The meaning of confirmation
What we now call confirmation was originally part of a wider ceremony of Christian initiation and only became a separate rite when bishops were no longer able to preside at all baptisms.
As a separate rite, confirmation marks the point in the Christian journey at which the participation in the life of Gods people inaugurated at baptism is confirmed by the bishop by the laying on of hands, and in which those who have been baptised affirm for themselves the faith into which they have been baptised and their intention to live a life of responsible and committed discipleship. Through prayer and the laying on of hands by the confirming bishop, the Church also asks God to give them power through the Holy Spirit to enable them to live in this way.
When confirmation is part of a combined rite including adult baptism it has a slightly different significance. In this case, as in the traditional Western service of initiation mentioned above, the confirmation element signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit following on from baptism in water. The biblical model for this is Christs own baptism in which, the gospels tell us, the Spirit descended on Him when He came up out of the water after having been baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33).
2. The different confirmation services in the Church of England.
As in the case of baptism, there are two types of confirmation service in the Church of England, those that follow the confirmation service in The Book of Common Prayer and those that use the pattern of confirmation service contained in Common Worship.
Most confirmation services today follow the Common Worship pattern.
3. The content of the confirmation services
The text of the Confirmation services are available on the Church of England official website.
4. The Age of confirmation
Anyone may be confirmed who has been baptised, who is old enough to answer responsibly for themselves, and who has received appropriate preparation. In the Church of England it has been traditional for people to be confirmed in their early teens, but there is no set age for confirmation. In many dioceses, however, the diocesan bishop has set a minimum age for Confirmation. If this is the case your parish priest will be able to tell you what the minimum age is.
5. Preparation for confirmation
The purpose of confirmation preparation is to ensure that those who are confirmed have a proper understanding of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ within the life of the Church of England. In The Book of Common Prayer it is envisaged that this preparation will take the form of learning by heart the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lords Prayer, and The Book of Common Prayer Catechism. Today a more comprehensive course of preparation is felt to be appropriate. As in the case of baptism preparation, the form that this preparation takes will vary according to the practice of the church or cathedral concerned and the particular needs and circumstances of the confirmation candidates.
6. Where confirmation takes place
Many people are confirmed in the church or cathedral that they normally attend. However, people may also be confirmed in another church in a service in which candidates from a number of different churches are combined together, and some children and young people are confirmed at their school.
7. Confirmation and Holy Communion
According to the Canons (laws) of the Church of England those who receive Holy Communion in the Church of England should either have been confirmed in the Church of England or should be ready and desire to be confirmed. However, as has already been explained, there is an exception to this requirement in the case of children who are admitted to Communion prior to confirmation in the context of an agreed diocesan and parochial policy that this should be the case.
Those who are baptized communicant members in good standing of other churches are also welcome to receive Holy Communion in the Church of England with the understanding that if they continue doing so indefinitely then they should be made aware of the normal requirements for reception.
It is normal for Confirmation to be followed straight away by Holy Communion, although in cases where confirmation has not taken place in a candidates parish church they may instead take Communion for the first time in that church on the following Sunday.
8. Confirmation and holding office in the Church of England
The Canons lay down that those who wish to exercise certain leadership roles in the Church of England, including ordained ministers, readers and licensed lay workers need to be confirmed as a sign of their commitment to living as disciples of Christ as the Church of England understands it
9. Confirmation in another Christian tradition
The Canons also lay down that Christians from churches in which confirmation is not performed by a bishop need to be confirmed by a bishop if they wish formally to be admitted into the Church of England.
Those who have been confirmed in a church whose ministerial orders are recognised and accepted by the Church of England and in which confirmation is performed by a bishop, or by a priest acting on the bishops behalf and using chrism blessed by the bishop, do not need to be confirmed. They are simply received into the Church of England instead.
10. Joint Confirmation
Joint confirmation is the practice which takes place in many, but not all, dioceses of holding joint services of Confirmation in which candidates from Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs) are confirmed by ministers of the different churches to which the LEPs concerned belong.
The reason for this practice is that since candidates for Confirmation who belong to a single Christian church are confirmed within that tradition by an appropriate minister from that tradition, it is therefore right that candidates for Confirmation who identify with more than one church because of their having come to faith in an LEP should be jointly confirmed within all the churches concerned by the appropriate ministers from those churches.
In addition, joint Confirmation also expresses the joint or shared oversight of the LEP by the appropriate ministers of these churches. It is a sign that all the churches involved accept their responsibility for pastoral oversight of that LEP.
As far as the Church of England is concerned joint Confirmation means the holding of a service of Confirmation of the Church of England together with that of one or more other churches which practice Confirmation and accept the Anglican rite. These will normally be the Methodist, United Reformed, Moravian or Lutheran churches. Joint Confirmation with the Roman Catholic Church is not permitted by its Canons.
In a joint Confirmation the confirming minister from the Church of England is always a bishop. In the case of the other churches it is the appropriate minister in terms of their practice. Those who are confirmed in this way are confirmed both in the Church of England and in the other churches involved.
|Taken, with kind permission, from the Church of England website|