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Preparing to Affirm

October 25, 2012

11 These are the things you must insist on and teach. 12Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:11-12 (NRSV)

I’ve got a load of stuff to go through for “my” first session with Affirmands and Mentors on Sunday the 28th. I say “my” because I’m leading, adapting the curriculum every fourth Sunday of the month until the Affirmands join (or don’t join) our church. Affirmation, you wonder?

It’s a blanket term for our instruction for young people at Franklin Federated Church who are going to make a choice about being either confirmed (if they’re from the UCC tradition) or baptized (if they’re from the American Baptist tradition). It’s a big responsibility to be involved in the program, and I am more involved this year than I have been in the past.

It’s a big group of kids, a dozen or so, from many different surrounding towns, with many different family backgrounds and even some different theologies (and different attendance records)! As such, we may look like one thing at Franklin Federated, but we represent a fair amount of diversity. The one thing that unites us all is that at the end of this process, there will be a choice: these kids will stand and be counted among those members of the church that have decided to follow God through Jesus Christ, and are willing to make a public profession of that fact.

Or not.

The “or not” piece is vexing for some (meaning some parents) but necessary. It has to be a choice. As a gathered Protestant church, we rely on the body of adult and young adult believers to each make their own decision about whether or not to join. Some have said, “well, that’s all well and good, but wait until it’s your kids deciding and see how you feel.”

I will feel the same as you do. I will want them to find this faith that sustains me sustaining for them. And they may find it. But they may not. The only way for it to be real and true is for me to let go and let them make with God what they will make with God. Ultimately, they are not me. They are not even mine. Various folks attribute the quotes to various people who say, more or less, that children are lent to us for a short time. I think our relationship to them is deeper than that might imply, but it does get at the transitive nature of the deal we have with them. It also might help us to let go where we are able to let go, in order to let them become what they must become.

I hope the Affirmands have a great year. I hope they learn more about their faith than they knew. I hope they are changed by it all. I pray they will follow their hearts in May, and I pray we will have laid a firm enough foundation by then to help them make that decision as fully formed people in faith. More than anything, I hope they remember that this is only the beginning of their journey in faith. They needn’t finish anything; they only need to begin.

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