose they are.” The ability to reflect on The Story in relationship to Our Story and My Story is an important component in making a mature affirmation of one’s Baptismal Covenant. Understanding the key themes, characters and stories of the Old and New Testaments helps us understand how God is in relationship with Creation and how we are called to build upon that relationship with God, through Jesus Christ and each other. The Great Vigil of Easter is an expression of our faith journey as a people of God; the retelling of the Passover Story every year makes it Our Story. Being intentional in studying the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in a faith community allows us to answer the questions, “Who do you say that I am?” or “Who is Jesus in your life?” This is a vital question that one who comes before the bishop for Confirmation, Reception or Re-Affirmation should be able to answer.
The Book of Common Prayer:
In order to be articulate who we are as Episcopalians, candidates should be familiar and have experienced The Book of Common Prayer (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Eucharist, Baptism, etc.) Our Creeds are statements of our beliefs, and thus should be explored and discussed. An Outline of the Faith (The Catechism) in the prayer book and our Baptismal Covenant should be key elements of a preparation program.
Service & The Life of the Baptized:
Putting faith into practice and connecting the Gospel to our daily life is how we live out our Baptismal Covenant in the world. To do this, besides being committed to the Gospel, we need to recognize the spiritual gifts that have been given to us. Exploring those gifts and talents and how they can be used in the day-to-day life of a Christian in the world should be part of Confirmation preparation. An individual can share these through ministry in a congregation AND in the community. Most high schools have service components and requirements for graduation. Confirmation preparation can support that service, faithfully reflecting on what has been observed, experienced and learned. Service is not to be seen as “doing for someone” but as “being in relationship” with another for a common purpose, respecting the dignity of all of God’s creation. The life of the Baptized is centered on being Christ’s disciple in the world. Discipleship lies in our personal experience, understanding and relationship to God, in Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. Discipleship lies in our small intimate relationships with family and friends, also in the larger arena of our interaction with the world: in school and places of work, with peers, colleagues and co-workers, and in our towns and cities.
The Church’s mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We do this as we pray, worship, proclaim the Gospel and promote justice, peace and love. Mission is an essential component of our life as we connect the teachings of the Church with who we are as individuals. Being able to answer such questions as, “How are you Christ in the World?” “What is your rule of life?’ and “What have you done on a daily basis as a disciple of Christ?” is part of re-affirming one’s Baptismal promises. How we offer opportunities for prayer and work is paramount during a time of formation and preparation. Mission trips and/or experiences help the individual know Jesus Christ in a new way. Why do young people have to go outside the parish (even their own town, state or country) in order for this to occur? As one youth stated, “I needed to be stretched and taken out of my comfort zone.” We need to be people who fully rely on God on a day-to-day basis - being with those whose only hope is God helps us take the risk of trusting the way they must trust. The moment our dependence shifts from the self to God, the Gospel becomes real. Our culture is one in which the theology of glory prevails, and thus the theology of the cross is difficult to access. How does the candidate connect with Christ crucified? Youth mission trips put us in touch with the distinction between faith as “trust in God” and faith as “assent to doctrinal positions.” Curricula and learning what it means to be an Episcopalian can often be separated from experiencing the power of the living God. Short-term mission trips stimulate discernment and encourage the recognition of one’s gifts with ministry in the world. Our faith is connected to real life issues and a realization of what people gathered together in God’s name can do. Life-long formation involves equipping ourselves for mission. This occurs through sermons, being in community and experiencing God incarnationally in others. It is an opportunity for mutual spiritual enrichment. Through mission we can make two-way connections in our life-faith journey, respecting the shared wisdom and faithfulness of all God’s people.
Mission & Community:
Prayer includes both individual and common prayer, and both are staples of a lively spirituality. There should be opportunities to learn and experience different kinds of prayer. Prayer is the common thread that should be woven into all aspects of Confirmation preparation.
A balance of “doing” and “being” is at the heart of baptismal living. The five promises at the end of the covenant are about how we live our faith in everyday life. By living according to those standards we become Christ’s people in the world. Being able to reflect theologically on the events of our lives and find God in them assist in putting faith into our practice. Participation in the sacramental life of the faith community, attentiveness to scripture and prayer, and having a sense of the presence of Jesus keeps us mission-focused. Diversity and anti-racism training, as well as stewardship education should be included. Being in community, we as Episcopalians have a connection with others that goes beyond our individual parishes. Each congregation needs to develop a program that both includes the elements listed above and meets the needs of its own community. To assist in the integration of faith into daily practice, the Task Force on Confirmation in CT suggests each candidate answer the following questions (adapted from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts’ guidelines) toward the end of the preparation process.
Faith & Practice:
1. What have you learned from your preparation that has been most important to you?
2. Who is Jesus in your life? How would you respond to His question, “Who do you say that I am?”
3. Why do you want to want to confirm your baptismal vows?
4. How do you plan to live as a mature and faithful Christian in the Church and in the world after you are Confirmed?
Being an Episcopalian involves understanding that we find authority for our lives in Scripture, Tradition and Reason. The ministries of the laity and clergy (bishops, priests, deacons) should be explored, as well as parish, diocesan and national governance. Representatives duly elected by the people hold decision making authority in the Episcopal Church. Being conscious of what it means to be an Episcopalian in today’s world, to include the diocese, the entire Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion is a foundational issue to be discussed throughout a program of preparation.
"The Parish of Saint James' ministers to all people in the name of Jesus Christ"
25 West Street Danbury, CT 06810 Phone (203)748-3561 Fax (203)744-6350