By Lorri Camilleri, Family Minister, Saint Peter’s Church, Lewes
On a glorious late afternoon on November 5, eighteen adults and youth were confirmed, received, reaffirmed, and welcomed into the Episcopal Church with Bishop “Bud” Shand officiating at Saint Peter’s Church in Lewes. This regional service welcomed members from three parishes in the diocese – Saint Martha’s, Bethany Beach; Saint Peter’s, Lewes; and Saint Peter’s, Smyrna. The people who participated were all ages and from all walks of life and Bishop Shand treated everyone equally with kindness and a bit of humor. There were smiles from both the chancel and pews at his boisterous, “The Lord Be With You!” You knew you were being welcomed into a loving and welcoming Church by this man who has confirmed hundreds of souls during his tenure as bishop.
Preaching for the first time in the diocese was our bishop-elect, the Rev. Kevin S. Brown, who so eloquently reminded those assembled that we are all Christians and must always be Christ-like in our actions. He said that this was “Declaration Day” for those entering this holy union with the Church and indeed it was. This was their opportunity to say YES to the living God and to do so throughout their lives. He spoke of finding peace and finding out who they really are. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” so should we want those exact same things throughout our lives. Following Jesus need not be hard, it can be as easy as not laughing at a racist joke, being kind and welcoming to one another or living and doing as Christ did while he was here on earth. Because this service welcomed not only Confirmands but those reaffirming their vows and several members from the Lutheran Church, it truly was an example of how the Episcopal Church welcomes everyone.
When a baby is baptized, it is obviously not possible for them to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell within themselves so their parents and godparents are called upon to do so. Thus, one of the reasons that the Rite of Confirmation is important is that after preparing through months of study and prayer, the candidates are able to make a public affirmation of their faith and show that they have made this decision for themselves to invite the Holy Spirit into their lives.
When each candidate approached him one by one, Bishop Shand, laid hands upon their head and blessed them individually saying, “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant N. with your Holy Spirit; empower him/her for your service, and sustain him/her all the days of his/her life.” At that moment, the newly blessed become full members of the Episcopal Church.
As was written previously, after the first confirmation service officiated by Bishop Shand, it is also appropriate for adults who, having been baptized, perhaps as adults or as on this day, coming from the Lutheran tradition, 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, “Name, 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.”
Due to the smaller number of participants at this service, Bishop Shand was able to speak to each person individually, greeting them by name, and even taking time to get the correct pronunciation of their names. Each person receiving the rites and blessings approached the bishop with their rector and sometimes others from their church to lay hands on them as they were blessed by Bishop Shand. One of the most touching moments was when they were asked to all hold hands to pray.
This service was the second of its kind in recent months and as many are aware, it is not the usual way the services are conducted in the Diocese of Delaware. Normally our bishop will visit each church in the diocese once a year and officiate a Rite of Confirmation during that time but without a bishop currently, we were blessed to have the Right Reverend James “Bud” Shand, officiate at these two services. Bishop Shand was the tenth bishop of the Diocese of Easton and retired in 2014. He was appointed by our Standing Committee to serve as visiting bishop until we elected and consecrated our new bishop. On December 9, we will consecrate the Rev. Kevin S. Brown as our new bishop and are blessed to have him in our midst.