When couples have been married for a while, it’s inevitable you start sharing each other’s stories. This time, I’ll let step back the Spouse tell it like it was. This one is by Michael Munnik.
* * *
Yesterday in church, we had a whopping batch of confirmations. It was exciting – not least for the presence [PRESBYTERIAN OUT OF PRESBYTERIAN CONTEXT ALERT!] of the archbishop with his excellent preaching style, comfortable manner, and spiffing hat. Because of all the extra business, the service ran a little longer, which was a challenge for parents with squirrelly toddlers. However, there was lots of extra singing, which meant the elder two of our children, who sing in the choir, had plenty to do and no complaints.
No complaints, but perhaps the expected questions on the cycle ride home. “Daddy, what’s confirmation?” Beangirl asks.
So I talk about baptism, and how we all make promises as a congregation concerning someone’s (let’s say, for the sake of argument, Beangirl’s) spiritual upbringing. We welcome Beangirl to the family of God, but it doesn’t on its own make her a Christian, and as a tiny little infant, she hasn’t really done anything about it.
Confirmation, then, is the chance to take some ownership of that earlier activity. And for Beangirl, who just turned ten the week before, maturity and ownership is very much on her mind.
“Were you and Mummy confirmed?”
“Yes,” I say. “I was just a bit older than you are now.”
“Some of the kids who were confirmed today are in the same year of school as me,” she says.
“Hmm.” We pedal a little further on. “Would you like to be confirmed?”
“Well, I’d like to taste the wine,” she replies. Now that’s an honest answer. “But they said the bread tastes like cardboard.”
“No, it’s not like the bread your mummy bakes.”
We’ve kind of drifted ahead of the rest of the homeward party, most of whom are not on bicycles and therefore slower.
“What do you do in confirmation class?” she asks.
I tell her it’s about the Bible and about Christianity, but it’s not like Sunday School. I tell her about the creed – as a chorister, she hears the congregation saying it every week, so she has the words more or less down. And confirmation classes are structured around the different bits of the creed, unpacking all of what it is we say we believe in. I try not to say “to make sure we understand it,” because we’ve been pretty clear in all of our conversations with the kids about church and religion and such that communion is not something we really understand. I wouldn’t claim to understand it any better now than as a precocious teenager going through confirmation, when I was myself being taught all of this.
“So, kind of like what we do at the dinner table anyway,” she says, synthesising and demonstrating that she understands what I’ve just said. And I say yes, and we hold up our bikes and wait for the others to catch us up. When they ask her those questions, some day, maybe next year at this time, I think she’ll be in a good position to answer.
Michael Munnik blogs at An Earth Without Grammar. You can find him on twitter @michaelmunnik