A Celebration of Confirmation, Reaffirmation and Reception Eucharist took place at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday, October 23, 2021 (Memorial Day for James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus). This was the first diocesan confirmation service of the Right Reverend John Stephens’ young episcopacy and the first such liturgy since May 11, 2019, almost two and a half years ago. Although COVID-19 and the many restrictions on public gatherings made it difficult for Anglican Christians to affirm their commitment to faith through confirmation the absence of that opportunity certainly didn’t decrease enthusiasm around the diocese. Fifty candidates were confirmed, three were received in the Anglican Church of Canada and one was reaffirmed. This total of 54 candidates represented 13 parishes of the 66 parishes and 3 worshipping communities of our diocese. Twenty-four confirmands were from St. Mary the Virgin, Sapperton and eight were from St. Cuthbert’s, Delta with those two parishes combining to contribute a large percentage of the candidates. Luke Primus of Christ Church Cathedral was the first confirmand of Bishop John’s episcopacy and to complete the circle, Nadine Gomm of St. Philip’s was the final confirmand of his first confirmation. The final candidate was Judith Rowbotham of Holy Spirit, Whonnock who was reaffirmed by the bishop with a blessing and the laying on of hands.
In many ways this liturgy resembled a pre-pandemic gathering. There were three hundred plus assembled in the cathedral nave and chancel, ten members of the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Organist and Director of Music Rupert Lang, a full cohort of Sanctuary Party members, greeters, Cathedral staffers and more. Leading up to the liturgy each parish was requested to limit attendance to clergy and lay sponsors and a maximum of two additional “guests” per candidate. Mask-wearing was mandatory throughout the various areas of the sanctuary and were only removed for speaking. The choir and congregation sang, however, masks remained in use during participation in the music in worship, except for the excellent offering of Don Besig’s and Nancy Price’s praise song, “Let Us Serve Him” by the St. Cuthbert’s Youth Choir who gathered in the northernmost part of the chancel in front of the reredos, physically distanced from each other and removed their masks to sing. The choir was led by Barb Buxton and accompanied by pianist, Laura Pauloski playing the cathedral’s Steinway Concert Grand.
(A YouTube post of this performance is linked below)
One week prior, all candidates were encouraged to attend a confirmation preparation day at Christ Church Cathedral. The event for 2021 was titled, “Strengthened by the Spirit” and coverage is available on page xx of this issue of Topic. The writer of that article, the Reverend Jessica Schaap, Missioner for Christian Formation for the diocese of New Westminster is the staff person with much of the responsibility for creating the preparation program and for developing the confirmation liturgy with help from Bishop John and others. Although metrics for determining the success of church services are limited, it’s safe to say that under any circumstances the 2021 iterations of confirmation preparation and worship were a huge success. A few days after the worship, Bishop John commented that he was delighted by the entire experience and went on to say that taking part in the preparation day had given him the opportunity to get to know the candidates at least a little which added considerably to the overall experience.
Bishop John was the preacher, presider and celebrant. For his text he referred to the Memorial being celebrated (James of Jerusalem) and the Gospel passage proclaimed that day that mentions James, Matthew 13: 53-58. He saved his direct message to the candidates for the penultimate paragraph of his homily which was as follows:
“You see today a number of people will be confirming, reaffirming their faith or are being received into the Anglican Church. And in some ways we could just see this as conforming to a certain way to think about God and the world. And I really hope that that is not what we are doing. I hope that we are here to affirm that these people are confirming their faith in this radical Jesus, who is calling them not to simply have a faith in a predictable God of simplicity but rather a God who will change and transform them. A God who comes to us in human form to stir us to see anew that God is known amongst us and calling us to new life. That while the world around us is in a climate emergency, our faith is calling us to care for this earth and treat it as gift from the source of life. That while we continue to disregard so many people in this world with our racism, colonialism, residential schools, misogyny, efforts to keep the poor in poverty… our faith is calling us to respect the dignity of every human being. While many seek a future centred on individualism our hope in God is about community and loving our neighbours. Our faith is a radical response to the world all around us. Our faith is inviting us not simply to conform but to confirm that indeed God is known amongst us and within us and that the Holy Spirit continues to work through us.”
The liturgy continued with the Presentation and Examination of the Candidates by the bishop, the leading by Bishop John of the Baptismal Covenant, and the Prayers for the Candidates led by intercessor Gabriel Pestano a candidate for reception from St. Anne’s, Steveston. Following the laying on of hands, Bishop John shared the following prayer:
Almighty and everliving God
let your loving hand ever be over these your servants
let your Holy Spirit ever be with them; and so lead them in
the knowledge and obedience of your word,
that they may serve you in this life,
and dwell with you in the life to come;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The prayer was followed by “the Peace” and the Offertory Hymn, “Come and Journey with a Saviour.”
The Eucharist, the central purpose of our liturgical life together seems even more meaningful and appropriate when it is celebrated at a confirmation service. Even though many churches practice Open Table and the majority of Anglican churches welcome all baptized Christians to participate in the Eucharist, the first Communion following confirmation holds a special place in the memories and hearts of the newly baptized, confirmed, reaffirmed and received. As has been the case throughout those times when our churches have been open for onsite worship during the pandemic, Holy Communion was of one kind, the bread, the Body of Christ.
Following the Episcopal Blessing, the Closing Hymn, “Your Hand O God Has Guided Me” and the Dismissal by Deacon of the Word and Table for the Eucharist, the Reverend Jaunita Clark, Bishop John remained on the chancel platform in front of the altar for the next half hour to pose for pictures with parish groups, individuals, family groups and several other combinations.
Please keep the newly confirmed, reaffirmed and received in your prayers as they journey forward in faith living into this commitment to serve God.