One of the most moving and beautiful moments in the life of a congregation is when a child is held in the arms of a minister and baptized. At that moment we invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit and ask for God’s blessing to be upon the child and the parents. The child is declared to belong to the worldwide Church and from that instant is identified with the people of God.
Baptism is also, however, a profound event for the community of faith. The Church promises not only to receive the children being baptized, but also commits to supporting the parents in their walk with God. This commitment manifests itself in a life-long journey of faith that is embarked upon by the entire community.
"Come to the edge,” he said. “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded. “Come to the edge,” he said. “We can’t, We will fall!” they responded. “Come to the edge,” he said. And so they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.” Guillaume Apollinaire
Teaching faith is a sacred, tricky business. Faith is not being able to recite books of the Bible, or memory verses or even recounting each week’s sermons. While there is much to be gained from these achievements, they do not automatically indicate faith. Nurturing faith is something that this faith community pledges to do for our baptized children.
It is a shared responsibility that we participate in through teaching Sunday School, stooping down to tie our children’s shoes, ushering them to their seats with a smile, joyfully singing next to our children in worship, sharing our own stories of faith with them, pouring tea at Coffee Hour as they pretend to be in a fancy tea party, taking them aside and telling them how much we admire them. We, as the church, in small ways and large ways, through our loyalty, friendship, support and smiles live out our faith before our children.
And then in Grade 8, our students join Confirmation Class. Confirmation is a class, but it is more than a class. It is a class in that it is didactic; the students learn about God, the Bible, Church, Christian practices and get to serve together, but it is not a class in that acquiring knowledge is not the primary objective. Students acquiring a faith of their own is the objective of Confirmation Class. Faith is a response to an encounter with truth. German philosopher, Martin Heidegger sees truth as relational. It is not an assertion of facts, but a disclosure, a revealing that can only be experienced when we are open to mystery.
Confirmation is a time to give students the opportunity to be open to mystery. During this time, it is our prayer that truth discloses itself to them, and that the students respond to this truth of God’s love with a faith of their own. Confirmation is a kicking them out of the nest of their parents’ faith as well as their churches’ faith. It is leading them to the edge of their fear, insecurities, worries, pain and doubt and inviting them to offer these to God. It is inviting them to jump off the cliff, to take a leap of faith with their own two legs, to feel what it means to let go and to surrender, so that that they will fly.