Confirmation in
                                                                      The Episcopal Diocese
                                                                        of Massachusetts
                                                                     (Theological, Ecclesial, Missiological and
                                                                              Practical Assumptions)

                                           For the purposes of this document, the term Confirmation is understood to
                                                          include Reception, unless otherwise stated.

                                      CONFIRMATION IS…

                                 1. Confirmation is the occasion for a mature affirmation of faith,
                                    an opportunity for a person to claim for oneself the promises
                                    made for him or her at Baptism (or reaffirm promises made
    Confirmation                    earlier) in the context and presence of:
     strengthens,                   The local faith community (parish) that nurtures faith and
                                      sends forth disciples to serve the risen Christ
  commissions, and
                                    The wider faith community (diocese/deanery) that is a broad
sends forth candidates                and diverse sign of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic
       and faith                      church which joins God’s mission in the world through
 communities to join                  partnerships and collaborative ministries
   God’s mission of                 The Bishop as apostle, theologian, visionary leader for
                                      mission, and pastor
  reconciling love in
       the world                 2. Confirmation stresses the mission part of Baptism and looks
                                    ahead to a life of witness and service. It reflects a personal
                                    sense of calling to glorify God, letting Christ’s light shine.
                                      (Kathryn Tanner – HOB paper on Confirmation)

                                 3. Confirmation is a continuation of lifelong formation, a semi-
                                    colon, not a period.

                                 4. Confirmation represents the continuing work of the Holy Spirit
                                    in a person’s life and faith community (parish and diocese).

                                 5. Confirmation is about the transformation of individuals,
                                    communities of faith and God’s church. It entails openness to
                                    change, risk, and faith.

                                 6. Confirmation strengthens, commissions, and sends forth
                                    candidates and faith communities to join God’s mission of
                                    reconciling love in the world. The Great Commandment and
                                    Great Commission are at the heart of our understanding of

    Confirmation in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, revised 7/24/2012                              1

Candidates will experience love and yearning for God.

Candidates will come to believe in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in
addition to belief as an intellectual assent that Jesus lived as the Son of God, was
crucified, and rose again. In other words, candidates deepen their relationship to
Jesus, giving their hearts to him and trusting more and more in his love and call to
discipleship, which will take them where they may never have imagined or willed to go.

Candidates’ prayer lives and their understanding of Scripture as God’s Word, as a love
story of God and God’s people, will be deepened and reflected upon.

Candidates will experience Christian community (the parish and beyond) as
“communities” of conversion and transformation.

Candidates will understand congregations as “missionary outposts” of the wider
church with the diocese as the basic geographical unit for development and oversight
of the church’s response to God’s call to mission. Congregations will be seen as the
places for making disciples for the purpose of transforming lives and society for God’s
reign of justice and peace for all persons.

Candidates will have a deeper appreciation for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican
Communion’s comprehensiveness and contribution to the Gospel in these times.

Candidates will have opportunities to discern and discover their God-given gifts and
apply them to ministry and mission opportunities in the life of their congregation and

Candidates will have a deeper understanding of stewardship; as Christian disciples
they will be expected to make a pledge and use their time and talents to further God’s

Candidates will come to know and understand how their baptismal promises connect
them to the mission goals of the diocese as well as their parish.

Candidates will hear God’s call to move from the familiar contexts of parish and
community into new and unfamiliar opportunities for life and ministry for the sake of
the Gospel and their own spiritual growth.


Present generations have known Confirmation in local congregations with the Bishop
presiding to represent the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Understandably, it
was and is an occasion cherished by one’s family and congregation. However, if
congregations are understood to be the “missionary outposts” for making disciples,
spreading the good news of the Gospel, and acting on behalf of the poor, the
oppressed, those at risk, and the vulnerable, then bishops’ visitations need to focus on

Confirmation in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, revised 7/24/2012       2
mission, congregational development, pastoral needs, and teaching. Having
Confirmation in the parish on a bishop’s visitation moves the focus and much of the
time from mission and congregational development to Confirmation. This is the
primary reason deanery confirmations became mandatory in 2007. We also believe
that the desired outcomes regarding Confirmation are not lessened but enhanced by
taking place in the context of the wider church.

