October 10, 2023

From the Rector…

The bishop is coming! The bishop is coming! Not quite Paul Revere’s words of warning, but an exciting time of joy and celebration instead. This Sunday Bishop G will be with us at the 10:30am service to preach and celebrate and confirm or receive twenty new Episcopalians to Ascension. That is certainly something worth celebrating!

Confirmation is one of the seven sacramental rites that Episcopalians can choose to participate in. According to the Book of Common Prayer, it is “a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism.” Those who have been confirmed in the Roman Catholic tradition are “received” by the bishop as we recognize the chain of apostolic succession in the Catholic Church. Apostolic succession is a way the church traces its lineage back to the apostle Peter. Confirmation requires a bishop’s hands to preserve this lineage. (Bishop consecrations require the laying on of three bishops’ hands as another method in which apostolic succession is preserved.). Those who have been confirmed in the Episcopal Church already can be “reaffirmed” with a handshake from the bishop. 

The outward and visible sign of Confirmation is the laying on of hands by the bishop. It confers the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It also delineates the status of membership in the church. Though we are all members in the body of Christ, only those who have been confirmed or received are members in the Episcopal Church. That membership status governs things like leadership on the vestry or leadership in worship through service on the altar party—vergers, lay eucharistic ministers, etc. To be a “voting” member of Ascension, one would need be either confirmed/received and/or have moved their letter from another Episcopal church to CoA.

Confirmation recognizes not only a profession of a mature faith, it also distinctly says, “I want to belong here…in this place…at this church. I want to be a part of this particular body of Christ.” Confirmation is a sacrament about belonging—belonging to CoA, belonging to The Episcopal Church, belonging to the Anglican Communion, belonging to the Christian faith, belonging to Christ. Not only will those being confirmed/received/reaffirmed renew the promises of their baptismal vows, so will everyone who witnesses that act. What is more, all of us who witness those vows being made will make a promise to “do all in our power to support these persons in their life with Christ.” (BCP 416) It’s a BIG deal. One that we should not enter into lightly or halfheartedly as we are making that promise to the candidates and to God. We are actively engaging in their belonging.

Belonging is a powerful reason for being a Christian. Jesus tells us again and again that this is all about love—it’s all about relationships. Belonging is a reminder that relationship are never easy but they are always a choice. We get to make that choice when we are confirmed in a public way. We also get to follow through with that choice by being part of the belonging even when we aren’t getting our way or we would prefer things went in a different direction. Confirmation reminds us that to be Christian does not mean to be in agreement—it means to be in a relationship. 

The bishop lays hands on us because this is her church and we are mere stewards of it. We will continue to be faithful in the building up of the kingdom through prayerful work and in holy ways. And we get to celebrate that work as we invite even more people to partner with us through the sacrament of Confirmation. I hope you will be a part of that celebration this Sunday at 10:30am and for the bishop’s and confirmands’ reception afterwards in Ascension Hall.

Light and Life,