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June 2014

Baptism, Confirmation & Ordination

One of the great advantages of a Blog is there is no print deadline.  One of the great disadvantages of a blog is that there is no print deadline!  It is now the end of August when I was hoping for some time to catch up on things, and I am determined to write about what has been in my mind since June.

Baptisms are far more popular in the summer.  Babies used to be baptised as soon as possible after birth, but now parents seem to wait to give time to plan a more major event with lots of family and friends gathered from far afield, and then waiting until the summer seems sensible with longer days and safer travelling.  So June is always very full of Baptisms!  Baptism of infants is all about starting them off on the Christian journey; making decisions for them as they do about so many other things when they are too young to understand or in a position to make decisions about their own faith

When it comes to considering confirmation this is beyond the thinking of many people not only outside but even within the life of the church.  Confirmation – the time when a person reaches a stage of some independence and maturity to make decisions for themselves.  A decision for which even someone under 16 does not need parental consent, as this is given when parents have a child baptised as there is an expectation and hope that a child as they grow up will want to take on this faith for themselves and be confirmed.

At baptism, a child is given a candle to show that as Jesus is the light of the world, we too are called to be lights shining for Him, in all our uniqueness and individuality with a special role to play in this world where God creates us to serve Him and others around us.  We had a Confirmation in June too this year, and it was very special to see Confirmation Candidates taking this step.  Whilst many parents still bring their children for Baptism for which we are always encouraged, as fewer people are offering themselves for Confirmation it is a greater encouragement and seems a more significant event than maybe confirmation used to be in the days when the majority of those baptised as infants went on to be confirmed in their teens.

An individual taking that step to be confirmed – not just confirming for themselves the faith they were baptised into at the request of their parents, but also knowing that it is God Himself who confirms that faith in us by His Holy Spirit – is a truly wonderful, moving and powerful experience to witness.  It is also a time when an infant isn’t just set off by infant baptism on a good start in life, and reminded with the candle that they are special and have a unique role to shine in this dark world, but it is a person standing up to be counted as a truly committed Christian themselves, publicly stating that they believe and trust in Jesus and want to follow Him themselves and help others to know and follow Him too.

Also in June we had an ordination as there are ordinations in all Cathedrals and many others places in June each year.  But for us as a family this was especially significant as my wife was ordained as a Deacon in June!  An infant at baptism is set off on the Christian path.  At confirmation we take that faith on for ourselves.  At ordination we are set apart specifically and primarily to serve God and others, to minister and lead in and through the life of the church of Jesus Christ.

One of the early Church Fathers Tertullian in the 3rd Century wrote the ‘Confirmation is the Ordination of the laity’.  Infant Baptism is great and is a step of faith by parents and godparents whether they realise it or not that a child will grow up within the Christian faith and take it on for themselves.  Confirmation marks them fulfilling this.  And if we take on the Christian faith for ourselves it means not just living it but sharing and encouraging others to live it too, which is very much what an ordained person is called to.  To teach, encourage and challenge others, to Baptise and as a Priest to celebrate Communion.  To preach the good news of Jesus.

Maybe you were baptised as a baby or a young child.  Have you ever taken this faith on for yourself?  Have you been open to God by His Holy Spirit confirming that faith in you, calling and equipping you to serve Him fully in the life of the church and help others to know Him too?  Not everyone is called to be ordained.  But Jesus commands us to proclaim His love and good news to all, and to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus challenges us to take this faith on for ourselves and confirms it within us by His Holy Spirit.  If Tertullian is right that confirmation calls us to live and proclaim the Christian faith to others and is the ordination of the laity, who knows where this might lead us as we fulfil God’s call on us to trust and follow Him and lead others to do the same.

June was a busy month with baptisms, confirmations and ordinations.  Many people living out the Christian faith.  If you would like to take your faith deeper and further and have never been confirmed, would you like to consider this?  Do get in touch with me or others in ministry and leadership in the church that you know.

Yours in the Lord’s service

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