If the church really is in decline why bother with confirmation?
If the Church of England really is racing towards its decline, stopping only to scoop up a handful of older people, why did 30 people, including teenagers, choose to be confirmed recently in Truro Cathedral?
And why would Connor, an intelligent, confident 22 year old with everything going for him, decide to make a public declaration through confirmation of his faith to a cathedral full of people? Life is good for Connor, he has a great job straight out of university, a happy home life and a girlfriend he is very much in love with.
“It’s like Bishop Chris said during the service, faith isn’t private, it’s public. My relationship with Jesus is personal and private, but the fact that I have a relationship isn’t – it’s part of me and I wanted to make that known.”
Connor didn’t grow up in an environment where religion or matters of faith were valued, but he enjoyed the robustness of religious debate during school. ‘I studied religion and philosophy, but it stayed on the page. It was only when I started to take on the idea that religion and faith are very different, that the words took on any meaning.”
Faith can be as ordinary, or extraordinary, as everyday life
Part of that ‘taking on’ came when people came into Connor’s life who openly talked about their faith. “I discovered that faith needn’t be separate from who I am, but that it could be as ordinary, or extraordinary, as every other part of life.”
Connor explored that further in his second year at university when he went along to a church enticing students with free burgers, “They dished out thousands! But it wasn’t the burgers that drew me there. I’d had a tough first year, didn’t enjoy my course, missed home and my girlfriend. When I went to the church, affectionately known as Woodies, I instantly felt connected with people on a spiritual level, which was new for me.”
It was talking with curate Revd Nikki Thornhill back in his home church at Eglosayle that encouraged Connor to think about confirmation. “Nikki took me under her wing and has been a fantastic mentor. She taught me that confirmation is more than just a single day, it’s an ongoing process.”
Sharing faith unexpectedly
Connor has recently begun a graduate training scheme for a supermarket and found himself unexpectedly sharing his faith with every member of staff across the store. “The manager asked me, through our headsets, about the wedding he thought I was going to at the weekend and I explained that it wasn’t a wedding but that I was to be confirmed. That inevitably led to lots of questions and actually helped me to understand better what I was doing, which was lucky as the conversation fed into the headsets of every member of staff!” The manager also said that if he’d known beforehand that a new team member was taking time off to be confirmed he would have thought him a nutter! “Happily he’d already got to know me and hopefully discovered that I’m not!”
The confirmation service was especially poignant for Connor as his godmother, Toni, was there. “She’s recovering from a cancer diagnosis and it was lovely to be able to confirm the promises she made on my behalf when I was christened as a baby.”
So what next for Connor? “I have a lot to learn,” he says. “The day after my confirmation I was asked to do a reading in church and I mortifyingly referred to Pontius Pilate as Pontius Pilates…” God has a great sense of humour and surely would have enjoyed that, just as much as He is enjoying young people bucking the trend by putting their heads above the parapet to say they’re with Him.