It was the spring of 1973 when I was confirmed by Bishop John Bothwell at St. George’s Church in St. Catharines. I was one of a fairly large group of teenagers that met every Saturday morning for three months in preparation for the day. The classes were run by the rector – my father! – and the assistant curate. So I was on my best behaviour… well, mostly. There was that moment at the retreat when my roommate and I wanted to meet up with some of the others late at night. The problem was we were on the second floor, and the hallways were heavily monitored by parental chaperones. We had the bright idea of using the ladder from the bunk bed to lower us down from the window. Of course, the ladder wasn’t long enough. Once it was precariously perched from the sill, it slipped and fell, disappearing into the night. It landed with a crack. In the morning, the ladder appeared in the foyer, where we had to claim our epic fail. Busted!
On the other hand, the retreat was a new beginning for me. While I don’t recall the finer details of the classes, the social gatherings or the games, I was moved by the prayers, the bible studies and reflections of a budding faith. It was a seminal moment for me. As was the day of the confirmation. I can still remember approaching Bishop Bothwell, with a BCP in hand that cradled my name printed on paper to assist the bishop. I can remember the weight of his hands on my head, the prayer and the calm that ensued. I could not have known then, but I know now, that there would be three more occasions when the hands of the bishop would seal a deeper call. And I could not have known then, but know now, the joy of being one who has the honour of confirming, of placing my hands on behalf of the Church on those who are saying yes to their baptismal covenant in a new way.
Over the last number of weeks, I have confirmed a whole host of candidates of all ages and stages in life. I watch them approach, reminiscent of a time that I shared, lo these many years ago. While the effect of that moment is deeply personal, and the gladness will be forever captured in the family photos taken after the service, there is also a lingering effect on all those who bear witness: the sponsors and congregation members who have had a hand in shaping and forming each candidate and bringing them to that moment in time. The occasion restores hope, stirs faith and strengthens the whole of Body of Christ, like a ladder that reaches from heaven to the earth.
I have been encouraged this spring by the many individuals – young people and more mature adults – confirming their baptismal promises. Please do your utmost in encouraging those who are growing in their faith, recollecting your own promises made in faith, as we as a community continue to build each other up in our journeys of faith, to reaffirm our baptismal promises to be a disciple of Jesus, and to follow God’s call to serve.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto