It is a long-standing tradition here at St. Philip’s in the Hills for the youth Journey to Adulthood (J2A) group to embark on a physical and spiritual pilgrimage at the end of their two-year preparation. The J2A class, along with their parents, tackle rigorous fundraisers, are upheld to a strict attendance policy at all classes and events, and are expected to participate in at least one ministry here at St. Philip’s. The part of the J2A experience that is rarely highlighted, however, is the opportunity for the youth to be confirmed by the Bishop during their two-year journey. As the leader of these young people (and as a cradle Episcopalian myself!), I felt that confirmation needed to become one of the most important aspects of the J2A class, and I gave these teens a large challenge that all thirteen of them accepted!
At the beginning of the 2014 school year, the teens’ first challenge was to ask a member of the parish to be their confirmation sponsor for the nine months leading up to confirmation. The teens were required to find a baptized member of the parish who would be willing to attend monthly confirmation meetings with their confirmand and act as a theological mentor and role model. Once a month the sponsors and confirmands shared a meal together and discussed important aspects of the Episcopal Church and Christianity, such as sacraments, the hierarchy of the church, and even Heaven and Hell. The purpose of this teaching model was to provide the teens with a mature and thought-provoking point of view as they learned to take adult responsibility for their faith. While it was evident that the teens sincerely grew in their faith and knowledge of the Episcopal Church, the adult confirmation sponsors were surprised at how they were moved by the young people at St. Philip’s and learned a lot about their own faith through this process!
In addition to monthly confirmation classes with their sponsors, the teens were required to complete twenty hours of service to St. Philip’s and ten hours of community service inside the Tucson city limits. The teens became very active around the parish, participating in acolyting, choir, bell ringing, cleaning the campus, altar guild, working with the After-School Music Program, participating in the all-night Dante’s Inferno reading in the church, and volunteering in children’s programming. In the community, the teens helped handicapped children ride horses, taught young children to read, improved the community, picked up trash around the city, volunteered at their local library, and many other community programs. In the end, the teens went above and beyond their thirty required hours to St. Philip’s and the community and ended up serving over four hundred hours to St. Philip’s and over two hundred hours of service to the Tucson community!
On June 1, 2014, all thirteen teens were confirmed by Bishop Smith. As all thirteen confirmands, their confirmation sponsors, and their parents rose to walk to the altar the Bishop was taken aback and proclaimed he “never saw a flash mob come up to confirmation!” This was amazing reassurance to the J2A teens that they are fully supported by the St. Philip’s congregation and that we all are all extremely proud of the hard work they put into their confirmation projects and education.
If you would like more information regarding teen confirmation or if you would like to become a confirmation sponsor, please contact Youth Minister Sara Talley at Sara.Talley@stphilipstucson.org.