When we go online to buy something it is always reassuring to receive an email to say “order confirmed!” We can feel more confident that our purchase has been successful, though there is still the delivery to negotiate and it might be that the wrong goods are sent or the promised “thing” is just not as good as we had hoped.
Many of those reading this newsletter will have been “confirmed” by a bishop, maybe many years ago. Some were confirmed rather as a job-lot when at school or from church – it was the done thing to do; Some will have bravely come forward for confirmation as individuals, wanting to make more certain their relationship with God, maybe as a teenager, maybe a student, maybe later in life. I was confirmed at 14 with a group from school; it was important to me, I did believe the Gospel, and it felt right and I would then be able to receive Communion and have a fuller part in the service, not left out when others went forward to Communion. Since then my faith has not really changed (as in what I believe), but I have to say there have been times when I have more actively tried to live out my faith, and times when I have not wanted to seek God at all. Thankfully confirmation is not me confirming my faith or commitment, but the bishop prays that God would “confirm his servant, .., with his Holy Spirit. To bend the image a bit, God puts a Special Delivery stamp on us; it is not us being called to try harder for God.
On November 20th the Bishop of Bolton will be confirming those who have asked for confirmation at our Team Service. If you have not been confirmed, maybe this year would be a good year to explore what this rite means, and more importantly what it might mean for you. It may be at any stage in life: For me it was over 45 years ago, but I have prepared a couple in their late 70s for confirmation. For some faith comes at a crisis point and involves a big and even dramatic change and encounter, but for others the faith journey is a bit vague, a bit twisty, maybe there doesn’t seem to be a real path, but somehow we know God is calling us on .. For some faith is primarily an experience, a sense of the presence of God, for others it is a recognition that the world was made by God, that in Jesus we see the fulness of God, and that the Resurrection makes all the difference to how we see life. God’s promises are true and trustworthy; for some worship in church and ritual provides us with a stability when life seems to be like shifting sand; for others God’s Spirit nudges and prompts; for others we sense the truth of God when engaged in social justice, wanting to make a difference because we know this is what the Kingdom of God is about – faith in action!
Confirmation is a step we can take – it is a commitment on our part, a public decision to align ourselves with God and God’s people – we kneel before the bishop as we seek God’s Spirit; but it is also God’s confirmation to us – a reminder that we are made by God, loved by God, redeemed by God (postage paid!), and we have a Special Delivery notice on us, with “order confirmed”, but this time we can trust the delivery service – God will bring us to eternal life; God will keep us in eternal life – both are true. We can know God now and feel secure in God now, but the fullness of the promises is found in God’s time.
If you have not been confirmed why not ask your minister about it and we will be running some sessions for us to talk about faith and discuss faith and you would be most welcome to join us – even if at the end you may decide that confirmation is not (yet) for you. There will also be groups for youngsters so they can discuss and learn and journey together.
45 + years on and the journey has gone all over the place (literally) and I may have been all over the place too, but God is faithful, God is merciful, God is patient, and I know my ultimate destination is secure, and I know that God will not drop me on the way.