A Letter To The 2018 Confirmation Class

Hi friends! It is my tradition on Confirmation Sunday to write a letter to the Confirmation Class for my sermon. This year’s class was amazing and I was so humbled by the authenticity of the statements of faith they turned in.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Pentecost! It is crazy to me to think that last year I didn’t get to preach Pentecost because it was late (first Sunday in June) and I was in the hospital with a new baby! The year went fast …

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Here’s a picture of our altar from Pentecost!  I loved the way it turned out.

Have a safe holiday weekend!

Sarah

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 20, 2018

Acts 2:1-21

A Letter To The 2018 Confirmation Class

Dear Julia, Cassandra, Lexi and Eric,

I have to be honest – I was not sure how Confirmation was going to go this year.

First of all, I was a little out of practice. Not only did we not have a Confirmation class last year, but I was also fresh off of maternity leave – slightly sleep deprived and not sure how to balance this whole ministry and motherhood thing.

Second of all, the church was in a bit of a transition. Lauren and Jordan had just moved and we were getting ready to vote on a new governance structure. A lot felt like it was up in the air at the church; it was hard to teach about RCC history when I felt like we were, instead, living it out in very real time.

And lastly, the demographic of your class is unlike any one I had ever experienced here before. All four of you live in different towns and attend different high schools; not one of you attends Dighton-Rehoboth High School.

On a small scale, I think your class actually represents a shift happening in the demographic of our church community right now. More and more, instead of just coming here because people live in town and that is what they are supposed to do, people are coming from different towns to intentionally be part of this church and this community. People want to be here! It is an exciting time to be part of the Rehoboth Congregational Church; and I am so grateful, not only that you decided to be part of the confirmation class this year, but also that you are making the commitment to join and become a member of this church.

But that being said, the four of you did not really know one another when we started our time together. So, rather than just jumping in, we started with a covenant. We sat down and brainstormed what we wanted to get out of the year and what we wanted our classes to look like. Here is what the covenant said:

As members of this year’s confirmation class, we promise to create a safe space where we are all welcome and free to be the most authentic versions of ourselves. We promise to be active listeners and contribute honest participation with mutual respect for one another. We will joyfully include music and worship into our classes and hope to have fun, maybe learn something and possibly even teach something. We will create a comfortable space, bringing delicious food and fostering fellowship and fun. Laughter will fill our space and love will always win.

I can say with confidence that we did all of these things. We talked, we sang, we laughed and we turned to Google when we were confused. You told stories and taught us about school, pop culture and what is actually cool (versus what we thought was cool). We respected one another, genuinely cared about what was going on in each other’s lives and followed up on things we had talked about in previous months. We had conversations that were relevant to our topics of conversation and also occasionally got sidetracked. I have to admit, that, in achieving the delicious food portion of this covenant, I have a new appreciation for the loaves and fishes story. I realized this year that perhaps God might not always provide by multiplying the loaves, but in having me conveniently schedule class on days when we had a luncheon after church and plenty of leftovers for our evening meal, otherwise one evening dinner might have consisted of meatloaf, potato chips and jello that hadn’t set yet.

Every month, I started off our classes by asking you the same thing: What are three things you’re loving? And while I am sure you are grateful to no longer have to come up with three new things to love every month, I do hope you appreciated and learned something from the practice, itself. It is good to force yourself to think about the things in life you love; it is good to find and see joy, even when things are hard.

Because the world, as imperfect as it is and as hard as it can be to live in it sometimes, is beautiful. There is so much to be thankful for. There is so much to appreciate. There is so much to love.

But I hope you know that it is also okay to say, “You know, it’s been a really hard week, so I’m going to need to go last so I have more time to think of something.” If you remember, the adult mentors groaned as much as, if not more than, you did, when I asked this question. Sometimes I had a hard time coming up with three things and I was the one that ASKED the question! The truth is, life can be hard; you will face challenges along your journeys and you will not always love life.

I wish in confirming you I could protect you from these challenges.

But here’s the thing: This is why you have a church community. This is why you surround yourself with people who love God and love another. This is why you have safe spaces, like our worship, bible studies, committee communities, community events and missions activities, where you can be the most unapologetically authentic version of yourself, no matter how whole or how broken you happen to feel.

Because this church can and will be your spiritual tribe. This church will love you and love you hard through all of the challenges of life. This church will pray for you and share your burdens. This church will show up with meals, prayer shawls and the occasional sing-a-long. This church will laugh with you, cry with you, celebrate with you and share in your sorrows and frustrations.

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon on “doing church,” and I talked about the fact that church is verb, not a noun. And so today, I invite you to “do church” with us. As of today, you are no longer children of this church; you are members of this church, the Rehoboth Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.

