I was challenged again, listening to the confessions of our young people preparing for their Confirmation. The challenge comes each time I take on this daunting task, and it comes in the form of the sincerity and depth of trust that our young people take in making themselves vulnerable before God. The challenge is two-fold: how do I nurture this sincerity in my own relationship with God; and how do we as community nurture our young people in this very adult decision of Confirmation that they undertake? The world will do its utmost to draw them away, and we as Church will possibly not offer support in ways that help.
Our young people are in process of growing up, seeking their independence, and yet still needing the support of family while often seemingly rejecting it. While peer-pressure is a driving force, there remains the need for mentorship unencumbered by the subjective nature of family relationship. Both our Confirmation process and Sunday morning
offer opportunity for mentorship as well as the opening to explore questions of faith and life that may be difficult in the family context. Teen Church
We would like to offer more opportunity for our young people in this regard, and believe it is important, especially after Confirmation, that they have the opportunity to continue to be nurtured in a Faith-focused environment. We have attempted over the last few years to offer youth activity outside of Sunday mornings, and struggled. I’m never sure as to whether it is parent-busyness or youth-busyness that undermines the process. There is always a lot of energy expressed about possible activities, but attendance is virtually non-existent. When I look at Church communities where youth work is thriving it is generally because substantial resources are invested in a paid youth-person who then has the time to invest in relationship development with our young people, and I suspect that this is the logical route to go. Our financial resources do not yet allow us to take this route, but prayer for such a step is not limited.
The following quote from Henri Nouwen was printed on the front of the Confirmation Service leaflet at St Francis (Waterkloof) last Sunday:
When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,” we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organisation needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness. It is important to think about the Church not as “over there” but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are a part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.
Sometimes (perhaps often is a better word) we forget that the Church is made up of broken people like ourselves, and our expectations and dreams for faith and life can be severely dented. It is through living in, yet looking beyond, the institutions we build that Christ is to be found. The temptation is to reject God because humanity is not God; to reject God because we do not find the depth of care and love in each other that Jesus offers. Henri Nouwen offers sage advice, which can be applied beyond the Church, more specifically in our family lives and relationships. It is in accepting each other as we are – broken, angry, hurt; flawed by destructive attitudes and actions – that we find Christ and each other. This all goes to the image of God that we carry, both in terms of our mental picture, and the image of God projected by the way we live and the attitudes that drive us. Too often God is not the mental picture we carry, and when life-crisis situations occur we find ourselves doubting both God and our relationship with him. Doubt is good because it gives us space to question both God and ourselves, and in the journey to discover God anew and ourselves anew; and to discover ourselves and our expectations of God transformed.
Sacramental Confession is one place the Church offers us, sacred and secure, to be transformed; in our vulnerability to be reassured, healed, strengthened; our brokenness received without condemnation; to find a renewed centre in God, in Jesus; a fresh start in the journey called Life.
Pray for me, also a sinner.