This Sunday at 10 am, we will be having our Confirmation Sunday! The eleven youth from Confirmation have spent two years in reflection, theological education, and retreat to discern that they would like to covenant with First Church of Guilford as members. This is a great celebration of the tradition of affirming our baptisms and remembering what it means to be church in worship, service, and sacrament. For the first time since 1643, however, our confirmands will be making their vows to the congregation and we will be affirming those vows by email-worship. We have been clear to claim the worship-by-email as "actual" "real" worship in a different form. While we all look forward to a time when we can be together again in our meetinghouse (no, I don’t know when that will be), it is amazing and miraculous to me that we have found a way to stay bound together and even affirm the convents of the confirmands in this time. This year, we have allowed two different kinds of confirmation projects: traditional faith statements and faith expression artwork. Let me tell you they are incredible, deep, and thoughtful. Please do join us on Sunday for this celebration of community and the vitality of our local church!
Over the course of this year, my approach to confirmation is that it is both a faith-journey for the confirmands but also for the mentors. Both groups have deep learning through the process. I have invited the 2020 mentors to also offer Re-Statements of Faith to be shared together in this week’s Steeple. These excerpts of the Re-Statements of the mentors speak to the depth of the experience and the faith life we nurture for all involved in the Confirmation Program at First Church. Here are some statements from our 2020 mentors:
Stephanie Little Brown: When I was first approached about participating in the Confirmation Mentorship program, I nearly laughed in Ginger’s face (sorry about that!). I mean, me?? ME??? Have you met me?? I digress…I didn’t want to say no, and she was so excited about my Confirmand matchup with Isabel, how could I? Well, Ginger gets the last laugh - or smile - on this one. Little did I know, this matchup proved to be just what I needed to understand that it was never about me. Walking beside Isabel these last 2 years has been a delightful experience. She is an amazing young lady - smart, full of passion, fire and quiet strength. MY FAITH: Is what carries me through, when I feel like I’m running on empty or like I have nothing left to give. It is what keeps my head to the sky and lifts my spirit, when it seems like everything else in the world is trying to drag me down and pull me under. It is the light in the darkness of the tunnel that seems to have no end in sight. It is the breath of God that fills my lungs and allows me to breathe when anxiety and despair sit heavily upon my chest. It is the feeling of the love of God, and knowing that I am deserving and worthy, even when I have missed the mark. My faith is LOVE. Love is God. God is Love. Congratulations to the Confirmation Class of 2020!! Read Stephanie’s Full Re-Statement Here
Janice Nolan: Being a confirmation mentor the past several years has grown me and stretched me in ways I didn’t realize it would. I used to describe my faith as being rooted in love - and it is. What I hadn’t consciously given thought to, though, was a follow-up question Reverend Jake asked us as we discussed what our faith meant to us during a recent confirmation meeting…”But, why”, he asked, “is the Church relevant in all this?” Good question - and one I’ve dwelled on for a while now. As I’ve watched the events of the past few weeks unfold and experienced the uprising in voices demanding justice and crying out against the oppression Black people have endured for hundreds of years...as we move into Pride Month and celebrate and support the LGBTQ community who have long been treated by many as less than...as I’ve longed for the in-person touch-points that Sunday morning worship brings where we can connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ - and process and share and mess up and give grace and love one another through all of life’s challenges, hardships, and moments of joy...and as all of this came into clear view as I had the privilege of listening to one of our confirmands describe her faith expression during our Zoom meeting (thank you, again - Isabel!), I realized that the church is relevant for many reasons, but most fundamentally, to me, because we are stronger - and better - together. We humans are not designed to “go it alone”. We are social beings by nature and we need community to thrive, whether we are introverted or extroverted. Read Janice's Full Re-Statement Here.
Stephen Hegedus: In my early adult life, I often felt so awkward or upset at Church at times that I did not fit in or did not comply with what is necessary in terms of ways and deeds. Maybe I thought there was a report-card for such deeds. Today I try to walk a simpler path. I now understand that we do not do things independently or selfishly; I can now comprehend how great a United Church is when we believe the collective sum of our endeavors is of a total impacting force. For me, because we are mortal we cannot ever comprehend God. But because there was a person called Jesus Christ we have a god-incarnate to aspire to, to question, to be mentored by and ultimately to be led by. (John 14:11) “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” Read Stephen's full testimony here.
Dick Harter: “What’s Next” As we neared the end of eighth grade, eight of us whose families were members of the First Congregational Church of Columbus were asked whether we wanted to become members of the church. We’d been in the church school for many years, and that’s “what’s next.” Very little information; no questions; and we signed the membership book. Pilgrim Fellowship at that church made up, over 4 years of high school, what didn’t happen in preparation for confirmation. It took quite a while. Guilford does it better. Read Dick's Full Faith Re-Statement here.