And I want that to mean something in your life. I want this church to change your life. I want this church to open your eyes and your minds and your hearts to the Gospel; to world that is just and fair, to a light that shines even in the darkest of places and to a grace that can be uncovered in the most unexpected ways.

And I want this church to be changed by you, as well.

Julia, Cassandra, Lexi and Eric, I was blown away by the work you did in Confirmation this year. I said that I did not know how Confirmation was going to go this year, but the truth is, God did something so much cooler than I ever could have dreamed up myself. I never could have predicted how strong of a community we would create, how easily our conversations would flow and how much we would learn about one another. I truly loved our meetings this year.

Even more than that, it was so much fun to watch each one of you get involved in different ways in the wider church community.

Lexi, you faithfully sang in the choir, week after week, made delicious baked goods for this year’s dessert auction and took charge during last week’s children’s sermon, getting all of our supplies and offering to water and care for the flowers we planted.

Julia, you played your viola in your worship, made the most creative baked goods for the dessert auction and made the guacamole for our taco bar that was so good it was gone by the time I went through the line.

Cassandra, you valiantly balanced cheerleading and confirmation for most of the year. You often came running in to our meetings, still in your uniform and jumped right into the conversation, without missing a beat. You volunteered at the cookie walk at the bazaar and served at our lunches and suppers.

Eric, you surprised us all with how well spoken and poised you are. You led worship at the Easter sunrise service and last week better than most of the pastors I went to seminary with. And you were always up for a challenge, even if that challenge meant paddling a kayak in the rain at 5:30AM on Easter morning.

I could not be more proud of the young adults that you are – and the church members that you have become.

So thank you. Thank you for the community. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for conversations. Thank you for the grace. Thank you for the food. Thank you for sharing the things you are loving. Thank you for making this a year of confirmation I will never forget.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

A Letter To The 2015 Confirmation Class

We had an incredible Confirmation Sunday!  Here is my annual letter to the confirmation class …

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(Post-prayer as selfie as we lined up for the procession.)

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 17, 2015

Letter To The 2015 Confirmation Class

Dear Jack, Justin, Emily, Cameron, Ryan, Hannah, Tim, Tom and Ryan,

Two years ago, most of you moved from the 5th & 6th grade class to the Sadie Perry Room for 7th & 8th grade Church School. For two years, your teachers told me the same thing over and over again: These kids can be a handful sometimes, but they are also pretty funny and they actually really smart. This year, I finally understood what they were talking about.

Whether we were sharing a meal together, getting to know one another through silly icebreaker games, learning about the bible, the Christian faith and our church, debating over who was going to offer the prayer before dinner, worshiping together, wrestling with challenging questions, asking one another to hold our loved ones in prayer, leading worship together or acting out the entire Book of Genesis with props from the Children’s Day photo booth, suffice is to say we covered a lot of ground this year. You all showed your wisdom, your wit, your humor and your thoughtfulness.

I can honestly say that I never sat through one of our confirmation classes without laughing hysterically at some point at something one of you said or did. But I can also even more honestly say that I never left one of our confirmation classes without feeling inspired, hopeful and truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to walk with you all on your journeys of faith.

Today you are being confirmed. This means you will confirm the baptismal vows that people took on your behalf when you were younger. This means you will state publically – in front of God and your church family – that you want to stick around and see how this whole faith thing can work in your life. This means you know in your heart that while you are not perfect, that God’s love is more powerful than your imperfections and that God’s grace will transform you in incredible ways. This means that you are ready to listen to who and where and what God is calling you to be – and that you are ready to take the next step on your journey of faith.

I am so looking forward to seeing where each of your journeys will take you. You are smart, talented, funny, caring and thoughtful. You are athletes, you are musicians and you are writers. You work with technology and you work with your hands. You show compassion towards your friends and your families and with one another. As members of this church, you each will bring something so unique and so special to this community that we all love so much.

So before you make this commitment, I have one thing to ask of you: Don’t go anywhere. Please. Stick around and see what it is like to be an active part of this community. Allow God to transform your gifts and your talents into powerful ministries in this church.

I know you all are very busy. This is probably the first time since the beginning of the year that all nine of you are actually together. You are very involved in school activities, sports and community programs. You balance more activities and face more pressure than most of the adults sitting around you today. I love hearing about those activities and am so proud of the ways that you are fulfilled and thriving in different parts of your lives.

But this church needs you. We – the members of the Rehoboth Congregational Church – all need you. We need your minds, your passions and your talents. We need your faith and your questions and your sense of humor. We need your new ideas and your innovation. We need you to stick around and figure out what God is calling us to do together.

So stick around. Do not come to this church because your parents are making you; come to this church because God is calling you to.