Further, deanery confirmations in Massachusetts are another way the church can
choose to deepen levels of understanding and mutual respect, create “bonding and
bridging social interaction,” and foster partnerships and networks for respecting the
dignity of every human person and striving for peace and justice for all people


   1. Enable the bishops’ visitation to have more focus on teaching, congregational
      development and growth, on building relationships, listening to concerns and
      needs, and exploring resources and support for our common work furthering
      God’s mission. The Bishop will have more opportunity and time for meetings
      and conversations as a leader for mission, teacher, and pastor.

   2. Make it easier for congregations to design a pedagogical process of formation
      that is consistent each year with the church calendar. All confirmations are held
      in Eastertide; therefore congregations will have at least the better part of an
      academic year with church seasons for the formation of adults and youth for
      Confirmation. Preparatory community building, mission trips, and retreats will
      be easier to plan. Opportunity for congregations to share in formation beyond
      the youth and adult deanery retreats and mission within the deanery will be
      more likely.

   3. Make it possible for bishops to exercise their teaching ministry on confirmation

   4. Enable a parish to celebrate the life journey and commitment of candidates in
      even greater ways the day after the event. Instead of combining the Bishop’s
      visitation with Confirmation and diminishing each by trying to accommodate
      both, the congregation can focus its Sunday Eucharist the day after a deanery
      confirmation with special and specific prayers for the candidates with attention
      to what happens after Confirmation. The congregation can reaffirm its promises
      to support them and hear how the candidates hope to be sent to serve with the
      congregation’s members. Candidates can share the pulpit that day, gifts from
      the parish can be given, and a grand party can be held without the distraction of
      accommodating the Bishop’s schedule and visitation goals.

   5. Offer an experience of diversity and the breadth and depth of the Episcopal
      Church to candidates preparing and celebrating Confirmation. Minds and hearts
      of candidates, those planning and leading retreats and worship, and the
      members of participating congregations are opened to collaborative ministries
      and appreciation for others in the diocese.

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   6. Reinforce the definition of mission as the willingness to cross boundaries, taking
      risks and being transformed by the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Gospel. In
      traveling to another venue the service itself can be seen as a kind of pilgrimage
      instead of an inconvenience and loss of tradition. The retreats and worship
      generate a multiplicity of gifts and energy that glorifies God and inspires
      discipleship in Jesus Christ in the diocese.


We expect that ordained and lay leaders in our congregations will expand upon the
preceding theological, ecclesial, and missiological assumptions and offer teaching and
support to meet the desired results for Confirmation. Your reflections, teaching and
support will add to our deeper appreciation and understanding of Confirmation and its
place in the deanery. The lay and ordained leaders play a key role in helping us learn
from one another, in keeping open hearts and minds in the face of change. Together
we can help people who see Confirmation in its current practice to imagine the benefit
to God’s mission, to the church, and indeed to the individuals themselves that deanery
confirmations bring.


    1. Understanding the normative age for Confirmation to be at least 16

    2. Providing at least an academic year’s formation process for both adults and
       youth (preferably two years for youth who have the option of combining the
       formation process with Journey to Adulthood)

    3. Providing a comprehensive curriculum (refer to confirmation chart). This is not
       an ecclesiastical MCAS, but these are the areas that we expect will be covered
       in creative ways.

    4. Establishing a mentor/co-journeyer program for youth and adult candidates.
       Consider a retreat day or overnight for candidates and co-journeyers in your

    5. Encouraging participation in youth diocesan retreats. (Not everyone will be able
       to attend the diocesan retreats so we encourage, as an alternative, joining with
       other congregations for a retreat.)

    6. Including the expectation that a service project and/or mission trip is required
       of confirmands.

    7. Ensuring that leadership for Confirmation preparation is shared among a
       variety of congregational members for formation as well as in the planning and
       carrying out of liturgical events.

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    8. Having liturgical events in the congregation include an initial service of blessing
       and prayers for new candidates in the beginning of the formation process and
       one at the parish immediately following the confirmation service.

    9. Making it a priority to seek out and encourage Confirmation/Reception for
       young adult and college-age populations.