Annie Freund: Just spending time with these young people for two years has instilled in me the deepest appreciation of the Lord and His wondrous ways. These young adults inspire me to do better, to put myself in God's hands, to give more freely. to live a better kinder life. Being Brady's mentor has been a wonderful experience. Not having known each other before this was a little awkward but we soon found trust in each other. Spending time with his family was such a pleasure and getting to know them helped Brady and me along our way. He has a special gift in his understanding of the Bible and the works of Jesus. He is a great kid and will be a fine man. He cares greatly for his family and community. I wish only the best for him.
What does God mean to me?
She is my Mom, my elderly aunt, my minister and my daughters;
He is my son, my minister and my dear friends.
They all help me, love me and keep me safe.
As I get older I realize every part of my life gets better with God in it.
Becca Mitchell: I'm grateful to have served as a mentor not only because I've gotten to know our wonderful group of confirmands, but also because it has provided an opportunity to reflect on my own faith journey. I have considered questions such as: Where do I find God? What is at the core of my faith? What expressions of faith reach me in the deepest ways? I find God in nature and art. I see God in my children's laughter and my husband's smile. I see God in the kindness of strangers. God reaches me through Ginger, Jake, and Caryne's words, Bill's music, Julie's poems, Judi's lessons, and Milton's voice. I feel God's presence in the passing of the peace and the distribution of bread. In sharing communion, hearing joys and concerns, and in silent moments of prayer. I believe that God is love. And I believe that love is powerful.
Donna Gregory: I feel drawn to use the term “faith story.” My journey in faith unfolds like an ongoing story, never standing still in just one declarative place. Experiences, people, and noticings along the way inform, shape, and add details to both my image of God and my understanding of how I’m called to walk in the world. Being a mentor has added notes in the margins and highlights on some of my pages, and experiences as part of the community of First Church weave in elements that, on my own, I wouldn’t have thought to include. The words of our church’s welcome have always stirred invitation inside of me: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” These words invite me to lean comfortably into the unfolding of a story that is uniquely me. I have a faith community that welcomes me in whatever chapter I currently write.
Bo Huhn: I have particularly enjoyed being a mentor for Luke Waehner and my involvement in the 2020 confirmation classes. We can all be grateful that Luke has joined us. He is a kind, thoughtful, and intelligent person, and a credit to his lovely parents and grandparents. The confirmation classes were a great opportunity to focus on spiritual growth, my beliefs, and to consider the importance of spiritual strength in my own life. We are surrounded by beauty, immersed in uncountable blessings, loved and cherished by God. Each day I try to see the beauty, to notice and be grateful for one or more of the blessings, and to feel the warmth and love that surrounds us. As a history student in college, and then graduate and professional work in law, I have little comprehension of theoretical physics. But as I read about space/time, quantum physics, multiple dimensions, gravity and dark matter, I believe it is possible to glimpse a spiritual force that fills the universe, separate and apart from matter. We can look inside ourselves and know that we are loved and cherished, that God’s spiritual force is also present in us, and that our eyes, and ears, and brain, our consciousness, are extremely important to God; unimaginably more important than a comparable quantity of matter such as 160 pounds of inert dirt. Through our eyes, God sees the beauty too, through our thanks he experiences the gratitude, and through our acts of kindness feels the love. Read Bo's full Faith Re-Statement here.
Zanne Huhn: Being a mentor for the past two years has encouraged me to re-examine my own faith as the Confirmands have worked to define theirs. I was not baptized until I was in my thirties, and, therefore, a Confirmation Class was not part of my teenage faith journey. It has been a privilege to be part of this group and to observe the spiritual growth which has occurred, theirs, and my own. I realize more than ever that I see God everywhere. I feel His presence in the intricacies of Nature and the world around me, the amazing connections of all beings, and the dependence we each have on His design and on each other. I have learned to trust that design, and, most of the time, to “let go, and let God”. I have come to understand that there is a purpose underlying all that happens in our lives whether that purpose is immediately apparent or not. I have a strong sense that God holds me and my family in the palm of His hand, and that I can rely on that certainty and His love. My part of the deal is to live the best life that I can, to take care of God’s creation, and to reflect His love wherever I can. I will try.
Thank you to these mentors for sharing part of their faith journeys, experiences as mentors for confirmation, and testimonies for the importance of faith and church in their lives. Tune in this Sunday for worship-by-email to affirm the work, faith, and covenants of this year's Confirmation Class 2020... a class like none before.