This past Sunday I was confirmed in the Anglican Church during a service at Holy Cross Anglican in Loganville, Ga. Not only was it the first time I had ever been a part of receiving any kind of blessing in the Anglican Church, it was the first time I had ever even seen a Baptism/Confirmation service. My knowledge of the (Anglican) Communion is proportionately much more academic than experiential at this point. I expect that to change, or at least to even out. As of now, what I’ve come to learn both by my own study and from what others have shared with me about this Tradition has driven me to place myself within its wisdom and among its people. That’s why I was confirmed.
If that’s why I was confirmed, exactly how was I confirmed? The mechanics looked something like so: a “Bishop” spoke a “blessing” over me by “laying his hands” on my head and praying that I remember and reaffirm the faith into which I was “baptized.” Like so many things in the liturgical (and indeed all) churches, there are many figures, words, and actions that are full of meaning – not least in the rite of confirmation. And once you are familiar enough with the rich and multi-layerd meanings within these symbols, the symbols take you on a fast track through the blessed landscape of the story of the Exodus, the entering of the promised land, Christ’s own baptism, and the earliest Christians working to equip and sustain a fledgling Church.
Historically, confirmation has always been closely linked with Baptism. In Baptism, a Christian is born into the family of God, the Church. As a part of the Baptism service, the part considered “confirmation” is the asking of the Holy Spirit to fill the baptized, tangibly done by laying on of hands and anointing with oil. In the early Church the wise overseers (bishops) of the local priests would usually preside at these important services. As the Church grew, bishops weren’t able to preside at all baptisms, but continued to bless (confirm) all those who had been baptized during their absence. As the time between Baptism and confirmation expanded, confirmation became more and more about the realization and commitment to the fullness of the Christian life. An education spanning the beliefs and doctrines to the history and practices of the Church became a requisite to this major event. (See here.)
This Sunday was an initiatory moment of sorts for me. Having already been baptized into the one, holy Church, I am already submitted to Christ’s saving work for me and the world. I already identify, through my heart and life, with that truth. However, I wanted to further identify with the historically rooted, biblically structured, missionally motivated, scripturally informed, sacramentally nourished tradition – i.e. the Anglican Communion. So I humbly received a blessing from God, by the prayers of a church, through the hands and words of a Bishop, for the strengthening of my faith and purpose. Thanks be to God.