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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Confirmation Concussion

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Months before I was to start at The Church, I got an email from the Head of Staff telling me that one of my first official acts of Associate Pastor-ship would be to take the confirmation class on a weekend retreat. The plans were already made: the cabin was rented, the other adult leader was in place, and the dates were set for the first weekend after I'd started.

I panicked a little. I've never led a confirmation retreat before (I never even participated in confirmation). Also, I didn't know these young people at all, and I would have only a minimal chance to do so before we left. As the dates kept creeping closer and closer on the calendar, my anxiety about it grew worse and worse. It was the perfect setup for me to lay a massive ministerial egg right out of the gate.

But something calmed me down in the run-up to the retreat. Partly that my predecessor, the Interim Associate Pastor who had led the confirmation class since October, was going and would help with the planning, and partly that what I'd seen of the kids themselves was utterly disarming, a calm emerged that made packing a bag and planning 9th grade doctrinal conversations relaxing.

I decided to view the three days as a chance more to form some communal patterns and less to achieve some kind of creedal certainty. We used morning prayer, grace at mealtimes, and evening prayer each day to structure our time together. We went on a hike. We had snowball fights (in which I got struck in the head and began to bleed--better the pastor than one of the kids, right?). And in between, the conversations happened. Question were asked that paved the way to a joint exploration of the scaffolding of faith.

Who is Jesus? What does the "holiness" of the church imply? What is worship for? What's our mission?

Nobody arrived at any answers by the time we left, but these young people and their adult "guides" had begun to seriously reflect on the questions. And, to my mind, that's a promising start to a life together.

And I somehow got to be part of the birthing of a new standard for pastors at The Church: if you're not bleeding, you're not really working.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:31 AM


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