Today I had the incredible privilege of accompanying four young people as they professed their faith in an Affirmation of Baptism and became confirmed members of the congregation. As the families and friends of the confirmands gathered with the congregation to share in familiar hymns and liturgy and to celebrate with these young women and men this morning, I couldn’t help but recall my own confirmation day. I remember being fairly terrified as I stood in front of the congregation, desperately trying to remember each line of the Apostle’s Creed, worrying about where I was supposed to stand and which direction I was supposed to be facing and which responses I was supposed to say at which moment. Perhaps it was because I was one of only two students being confirmed that Sunday, but I remember feeling alone and a little exposed as I stood in front of the altar fidgeting in my white confirmation robe asking for God’s help and guidance. However, this morning as I stood with the assembly, watching the confirmands as they each made a public profession of their faith, I realized what I couldn’t see on my own confirmation day. Ten years ago, as I stood facing the pastor and the altar, I couldn’t see the congregation gathered behind me. I couldn’t see my family gathered around me. I didn’t recognize the significance of the entire congregation joining in with me as we said the words of the Apostle’s Creed. In the moment, it felt as though all eyes were on me; everything depended on my ability to articulate my faith. What I missed was the church filled with fellow journeyers who were not just there to celebrate that particular milestone with me but who promised to continue to walk alongside me as sisters and brothers in Christian faith and love.
Confirmation is a celebration of community, a celebration of the beautiful, messy Body of Christ. As I stood up front with sweaty palms and a wavering voice that day, little did I know that day that I was being enveloped by the faith of an entire community of people: A community whose collective faith would be strong enough to hold me up when my own faith was weak, when the questions were too big, when the mystery of it all seemed utterly impossible. A community that not only consisted of the individuals in the pews that Sunday, but a community of saints who came long before me and a community whose songs of prayer and praise will continue to exist long after me. A big, diverse community whose members would continue to accompany me in the midst of life’s most ordinary moments and some of life’s biggest adventures:
- In the coffee hour conversations in the in the basement of my small, rural South Dakota home church
- In the bonding that can only happen while swinging hammers, experimenting with power tools, and sweating under the hot Tennessee sun on youth group mission trips
- In the camp songs sung around the campfire on the shores of Lake Shetek, in the water fights in the dish room, and the jam sessions in the camp vans
- In the late night conversations in the campus ministry office over too many cups of coffee and never ending piles of homework
- In the laughter and tears over happy hour drinks at a favorite bar in Denver and creatively cooked Urban Servant Corps meals largely consisting of expired food and bagels
- In the wading in the waters of the Jordan River and adventures in the Old City of Jerusalem
- In the sharing of bread and wine every Wednesday morning with fellow seminarians
- In the phone calls to friends across the state or across the country that leave me feeling so incredibly loved
I often still find myself feeling as though I am alone before the altar, left to navigate the mystery and complexity of my faith on my own. But the reality is, a community of faith has always been standing behind me, beside me, and before me, to support and to inspire, to celebrate and to mourn, to share in the questions and to boldly proclaim again and again the good news of the resurrection.