What is Confirmation?
What we now call confirmation was originally part of a wider ceremony of Christian initiation and only became a separate rite when bishops were no longer able to preside at all baptisms.
Confirmation is carried out by the bishop for those who have been baptised and now wish to affirm for themselves their faith and their intention to live a life as responsible and committed followers of Jesus Christ. Through prayer and the laying on of hands by the confirming bishop, the Church also asks God to give them power through the Holy Spirit to enable them to live in this way.
Confirmation may also be combined with adult baptism in which case the confirmation element signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit following on from baptism in water. The biblical model for this is Christ’s own baptism in which, the gospels tell us, the Spirit descended on Him when He came up out of the water after having been baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33).
How old do I have to be?
Anyone may be confirmed who has been baptised, who is old enough to answer responsibly for themselves, and who has received appropriate preparation. In the Church of England it has been traditional for people to be confirmed in their early teens, but there is no set age for confirmation. In many dioceses, however, the diocesan bishop has set a minimum age for Confirmation. If this is the case your parish priest will be able to tell you what the minimum age is.
Preparation for Confirmation
The purpose of confirmation preparation is to ensure that those who are confirmed have a proper understanding of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ within the life of the Church of England. In The Book of Common Prayer it is envisaged that this preparation will take the form of learning by heart the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and The Book of Common Prayer Catechism. Today a more comprehensive course of preparation is felt to be appropriate. As in the case of baptism preparation, the form that this preparation takes will vary according to the practice of the church or cathedral concerned and the particular needs and circumstances of the confirmation candidates.
Where Confirmation takes place
Many people are confirmed in the church or cathedral that they normally attend. However, people may also be confirmed in another church in a service in which candidates from a number of different churches are combined together, and some children and young people are confirmed at their school.
Confirmation and Holy Communion
According to the Canons (laws) of the Church of England those who receive Holy Communion in the Church of England should either have been confirmed in the Church of England or should be ready and desire to be confirmed. However, there may be an exception to this requirement in the case of children who are admitted to Communion prior to confirmation. This something which many dioceses, including Durham, are now offering to parishes as part of an agreed diocesan and parochial policy.
Those who are baptised communicant members in good standing of other churches are also welcome to receive Holy Communion in the Church of England with the understanding that if they continue doing so indefinitely then they should be made aware of the normal requirements for reception.
It is normal for Confirmation to be followed straight away by Holy Communion, although in cases where confirmation has not taken place in a candidate’s parish church they may instead take Communion for the first time in that church on the following Sunday.
Confirmation and holding office in the Church of England
The Canons lay down that those who wish to exercise certain leadership roles in the Church of England, including ordained ministers, readers and licensed lay workers need to be confirmed as a sign of their commitment to living as disciples of Christ as the Church of England understands it.
Details of your local church may be found at Find Your Church or A Church Near You
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