Katie Stock looks at the rise of women in church leadership...
There can be few joys for a priest to exceed being approached about confirmation training. To have two such approaches on Pentecost Sunday itself was a special thrill that made me feel all those liturgical prayers for the Spirit that day and the previous nine were more than justified.
The Holy Spirit breathes where he wills. Pentecost and the sacrament of confirmation underline that 'inspiration' without which all we're about as a Church is bare routine. Yes we have a mission strategy - 'to grow in faith, love and numbers' - but strategy's no good without serendipity, Spirit-graced encounters such as I've described.
The bar seems higher and higher for full church membership. Getting into a pattern of faithful attendance is a major bar for young parents. Then there's making yourself available for the training which traditionally has been up to 4 months of weekly meetings. Most of all there's the obstacle of a culture hostile to commitment and especially faith commitment. I sense my two candidates - and I'm hopeful of another two - have been prayed in as much as led in to this commitment. We have a Saturday morning 'Prayer for St Giles' which has been recently bringing God the shortage of confirmation candidates.
Odd time for confirmation training May onwards as Bishops go away in August but will try and make the best of it. I hope to use my Premier Christian Radio series Firmly I Believe (still on listen again) covering the church catechism i.e. creed, sacraments, commandments and prayer. We'll do about six extended sessions at times that suit everyone and book into a late summer confirmation or invite a retired bishop with the diocesan bishops' permission.
I remember my own 1963 confirmation in Giggleswick school chapel and would pray for my candidates what was prayed for me 50 years back: 'Defend, O Lord, your servants with your heavenly grace, that they may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more, until they come to your everlasting Kingdom. Amen.'