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stand up and be confirmed

I’m sure we can all get into an unquestioned way of doing things.

For confirmation I’m used to seeing people kneel, facing liturgical East (in the same direction as the congregation, so those being confirmed have their back to the congregation), with the bishop laying on hands facing liturgical West. Within the safety of this digital community here I’m also interested and acknowledging that I’ve never really thought if there’s a different/better way to do it. [You all know I take care to think through most liturgical traditions…] So I was delighted to fall over images from St Peter’s Anglican Church, Pahiatua, where Bishop Justin Duckworth is confirming people – they are standing and facing the congregation.

I’m delighted to see an online presence which gives the impression of a vibrant small parish.

I know some of the readers here will have reached for Prayer Books to check confirmation rubrics. A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa hasThe candidates being conveniently placed, the bishop continues…” TEC’s BCP and CofE’s Common Worship similarly say nothing about posture etc. at the laying on of hands.

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33 thoughts on “stand up and be confirmed”

  1. A great example of ‘the way we’ve always done things’. Historically there have been a multitude of stances but none (that I’m aware of) that placed the confirmands in quite this position. I have no problem with standing, but from both a philosophical and practical point I’m not keen on facing the congregation at this point. I feel the same about weddings to be honest. That said, by no means a liturgical deal breaker.

    1. Thanks, Brian. Readers here may not be aware you’ve done study on confirmation for the province. Can you list some of the “multitude of stances”? And can you expand on the philosophical and practical points you mention? Blessings.

  2. Standing, kneeling and sitting were all common in the early / medieval Church (depending on where you were). Also, of course, being held was very common as we move into the 6th and 7th centuries. The Gelasian Sacramentary includes a rubric instructing the deacon to take the ‘infante’ in his arms to be sealed by the bishop. Posture has been a moveable feast (if you’ll pardon the pun) throughout.
    Philosophically I’m not a fan of having confirmands / brides and grooms facing the congregation as it can take on something of a school prizegiving or presentation feeling (accentuated of course if there’s an altar or credance table behind them with multiple items of silverware). I attended a wedding once where the bride and groom faced the congregation while the celebrant conducted them like an orchestra. Not a fan!
    Practically, the bishop does a lot of talking in the confirmation service and having her/his back to people isn’t greatly helpful. There is also the reality of the confirmands etc being distracted by what’s happening ‘out there’.
    There is also a symbolic aspect of course – confirmands come from the community, they are presented by the community, thus to position themselves in the same direction as the community carries some significance.
    As I said, none of the above is a deal breaker and mostly it’s a case of what I am comfortable with.
    Personally I am mostly pleased to see any bishop taking confirmation seriously! In more than 25 years of studying the matter I have discovered that most love to do them but few have given a great deal of thought to what they’re actually doing.

  3. I look on this site as one of the most interesting and original in the religious sphere. I also from its title recognise a principal focus on liturgy. like many if not most humans i enjoy ritual. A well worked out liturgy helps in my celebration, approach to the mystery that we call God. But do not we sometimes become obsessed and forget that the sabbath was made for man.
    A eucharist celebrated in board shorts or whatever is still a eucharist.

    1. Thanks so much, Brian, for the compliment and encouragement. You may need to expand a bit further about your last couple of sentences. I’m not sure if you are responding to me or to Brian? And if to my post, is there something that I have written poorly – for I do not disagree with you? Blessings.

  4. And just to prove Brian P’s point, beneath the cope, out of the camera’s gaze, +Justin is wearing jandals! (Flip flops for non Kiwis)

  5. Thank you. I was referring to Brian Dawson’s comment. Style of wirship is significant for me but it occurs to me, rather more frequently lately, that my reaction is more aesthetic than spiritual.. A friend was bewailing the other day that he would have to withdraw if his parish, as it was threatening, introduced a projector, displaying on wall or screen words of hymns and other texts. My preferences would be his but it is certainly fundamentally aesthetic and prejudical. Inthis regard i read the following in today’s “Daily Episcopalian”.

    Holy Redeemer in Lake Worth was past its prime when Christina Encinosa arrived as pastor in 2004. Two years later, she had to preside over the demolition of the church, which was a kind of death for her congregation. Built in 1960, the church had structural problems aggravated by Hurricanes Frances and Jean. The small congregation regrouped in the church hall.

    “When we took down the cross in 2006, I told them we would have to learn how to be a church,” said Encinosa, 34. “The church is not the building, the church is wherever we are.”
    One can change building to all kinds of other relevant words.

  6. If you ever witnessed a confirmation taken by +Graham Dow when he was Bishop of Willesden (London Diocese), confirmands being slain in the Spirit wasn’t altogether uncommon.

