Maybe we have our weighting wrong.
Last weekend I was at an ordination. In our grand, full cathedral, with one of the world’s excellent choirs, with grand processions of robed clergy, coped archdeacons, billowing incense, and five splendidly attired bishops, with prostrations and much ceremony, the two hour service ordained four priests. The bishop, visiting from half a planet away, preached a sermon on the vocation to the ordained priesthood. Each new priest receives a sizeable certificate with the bishop’s personal signature and seal. It will probably be hung prominently in their study. After years of study, preparation, and prayer this is one of the most important days in their life …
Previously they would have been confirmed. Probably in their parish church – varying in quality. There might have been a choir doing its best. The church may even have been pretty full. Probably no incense. The bishop may have vested in cope and mitre or merely rochet and chimere. The service might have taken an hour or so. The sermon probably addressed the whole congregation. Kneeling rather than prostration. Each newly confirmed might have received a certificate no larger than an A5. Certainly no episcopal seal. If they were devout then, they may still have it. After weeks of preparation this was a special day…
Previously they were baptised. Sometimes baptised “in order to be confirmed” (some I know are confirmed “in order to be ordained”). Probably in the back of a church – sometimes the parish church, sometimes not. Maybe on a Sunday – that’s the norm now, but in their age-group it could just as easily have been with only the family on a Saturday afternoon. And it might have taken less than a quarter of an hour. The priest probably wore an alb and stole. There may have been no sermon. I hope they were given a certificate. I hope they still have it. After maybe a meeting to discuss this, this was a special moment…
In the Bible and in the early church, everything was the other way around. Baptism marked the great occasion. In the early church the lengthy baptism liturgy was celebrated throughout the Easter night with much drama after lengthy, intense preparation. Confirmation was integral to baptism, and ordination was the early-church equivalent of a little addition to a regular service.
Do you prominently display your baptism certificate?
Do you, year by year, celebrate the anniversary of your baptism (do you even know the date?!) and those in your household?
- Confirming Kate
- Baptism Confirmation – Theory and Practice
- Ordination devaluation?
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective Churches 7