Come to this church because this is where your friends are, where your church family is. Come to this church because this church is stronger and more faithful with you than it is without you. Come to this church to help you find balance in your life, to be free from the pressures of the outside world and so that you can be reminded week after week that you are a blessed and loved child of God.

Come to this church and be part of this community. We are not perfect. We do not have all the answers. But we do the best we can to dwell in God’s love, to love and support one another and to practice the Good News of the resurrection both inside the walls of our church and outside in the community.

So on behalf of this congregation, I am thrilled and honored to say: Welcome! Welcome to this church. Welcome to this community. Welcome to this beautifully imperfect, unapologetically authentic, grace-filled and abundantly blessed community of faith.

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of us.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

A Letter To The 2014 Confirmation Class

One of my FAVORITE traditions – a letter to my confirmands on Confirmation Sunday.  Enjoy!

Confirmation 2014

Dear Jonathan, Emily, Jacob, Billy, Olivia, Andrew, Bridgette, Harry, Adam, Brandon & Kaylee,

A few weeks ago, we gathered for our final confirmation dinner and class. One of our tasks that night was to plan worship for the following Sunday.

This was not an easy class. You did not completely understand what I was asking you to do. I did not completely understand why you did not completely understand what I was asking you to do. You felt inadequate when it came to writing a prayer or choosing a scripture. I knew you could do it. Your voices were timid and you let the adult mentors speak when you were unsure of what to say yourself. I might have raised my voice once or twice and poured myself at least four cups of coffee throughout the night.

Eventually we split you into groups and tasked you to write three prayers for that service without help from the mentors. I’ll be honest – as you began to talk amongst yourselves and I walked from group to group, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go. You kept saying that you didn’t know where to start; that you didn’t know what to say; that you didn’t know the fancy church words to use. The paper in front of you remained blank and you all passed the pen or pencil around the group like a hot potato, hoping that someone else would start writing.

But you didn’t give up. You put your heads together and you took it one word at a time. And when one group finished, that group moved to the other groups to see if they needed help. At the end of the night I sat around a long table with all 11 of you so we could edit the prayers together. As we did this, it was immediately clear to me that you WERE capable of writing these prayers (told you so), that you cared about what you had written and that you wanted them to be a reflection of what you believed.

When you had no other choice, you found your voice.

And guess what? This is faith – alive and at work.

This is your faith. This is your faith growing and being nurtured. This is God speaking to you and shaping you into a unique member of the Body of Christ. This is you taking what you’ve learned over the past 14 or 15 years and finally realizing that you have an important voice in your faith, within this church and throughout the world. This is you finally embracing your beliefs; asking questions and not being complacent if you don’t like the answers.

This day – Confirmation Sunday – is not just about the Christian faith – this day is about your faith.

And as much as I want you to remember today, I think I almost want you to remember that last class more. Because I want you to remember that when you had no other choice, you found your voice.

Next time I don’t want you to wait until you have no other choice.

Because you had some pretty incredible things to say.

I know that it isn’t always easy to talk about your faith, especially now. We live in a world where church and state are separate. You can’t talk about church at school. Only 10% of people in New England are part of some kind of a religious community, so a lot of your friends may not even understand what it means to be part of a church. And I’m not saying that this is a bad thing or a good thing, I’m just saying that this is the world that you live in. It is hard to let your faith voice be heard.

But you need to try.

You need to try 1) because you have some pretty incredible things to say and 2) because the world needs people like you, spreading the good news and sharing their faith. The world needs people like you, pushing yourselves outside of your comfort zone and encouraging others to do the same.
The world needs people like you asking questions and not pretending to understand or believe something just because someone tells you to or expects you to. The world needs people who are willing to pray before community suppers, speak openly and honestly in a big group of people and serve the community whenever and wherever they are needed.

Don’t be scared.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” This is from today’s Gospel reading. Remember these words that Jesus spoke; know that you are never alone in this world.

This church has some pretty spectacular Good News to share and today I am charging you to be part of the cloud of witnesses that is sharing it. So open yourselves up to see new things, hear new things, try new things and learn new things. Nurture your faith. Step outside of your comfort zone. Trust your instincts.

And let your voice be heard. Let your voice be heard in this church, in this community and in the world. Let your voice be heard with your friends, at school and in your family. Let your voice be heard so that others can hear it, but – perhaps more importantly – let your voice be heard so that YOU can hear it as well.

Let your voice be heard.

I am so very proud of you.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

p.s. Getting confirmed does NOT mean that you stop coming to church. Let me repeat that. Getting confirmed does NOT mean that you stop coming to church. This is not the end of your faith story; this is the beginning of a new chapter.