Confirmation Experience Model
Luke just turned thirteen, and the church with whom I worship celebrated this passage. No longer is Luke merely child, he is an emerging adult in our emerging church. Just five years ago, Covenant Community Church was given birth in two sermons, by two people with one vision, a church that is, not a church that you go to. Put simply, church is made up of people on a journey. You know these churches. Yours may even be one! I hope so.
To mark Luke’s passage we gathered for a ritual and prayer together as a faith community. We did not gather in a building, but secretly in a circle at the foot of a steep hill at the end of a trail through a forest on a cold November day in Louisville’s Cherokee Park. When Luke’s father brought him to the trailhead, Luke did not know what was in store. There they met his mother holding a lit candle, she shared with him that this ritual was to mark a new stage in life for him. The path that stood before them represented his journey through life. Along it, she explained, he would be invited to remember those who had formed him and helped make him who he is today.
Two of the first people he met were his twin brothers, Zeke and Eli. There he remembered how families, including siblings, shape a person. At that point on the path his mother, Tricia opened a letter from the pastor who baptized each of the three boys. Now stricken with cancer and living in Nashville, this pastor wrote how those who gathered at his baptism celebrated him as a gift of God, called by God, loved by God, and to be loved by all of God’s children. As they proceeded up the trail Luke met again his preschool teacher, a best friend from kindergarten, his third grade teacher, friends who had moved out of town who drove three hours to come to this ritual, his drum instructor, extended family, and his friends and their family who introduced him and his whole family to Covenant Community.
The light grew as each person or group held another candle and lit the path for Luke as they moved forward together. Each shared how they tried to awaken his talents, gifts, and loves of certain things in his life, things like writing, reading, music, God and even more. Finally, they all emerged from the trail where Covenant Community, standing in a circle of lit candles, welcomed him. Words of encouragement were read by various members of the community, prayers were prayed for Luke, and then he was invited to lead us up the hill to a time of celebration. As it was explained and he was invited to remember, his choices and his leadership impact us and others. I spoke with Tricia today. She talked about the outpouring of love that both Luke and their family felt. Hers were words of gratitude, awe, and joy. Their family debriefed the experience afterwards and talked with Luke about how now he has many choices in his future about who and how he will be formed as a person and a person of faith.
For me this ritual provides a profound lens to a practice for the welcoming of a child into our life, a rite for the honoring of a person’s call, a remembrance for the role of a community that is on a journey of faith. On a basic level, it is a story about how the church forms leaders. I believe theological education does not begin in seminary; it begins much earlier. It begins when people are invited to recognize their call by God grounded in their baptism. That call is nurtured by those who surround them daily. It is a process of discernment that the church does as it lives out baptismal vows. It is led by creative leaders like Jud Hendrix and Liz Kaznak, organizing pastors of Covenant Community and graduates of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Lee Hinson-Hasty (Third week in Advent, 2007 – Louisville, KY)