    10. Ensuring that support, leadership, and participation is forthcoming from each
        congregation in the planning and carrying out of retreats and worship services
        in the diocese and deanery

    11. Exploring the possibility of a deanery prayer vigil prior to the service

    12. Using the cathedral for some deanery confirmation services is advised and in
        some cases necessary; therefore, early commitments from parishes
        need to be established for scheduling purposes.

    13. Planning of music at deanery confirmations will be done by the deanery with
        musicians from the deanery recommended.

    14. Music needs to be diverse and representative of the spectrum of musical
        resources and preferences in the diocese.

We recognize that there are a few congregations who have very large numbers of
candidates each year and would take up most of the space at one of the two
deanery confirmations held each year in their deanery. For this reason and in a
few cases for extraordinary pastoral reasons, the bishops will each consider
scheduling two to three services for confirmation in individual parishes on the
evening of a patronal feast day, Ascension Day, All Saints’ Day or an occasional
Saturday or late Sunday afternoon.

The theological, ecclesial, and practical assumptions and expectations outlined in this
paper are beginning points of how we are re-imagining and re-traditioning
Confirmation/Reception in the diocese after four years of experiencing Deanery
Confirmations and listening to many voices throughout the diocese. Communicating
with one another and reflecting on our experiences in the years ahead on what could
make our offerings better and more reflective of our theological presuppositions and
desired outcomes are essential. We ask everyone to keep open minds and hearts that
our faith communities will be strengthened and inspired by our common efforts and
prayers more and more for God’s mission to the world.

+M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE
+Bud Cederholm
+Gayle Harris

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                                        Potential Confirmation Components

Principles/Assumptions               Desired Outcomes                Topics or components          Methods
                                     (cognitive, affective,

Mature affirmation of faith;         Love of and yearning for        Purpose – why are we          Lectures
opportunity to claim for             God.                            here?
oneself the promises made                                                                          Small groups
by others for one at baptism.        Desire to follow Jesus.         - Confirmand’s own            discussion
Voluntary: no one will be            Desire to make an               - God the Creator             Individual reflection
confirmed unless he/she              affirmation of faith and to     - Who is Jesus/Life of
desires it                           live that faith.                Christ                        Bible study/Bible
                                                                     - The Holy Spirit             devotional reading –
Confirmand is                        Age-appropriate knowledge       - Scripture OT/NT (Read       alone and in groups
acting/seeking at this               of topics in the next column.   Mark)
particular time for a reason.                                        - What is the church?         Retreat
                                     Has read and reflected upon     - Mission
Continuation of life-long            a significant portion of        - Worship and                 Journaling
formation; it’s a semi-colon,        scripture, e.g. one of the      Sacraments
not a period.                        Gospels.                        - Baptismal covenant          Artwork
                                                                     - Prayer – various forms
Age 16 and older is                  Has experienced and             - Discernment, decision-      One-on-ones w/ adult
normative.                           reflected upon                  making using the power        mentors
                                          - Christian                of the Holy Spirit
Clergy, Christian educators                   community              - Book of Common              Interviewing other
and other adults participate              - Act(s) of service        Prayer                        adults in congregation
in preparation of                         - Several forms of         - Generous giving             about their faith
confirmands.                                  prayer                 - Episcopaliana
                                                                     - Confirmand’s own            Skits/role-playing
Opportunities for instruction,       Has some sense of his/her       story/experience revisited
education, formation,                particular giftedness for       - Christianity, Judaism       Service opportunities
reflection, continue after the       ministry.                       and the religions of the      with reflection
rite.                                                                world
                                     Has committed to exercise a                                   Workplace visits
                                     particular ministry for a       Experience of Christian       (clergy visits to adult
                                     stated length of time           community                     confirmands)
                                     (commitment may come in
                                     post-confirmation follow-       Experience of service         Post-confirmation
                                     up.)                                                          follow-up on ministries
                                                                     Experience of the church

                                                                     Identification of gifts and

                                                                     Commitment to specific
                                                                     ministry(ies) within
                                                                     and/or outside of the
                                                                     church (could take place
                                                                     after confirmation).

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

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For an annotated list of confirmation resources contact Amy Cook, 1-617-482-5800 x645,

Confirmation in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, revised 7/24/2012                          7

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