Confirmation marks the point in the Christian journey at which candidates make a public declaration of faith for themselves and they promise to live a life of committed discipleship. This declaration is confirmed through prayer and the laying on of hands by the confirming minister or bishop. The Church also asks God to give you power through the Holy Spirit to enable you to live in the way of Jesus.
Confirmation is also the opportunity for candidates from other denominational backgrounds to make a public declaration of their faith and to affirm their membership of their local church.
What are you promising?
When you were baptised, your parents and godparents were asked to declare publicly that they believed in God and that they would bring you up to follow Jesus. At confirmation you make this decision and this promise for yourself. Confirmation is your opportunity to declare publicly that you believe in God and are a disciple of Jesus Christ – it is this public declaration of faith that the bishop or confirming minister will confirm.
The decision and promise made by you will be made in front of the church congregation and the local Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you as you make and keep these promises.
What happens at Confirmation?
The confirmation is normally led by the bishop or a confirming minister.
There will be a rehearsal on the Sunday the week before the confirmation service so that you understand everything that happens in the service. Don’t worry, you will know where to sit and when you need to move. Some parts of the service will be for the whole congregation to join in; some will be for just you and the other confirmation candidates to say. All of this will be in the service booklet.
Most of the confirmation service will normally take place at the front of the church, but for the renewal of baptism promises, candidates may be asked to gather around the font.
When it comes to the actual confirmation, the confirming minister or bishop will speak to every candidate by name saying:
(name), God has called you by name and made you his own.
He then lays his hand of the head of each saying:
Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit.
At the point of confirmation the confirming minister or bishop may make the sign of the cross on your forehead with oil. This is an outward sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. It is like an invisible badge to show that by faith Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.
If you would like to find out more about the service you can read the full text of the Common Worship service.
The role of sponsors
At Baptism, Godparents stood alongside your parents as they declared their faith and promised to raise you as a disciple of Christ. At confirmation there is the opportunity to have a sponsor to stand with you as a symbol of their journeying with you in faith. Usually this is someone who has previously been confirmed. It may be one of the people who has prepared you for confirmation or it may be anyone you respect in the faith such as a good friend, a relative, or a Godparent.
Who can be confirmed?
There are very few rules about who may be confirmed in the Church of England, however, given the nature of the decision and the promise involved in confirmation there are some principles that can use to give us guidance in deciding whether a person is a suitable candidate for confirmation.
Have they been baptised? As confirmation is an affirmation of the promises made by the parents and godparents in baptism then candidates do need to have been baptised before they are confirmed. This requirement does not stop anyone from enquiring about confirmation as baptism can be arranged in the weeks prior to the confirmation, or even, if necessary, as part of the confirmation service itself. If you haven’t been baptised then please mention this when you enquire about confirmation.
Are they committed Christians? Candidates will declare publicly their faith in Jesus Christ and their desire to follow him as one of his disciples. In order to do this we would normally expect someone to already be a regular member of their local church when they enquire about confirmation.
Are they mature enough to make the promises? There is no age rule in the Church of England, however, their is an understanding that candidates need to be mature enough to understand and make the decision and the promise involved in confirmation. As a rule-of-thumb we say that younger candidates ought to be at least teenagers before they enquire about baptism, and in the case of teenagers we usually ask for a reference from the candidates minister or youth leader to help us to assess whether a young person is ready to make the promise. It is obviously better to wait until the candidate is ready to make such a serious commitment rather than do it when the person is too young.
Do they want to be confirmed? Many candidates, especially but not exclusively younger candidates, enquire about confirmation not because they want to be confirmed but because there is an expectation that they will be. Given the serious nature of the decision and promise that confirmation involves all candidates will be asked to write a short statement of their faith, including why they want to be confirmed at this particular time.
Confirmation preparation will look at what a Christian believes and what it means to be a Christian in the world today. Candidates will then have an individual appointment to discuss their faith.
Confirmation preparation for teenagers is typically 8 sessions:
1) Why Bother
2) Why Jesus Matters
3) Why Jesus Came
4) Why Jesus Died
5) Why Jesus Lives
6) Why God Accepts Us
7) Why We Should Believe
There will typically be a rehearsal before the actual service at the Church.