Catechesis, Confirmation, and Commitment

Last week our town hosted the annual Bix Beiderbeck Jazz Festival along the Mississippi River with New Orleans and River-style bands from all over the country. A number of churches (not the Episcopal Church, of course!) observed the festival by having “jazz masses” of one kind or another, and so my wife and I attended a large Lutheran to check one out.

The place was packed for the 8:45 as well as 10 a.m. services. The eucharistic liturgy was straight out of the new Lutheran Book of Worship with the mass settings and hymns all done in a jazzy manner led by a fine group  from Chicago (who, by the way, were obviously believers as well as musicians!).  We’ve actually visited this church before and have commented before (jazz or no jazz) that “these folks actually seem to enjoy being there on Sunday mornings and worshipping together!”

This time my wife observed, “It would be hard to convince me that a lot of their obvious commitment and joy doesn’t come from their early formation — and that two-year confirmation instruction Lutherans are so famous for.”  I’ve thought about that for several days and think there’s a lot of truth there.

And it’s not only the confirmation instruction! Lutherans typically pay attention to Christian education, to children’s sermons and participation in the liturgy, work hard at campus ministry, and — of course — at least here in the Midwest, have a marvelous network of Lutheran colleges as well. You might call it “cradle to grave catechesis.”

Episcopalians often describe confirmation as “a sacrament looking for a theology.” Maybe so, but providing solid Christian formation for young people entering, or living through, adolescence is absolutely essential. Maybe more widespread use of things like the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,” “Godly Play,” “Journey to Adulthood,” “Happening” and other such programs will turn things around for younger Episcopalians.

I guarantee you, “business as usual,” with six week (if that) confirmation classes will not!    

4 Responses to “Catechesis, Confirmation, and Commitment”

  1. K. Ward Says:

    Hi Bishop, Karen W, here.
    You post was interesting for me for many reasons …

    We have added our first ‘adult confirmation’ gatherings for the Episcopal tradition and we have seven twenty somethings being confirmed by our Bishop on Aug 11th and four more in the next group coming already. (We had six last year, which was our first year for doing confirmations with the Bishop).

    We started with this year with six weeks of focued preparation for our ‘Trailblazers’
    All are new to TEC and are also aspirants.
    We outline sessions on our trail blog http://submerge.typepad.com/trailblazers

    Also we will begin Godly Play time for kids within our main Saturday 5pm Eucharist then in September and later morph it out into a new intergenerational Godly play based liturgy for Sunday morning or afternoon.

    And we do a shortened catechumenal process with our baptismal candidates called ‘Ad Fontes.’

    We have found as an ’emerging’ mission that we are ‘catechetical by nature’/ in our being, always doing action and reflection as a mode of life, constantly (as did Jesus with the disciples, always doing things then stopping to talk about them and pray, on the road…) so that is why we have shorter courses, and a focus is on faith as a way of life (aided by our COTA Rule of Life) to forms us 24/7.

    We have also found that when you combine the strength areas of Lutherans and Anglican, it can be pretty amazing.

    Anyway, ‘m glad I found your blog.
    I’m at http://www.submergence.org
    and i hope you might the new ‘Anglimergent’ group on Facebook !
    as we try to engage members of various Anglican tribes in reconciling conversations.

    Grace and peace,

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Sounds creative and great, Karen. I’m sure with your energy and commitment, and that of your community, focused attention will continue to be given to this kind of formation. Too many times, in my experience, a generic commitment to ‘everything we do is formation and catechesis’ means that nothing very specific ever gets done! As I say, I’m confident this won’t be the case for COTA but I’ve seen it too often in Episcopal churches.

  3. K. Ward Says:

    We will keep this in mind … and our Lutheran influence and tradition of the importance of formation/catechesis may help us.

    We are finding that ‘action and reflection’ can work well when it is ‘intentional.’ That is the key, so deep participation (our Hooker vibe) in church and mission happens as this participation is intentionally informed by our Big Rule (baptismal covenant) and our small rule (the COTA rule) and fed and catechized by the Spirit via weekly liturgy and ongoing discernment applying scripture, tradition and reason to Christian praxis.

    A book I quote often to our Apostles on this is Henry Nouwen’s ‘Life of the Beloved’ with it’s great euharistic euchology of church as taken, blessed, broken and poured out. f
    And going further, we resonate with Alexander Schmemann ‘s book ‘For the the Life of the World.’ So we are also drawing on Eastern gifts that are spot on in helping cultivate an awareness that life and ministry is formed as we act and then reflect on our day to day living in Christ as a form of participation in God’s Divine life.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    Hey, you can’t top Hooker, Nouwen, and Schmemann!

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