Pentecost Sunday's Regional Confirmation Service

 

by Danny N. Schweers, Staff Writer

“When you come up to the altar and I lay hands on you, do not be distracted trying to read the words on the cross hanging from my neck. I will tell you right now what they say. They say, ‘This Bud is for You.’”

Bishop “Bud” Shand said this to put the 67 people before him at ease. Most were about to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church at a service on Pentecost Sunday, June 4, at Christ Church Christiana Hundred. Two were there to have their baptismal vows reaffirmed.

“This Bud is for you” is an advertising slogan for Budweiser Beer, a slogan dating from 1979 and still in use today. Everyone knows Bishop Shand as “Bud”, so the slogan takes on new meaning referring to him, the words on his cross a way of saying he is there for you, a friend, in a way no brewed beverage can be. And, because the words are on a cross, another meaning of those words is to say Jesus is for you, your buddy.

One of the radical tenets of Christianity is that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Another is that Jesus called his disciples “friends” or, in more contemporary language, his buddies. We are buddies with God!

The Rev. Paul Gennett echoed this idea in his sermon, telling the assembled that, in baptism, they invited God’s Spirit into their very being, a Spirit that empowers them for mission in the world, light working through us, changing the world and us as well, giving each of us different gifts, making us instruments of God’s mission. “Hang on tight!” he said. “It can be a wild ride!”

Because the Episcopal Church baptizes infants, it may not make sense to say babes invite the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. It makes more sense to say their parents and godparents ask that for them. That is one of the reasons we have the Rite of Confirmation.

At Confirmation, young adults, grown up and able to make decisions, having been duly prepared through study and teaching and prayer, make a mature public affirmation of their faith. They acknowledge that they have, indeed, invited the Holy Spirit into their lives. They approach the bishop, who lays hands on each person’s head, one at a time, and blesses them, saying, “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant N. with your Holy Spirit; empower him for your service, and sustain him all the days of his life.”

With this rite, those so blessed become full members of the Episcopal Church. It is also appropriate for adults who, having been baptized, perhaps as adults, are welcomed into the Episcopal Church. The rite is slightly different for those who have already been baptized and confirmed in other denominations. If the Episcopal Church recognizes that confirmation, the person is received rather than confirmed. The bishop says, “N., we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you. Amen.”

Imagine Bishop Shand beginning his blessings at 4:37 p.m. and ending 29 minutes later, spending all of 29 seconds with each person he blessed, 67 people in all, seeking to make those seconds precious and meaningful. It helped that he talked to each person, greeted them personally, and took time to get the correct pronunciation of their names. To make the rite more personal, the confirmands came to the altar with other confirmands from their church, waiting together to go forward. Frequently their rector and others from their church laid hands on them as the bishop blessed them.

This is not how things are usually done in the Diocese of Delaware. Usually our bishop visits each church in the diocese once a year and officiates at a Rite of Confirmation. Usually only a few are confirmed at each service. Usually we have a bishop, but not at the moment. The Right Reverend Bud Shand, who retired in 2014 as the tenth bishop of the Diocese of Easton, was appointed by our Standing Committee to serve as visiting bishop, to celebrate two regional services of confirmation. This Pentecost service was the first; the second will be Sunday, November 5, at 4:00 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, Lewes.

Christ Church Christiana Hundred was full, standing room only, for this happy event. Afterwards, a reception was held outside the church on the lawn. Photographs of the service can be found on my Flickr.com account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45886755@N04/albums/72157681650698174

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