I write this week as a follow-up to Pastor Nate's piece last week about affirmation of baptism. Honestly, going into it all, I didn't really know what to expect. Like...we had a plan and everything, so that part was all good. But still, I couldn't help but wonder: will the Holy Spirit still show up today? Will the Holy Spirit still be able to enliven the faith of our young people even if it happens through an on-screen gathering?
I wasn't sure, but still we prepped. And we prepped. And we prepped. Special shout out this week goes to Kayla, our Director of Faith Formation for Confirmation and High School. When I say we prepped, what I really mean is that SHE prepped! Getting 43 busy families all on the same page is no small task, but she did it!
So with a brief gathering of the confirmation students on Wednesday night, then a few emails after that, and a bunch of video editing as well, Sunday came. There was an intensity to production this week -- a burning need to get things "right" so that our students could be celebrated. Pastor confession: We have a saying in my home for Sunday mornings. That saying is: "I'm sorry for whatever I say while we're livestreaming." Sometimes when things get intense with production, we (okay, it's me...so, I) don't always say things to one another in the kindest way. Going into it, worship had that "I'm sorry for whatever I say" feel to it. It needed to be perfect.
It's funny sometimes...how we strive for perfection, when really we just need something to be HOLY. And the HOLY part isn't up to us, it's up to the Holy Spirit.
Anyway...as to be expected, worship didn't end up being perfect, but it DID end up being Holy.
This year, there was no gathering in person, there were no red carnations, and the confirmation students professed their faith with the apostles creed in a zoom call. But even without all of the normal stuff, I still found myself getting goosebumps as I watched the monitors in our basement flash with slides of the students (by the way, shout out to Sue Wendler for that!), and as I heard their proud teachers and mentors read their names.
And the Zoom after-party. WOAH. It was certainly one of the biggest Zoom calls I've been on in awhile, AND it was certainly the the most holy. Some families were gathered physically in their homes. Other families were present on the call. There were grandparents, baptismal sponsors, aunts, uncles, siblings. It was like the kingdom of God showed up on our screens! One by one, these families laid hands on their students and blessed them using the same words that were read at their baptisms:
Stir up in name the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever.
Was it all perfect? No. Was it holy? YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES!!!! The Holy Spirit showed up in the most surprising of ways. As these young people affirmed their faith, and their families passed the baptismal candle to them to tend on their own, the Holy Spirit was there saying YES to them once again, as she shows up and does every. single. day. of. their. lives.
It was all so different, but nonetheless, it was all still holy. Thanks be to God!
Peace be the journey,
Speaking of not being perfect...this is the part where I intended to include some screen shots of all our students on Zoom, figuring that's the best we could do for a class photo. Turns out those didn't save the way I thought they would. So...here's a composite I threw together of all their individual photos. Sadly, this is missing a couple students.
“Celebrate!” “Praise God!” “Hallelujah!” These words might be spoken when a youth is about to reach their “confirmation day.” A lot has gone into reaching this milestone – Sunday school, Christmas pageants, confirmation classes, service hours, confirmation camp, worship notes – all of which are designed to teach and pass the faith on in meaningful ways. Faith begins in the home and Lord knows there have been many prayers spoken and challenging conversations shared by parents to explain “why” faith and worship are important.
Life is not exempt from painful and mountain top experiences. We all are works in progress. Youth are especially watching and developing their responses to the decisions they will face along life’s journey. Continue to surround youth with positive experiences, spiritually mature adults because faith development does not end on confirmation day. This is just the beginning!
The day of confirmation in the Lutheran Church is called “Affirmation of Faith.” Our young people will affirm their faith. The promises shared on the day of their baptism will be “affirmed” or shared again publicly, this time, by the youth. They are declaring that they want to take on the baptismal promises that began, for many of them, when they were infants. They are making faith their own. Please don’t let it stop there. They still need guidance from parents, Godparents and many other trusted adults. High School Youth Group, mission trips and volunteering at church and in the community are all ways we continue to exercise our faith.
I am sad this year is not going to look or feel as it usually does for our confirmands. With the pandemic in full swing and our area of Wisconsin being in a state of emergency – being gathered in person is just not safe for families, volunteers and pastors. I wish it could be different. However, we don’t want to continue to postpone this important day another time, so we are making the best of it. Sunday worship (10.25.20) will be live streamed at 9:15am as normal and confirmation youth will be involved in the worship service. The actual Rite of Confirmation or the Affirmation of Faith will happen in a separate Zoom call with families gathered safely in their homes, lighting candles, laying on hands and celebrating in their home spaces. Collectively we will be brought together by the Holy Spirit and the technology of Zoom to affirm faith. Our 9th grade class has 42 students in it!
Sunday will truly be a day when God’s love comes to life and not even a pandemic can stop it! I hope everyone of CtK congregation will join along with parents, Godparents and many relatives to give thanks to God for the milestone that will keep giving throughout a lifetime!
Christ’s Blessings & Peace, Pastor Nate
Yahoo, a new year of faith formation has begun! Last week, our Confirmation classes, had a very interesting conversation with a panel of church people. A great big THANK YOU to the adults who shared their faith stories about their life experiences with our 7-9 grade students, table guides and teachers. It was a lively conversation that shared a lot of laughter as well as some very real and difficult life lessons. We went from high to lows and back to highs learning how God is present and an important force in our lives. God’s love was revealed and came to life through the sharing of our adult panel. More importantly it came through our 7th grade class who demonstrated good listening from their weekly faith question answers. Here are some of their responses:
Good listening is “active” listening. Active listening is important, and our youth are learning that skill. Especially listening about how God loves them. Thank you, parents, table guides, teachers and everyone who continues to support our young people in making faith their own.
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
If you would have asked me back in March if I thought I'd still be writing about things related to the covid-19 pandemic in October, I don't think I would have believed you. But...here we are.
Last week we had yet another state of the church webinar. A time when we gather together online to share information and updates on all that's been happening both in front of and behind the scenes at Christ the King. These webinars have become an important way for us to communicate all the things we have going on at Christ the King.
Each webinar includes a question and answer time. A time when those who are watching the webinar can type in any questions they have on their mind in the moment, and those of us who are on screen respond to those questions the best we can. Honestly, this month was the first time the tech part of the question and answer session worked as it was supposed to -- sometimes it's a real adventure to get technology to do what you want it to. Let me tell you though...I was SO glad it all worked, because through the Q&A time, we got to hear about how God is working through one of our members to bring love into the world.
During the Q&A time, someone submitted not a question, but a story. She shared how during this time of social distancing, one of the things she has done to stay connected to her neighbors is to write chalk messages on the walkway in front of her home. She noted how the neighbors seem to appreciate the messages. It was a heart-warming moment in the webinar, but it became so much more warm to me the more I thought about it.
Here's the thing my dear siblings in Christ: WORDS MATTER. The words that we hear and see and say throughout most of our days, are not always the most positive or uplifting words. Honestly, when is the last time you can remember someone saying something positive or encouraging to you? We live in a world where that just doesn't happen as often as it should. So...writing encouraging words in chalk is actually a Christ-filled, revolutionary action that is centered on love for our LITERAL neighbors.
So I'm challenging you this week -- the next time you place a curbside pick-up order from Target or the grocery store (which I hope you're doing to stay safe and keep others safe), do a revolutionary thing and include some sidewalk chalk in your order. From there, think about what your neighbors might need to hear from you. Let them know they are loved, let them know they are spectacular the way God made them, and let the know they MATTER.
Your words on a walkway could indeed go a LONG way that day.
Peace be the journey,