I think often when we work on such a service there are at least two tendencies. The first is that because there are 16 sections, there is the sense we may be free to pick and choose the elements that we think are important. The other tendency is that since there are so many churches out there doing so many different things, it is not always clear which elements in the covenant are appropriate and/or necessary. In my case, my hunch was that they needed to go through all the elements of the service, but I wanted to make sure I was doing things right. I had a conversation with Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources at the GBOD, and his urging to put an end to “dry confirmations” seemed to be just the right answer.
It is important for Confirmands to take part in the renunciation of sin and profession of faith because these were promises that were reaffirmed by their sponsors at their baptisms if they were baptized before they could answer for themselves. This is their opportunity to “own” the baptismal promises, to take responsibility for their faith, and ask the Holy Spirit to help them in this endeavor.
In my case, I was pretty sure that all of the sections needed to be carried out, but the part that tripped me up the most was the Thanksgiving Over the Water and the opportunity for the Confirmands to remember their baptisms and be thankful. How could this be accomplished in a way that made sense, when we really weren’t prepared for a congregational reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant?
What Rev. Burton-Edwards suggested, and what I found easy to accomplish, was to have the congregation join me in the Thanksgiving Over the Water, and then have the Confirmands all dip their fingers into the font and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. We then followed this act with the prayer to the Holy Spirit as we anointed them. This worked extremely well. We were then able to move on to the reception in The United Methodist Church and the local congregation, and finish up with the commendation and welcome.
What is important to me from all of this is the way in which our whole ritual is useful, appropriate, and meaningful, even if there are no baptisms during the service. “No more dry confirmations!” helps to make the relationship between baptism and confirmation clearer to all involved, it resists the temptation to pick and choose from the liturgy, and it offers yet another visual and sensible sign of what is happening during the ritual.