    1. While I admit I was being a bit jocular in asking, at the same time there was something at least a little serious in my question. While in college in the Missouri Ozarks, I occasionally played organ for the Saturday evening Roman mass. When that parish had the Life in the Spirit seminars, it was put on by a group of brothers and sisters from St. Louis. For at least the closing session and mass, Fr. Francis McNutt was there (co-celebrant for the closing mass).

      While I did not end up on the floor, others did.

  7. Bosco, I don’t want to trivialize the discussion – but Barry, who needs a mitre when you’ve got dreadlock lappets like that?! More seriously, we had confirmation at St James’ King Street Sydney last Sunday (not a mitre in sight of course, being dio Sydney, but I got to hold the bishop’s crozier, as chaplain). You may be interested to know that the bishop sat to confirm the candidates, and anointed them.

    1. Thanks, Martin. I’m confused why a crozier but no mitre…

      Your point about anointing made me turn to A Prayer Book for Australia. I know it’s not a popular book in Sydney, but what rite was being used. There’s no mention of anointing in that prayer book. There’s an understanding that if RCs do something, Sydney will forbid it. So why anointing? With what words if any?

      That Prayer Book does have a rubric about posture!!! “Those who are to be confirmed kneel before the bishop, who lays a hand upon each of them saying…” What is further eccentric about this is that although the rite goes on to refer to this as “the laying on of hands” (plural) – the first rubric I noted only has “a hand”! Maybe, Sydney being ever inclusive, is conscious of not excluding one-handed bishops?


      1. I understand that our regional bishop Robert Forsyth’s crozier was a gift at his consecration, but I don’t know if all the Sydney bishops use one. I suspect that the bishop(s) who do not wear robes at services (gatherings) – including confirmation – would not use a crozier.

        The confirmation rite used at St James’ was from APBA. I don’t recall whether words accompanied the anointing, but will check the SJKS liturgy booklet. If words were used, I guess they would have been imported from elsewhere.

        Yes, the candidates knelt in turn before the bishop. I will need to check the photos to see if the bishop used one or two hands.

        1. The bishop used two hands to confirm.

          The anointing of each candidate was with these words (APBA page 91 – from the Reaffirmation section) “N., may the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you, direct and uphold you in the service of Christ and his kingdom.”

  8. Sadly I find this conversation fascinating:) Two points Bosco: Firstly, APBFA gathers up a centuries old controversy surrounding the use of two hands or one. The early medieval Roman rites switched between the two with alarming regularity and absolutely no rationale. The Australuan option may be simply a pragmatic decision to go with both:)
    Secondly, it doesn’t surprise me at all that a bishop (even a Sydney bishop) would anoint a confirnand. There are three possible reasons, all of which I’ve encountered in our own Province. 1) The bishop takes a somewhat old fashioned and un-Anglican (in recent years) position that confirmation is a completing of baptism (the so-called Mason-Dix line) and should include the traditional anointing (or more accurately in this context, sealing) of the confirmand. Many of us prefer to see this as the signing done immediately post-baptism in the New Zealand liturgy (a somewhat Eastern approach where the bishop is present in the chrism oil).
    2) The bishop erroneously sees anointing as a sign of the Spirit’s blessing, failing to understand that this happens in the handlaying and prayer for the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit.
    3) The bishop just likes using oil (similar to the priest who always wore a red stole because he liked the colour).

    1. Thanks, Brian. I would just add to your good points that in NZ the connection of oil with the bishop is lost – because a priest can “set apart” oil “for this purpose”. Furthermore, there’s the unusual practice in NZ of making the sign of the cross with water instead of oil. Blessings.

  9. I think it’s a good idea to have them face the congregation; thanks for sharing this Bosco. What I’d love to see however is permission for priests to confirm adults (over 21?) at the time of the Baptism for those new to the faith.

    1. This opens up something I feel strongly about, Vincent. If baptism is complete (my position) – why do we have those baptised as adults then go on to another service where the bishop confirms them…?! Blessings.

      1. Exactly my thoughts Bosco. It’s also a rather poor pastoral position to put someone in. Converting to Christianity, going through extensive teaching and preparation, and being Baptised… only to be told that you’re not fully [recognised? acknowledged? trusted? something?] without waiting best part of a year to see a Bishop is rather odd, confusing, and sometimes actually distressing.

        In theory, the Bishop, as the person with oversight of all teaching in the diocese, should ensure the candidates are well taught before confirming them. Except, as we both know, this rarely (if ever) happens. If it did happen, it would be a reason for the situation to continue.

        My suggestion is to grant authority to priests to conduct confirmation in these circumstances (standing in place of the bishop, of course); a simplified declaration as part of adult baptism should permit this. The advantage over just removing confirmation as a requirement for adult converts is that this removes the possibility of confusion over the status of the person, especially as he or she moves province etc.

