The sacramental rite of Confirmation is an important occasion in the life of a Christian, in which she accepts the vows of her Baptism for herself and receives the laying on of hands by a Bishop of the Church. Confirmation should be a mature decision made by someone old enough to understand what is being asked, and freely willing in their own right to commit to its responsibilities. For that reason, at St. Peter’s the rite is offered to older teen-agers and adults.
Historically, the rite was offered to entire classes of children when they reached 6th or 8th grade. In many cases, it has become something of an “exit rite”, whether deliberately or not. It is sometimes represented as “just ‘get done’ and you won’t have to go to church anymore.” That, of course, is the very opposite of what Confirmation is about. Confirmation is a commencement of one’s adult spiritual journey, not the end of one’s childhood education; it is best celebrated when one is ready.
Mature teen-agers and young adults make much better confirmands than younger children. They are ready to engage in preparation and to do what every good Episcopalian should do — question everything and truly wrestle with their faith. The Rector is happy to work with teens that come forward during their time with the St. Peter’s Youth (when Confirmation is discussed) and to plan a period of preparation prior to Confirmation.
In the Diocese of Massachusetts, Confirmation is usually done at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. On rare occasions, it may be done at a church within the Deanery. But the rite is no longer performed during Bishops’ visitations. A chief reason is that the Confirmands get a sense of being part of the wider Church, rather than just their local congregation.
For those who are attending the Episcopal Church after having been previously confirmed in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox traditions, and who wish to recognize this part of their journey, the Rite of Reception is offered during the Confirmation service. In it the Bishop recognizes that one has been confirmed already and welcomes the person to the Anglican branch of catholic Christianity. It does not negate, but in fact recognizes a Christian’s previous journey. For those coming from Protestant churches that do not have Bishops, Confirmation is the proper rite, since the laying on of hands has not occurred previously.
If you have questions about either Confirmation or Reception, please speak to our Rector, Manny Faria.