This month there is an important but often ignored religious festival and also the celebration of a key Christian sacrament. Sacraments are ceremonies like baptism where there is, in the phrase familiar at least to me, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Holy Communion is another, and here the sign is the bread and wine and the grace is Christ's nearer presence. This month's event is frequently an annual one only (or less, for that matter) and it is confirmation. The best way of looking at this is that it is a moment where someone who has been baptised as a child, as most of us were, can take a clear decision to commit their lives to Christ. Not by someone else, like a godparent, saying they will, but by themselves meaning it. The sign here is when a bishop lays hands on the candidate's head; and the grace is the gift of God's Holy Spirit who (He is a person, not a thing) will help us to keep the promise we have just made. We celebrate the gift of God's Spirit on Pentecost Sunday as well of course – watch out for the special effects this year!
If there is anyone out there who thinks, “I would like to know more about confirmation,” please give me a ring or have a word. More importantly, recall that confirmation is a sign of something deeper, which is a dawning of faith within a person. If you feel ready to explore the Christian faith yourself, that is the first step, long before you actually get to confirmation. And though the next sentence is written in a jokey style, it is meant seriously; talking about faith does not mean that commitment is assumed on the church's part. That is a step you and only you can take.
Should they all decide to go ahead, and nobody needs to do that till 6.29 p.m. on the night concerned! But, if they do, we are blessed to have six candidates this year. Four of them will be confirmed by the Bishop of Doncaster at Wentworth at an evening service on Sunday 19th June. Bishop Cyril is retiring this summer so this will be amongst his final confirmations. Ray and Wendy Kitridge cannot make that occasion and so they will have to travel to Doncaster Minster the previous Sunday evening. All candidates will appreciate support from members of the church at either venue. Here we shall serve refreshments afterwards in church, not the school, and – once the Art Festival is over – we shall once again be asking for gifts of nibbles and offers of help.
Incidentally, I have asked Bishop Cyril to drop in at Harley for coffee on the morning of Saturday 11th June. Harley rarely gets to meet a bishop and I thought we would grab this one before he hangs up his mitre, so to speak. Please come along for an occasion which will be a little more relaxed than a post-confirmation event. You never know, Bishop Cyril might turn up on his motorbike and also tell one of his celebrated jokes!
And the festival that no-one knows about? It is Ascension Day which, because it is always on a Thursday, does not get the attention which others which are on a Sunday or holiday have. As last year, I shall be celebrating communion at 10.00 a.m. that morning; coffee will be available afterwards. One of our Lord's most beautiful and comforting sayings is linked to this day - “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” [John 14: 2].