  10. If you look here St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Brixton: 25th anniversary | Khanya, the third picture down, you’ll see the Orthodox way of doing things. Well, it’s Chrismation, which is the Orthodox equivalent of confirmation, and it would be impractical to do it while the candidate is kneeling.

    They are also faceing liturgical North, which is actually geographical East, but I don’t think that was deliberate, it just happened to be most convenient (liturgical fundis can correct me if I’m wrong).

  11. With our (NZ Anglican) formal understanding there is no rationale reason for confirming anyone baptised as an adult. I have served under two bishops who asked to be called in to do all such baptisms and usually confirmed at the same time. Confirmation for those baptised as adults only makes sense if you don’t believe invitation is complete in baptism.

    1. That is, of course Brian, if you are certain at the time of your baptism that God will never call you to ordination! Our formal NZ Anglican understanding is that the initiation of those baptised as adults is incomplete. Blessings.

      1. An observation on this discussion on the lack of need of confirmation throughout these comments.

        Is baptism 100% required for salvation? Or, are their times things don’t fit into neat little boxes? It is a matter of deciding what is normative practice and running with it.

        It is one thing in Acts 2 to see the only action being baptism. However, we know that in Acts 8.14ff that sometimes something more than baptism was practiced from earliest days of the Church.

        To make it clear my point of view , is a person who is baptised without confirmation any less a Christian? Or, is a person who is confirmed any more a Chrisitan? No on both counts. Both are equally Christian, beloved by their Creator.

        However, why do we ordain deacons, priests, and bishops? Didn’t they receive everything they needed in their baptism? Or, just as what happened in Acts 8.14ff, is there something more than being a baptized believer?

        I don’t think clear-cut statements about the sufficency of baptsim covers everything.

  12. Our statements on baptism make it clear that NZ Anglicans officially believe that to be the only (and complete) point of initiation. The continuing requirement for confirmation is at odds with that belief (you and I are in agreement on this I suspect). This reflects the tensions of the 70s and 80s when our current liturgies were being formulated. In the Episcopal Church of course the equivalent of our Prayer Book Commission sought to remove the requirement for a bishop to do confirmations, having already shifted the liturgy away from the initiation rites and into the Pastoral Liturgies to make clear that confirmation is not about initiation. Sadly the House of Bishops vetoed the attempt to make them redundant in confirmation.
    All in all this simply continues an age old confusion over what confirmation is and does. I am at this time trying to determine whether Anglicans have ever had a coherent, universal understanding of the meaning of this difficult rite – not looking good thus far:)

    1. Thanks, Brian.

      As a recent comment here explained, “Anglican” is not a synonym for “coherent.”

      Although each of us might latch on to the material we favour and call it “the church’s teaching”, sadly, NZ Anglicans do not consistently officially believe baptism to be the only (and complete) point of initiation – as your second sentence, which contradicts your first, indicates. Confused and confusing theology and liturgical principles are at least consistently across the board in this province! My attempts to encourage working towards consistency in this particular area led to no progress whatsoever. In fact we have the weirdest baptismal rite in the Anglican world – in order to have any baptism whatsoever one has to attempt to extricate it from a combined baptism-confirmation rite!!! Even the church’s formularies themselves cannot do this successfully!


  13. What I referred to was our statements, not what individual Anglicans may or may not believe. “The sacramental means of entry and incorporation into the Body of Christ occurs through Baptism … Baptism confers full membership of the Church” (Standing Resolution SRL 4.3) There is definitely an official position and this is it. That’s not me “latching on” to anything, it’s what our Standing Resolutions state. That does not mean that all Anglicans (even bishops) in our Province agree with, or even understand, that position. On the contrary, as I stated, our own Prayer Book complicates the matter with its placement of confirmation within the wider initiation liturgy. I personally quite like the baptism liturgy, but wish it was seperated (preferably by a significant number of pages) from the confirmation rite.
    Contrary to what some people believe, Anglicans do have ‘official’ understandings at Provincial levels, we’re just very bad at times at keeping faith with them or passing them on.

    1. Thanks, Brian.

      I hold firmly to the position that baptism is full church membership whatever the vagaries and inconsistencies of our province may come up with.

      Our province, in fact and practice, does not agree with your interpretation, and places episcopal confirmation as a further requirement on those it ordains.

      Even the Standing Resolution you quote astonishingly goes on to have further possible hoops to jump through. SRL4.4 is about whether all the baptised may receive communion. Once again we see the confused and confusing: rather than state “All may therefore receive communion from the time of their Baptism irrespective of age” and leave it at that, it goes on to muddy the water with: “those once admitted (whether at Baptism, or when judged pastorally appropriate by priest and family, or at a special service after more formal instruction, or after receiving Laying on of Hands for Confirmation), are welcome to receive communion in any parish in this Church.”

      The status of the Standing Resolutions, as you know, are questionable. The previous Standing Resolution (SRL 3) was declared illegal at the recent meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui.


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