There will be those who can cite Hippolytus of Rome at a thousand paces or else give you the stock Liturgical Commission interpretation of what a Confirmation Service is all about. Yes, it is the moment when someone who was probably baptised as an infant stands before the world to declare their faith for themselves. Yes, it is the time when the Holy Spirit is invoked through the laying-on of hands so that the process begun at baptism is consummated. Yes, those who are in a cynical mood might tell you that it is a neat way of keeping bishops out in parishes, but for me it is far more.
Tomorrow sees the first Confirmation Service that I have organised as a Vicar. I have put the liturgy together, provided some education and made sure that lemons and rose-water were obtained by a kindly sacristan. I am reliably informed that with twelve candidates it is the 'biggest' confirmation for as many years and we will be celebrating that with our diocesan bishop. It is also, fittingly, our parish harvest festival and just to add more to the mix, the end of a specific period of celebration for the 150th anniversary of the founding of the parish.
For the first time since I have been ordained, this confirmation reminds me of my own in 1983. Confirmed by the wonderful (and to this Christian, very special) Peter Ball, it was an occasion not just for my faith, but for everyone else's too. I remember the day, the family celebrations, the parish church's feeling of overwhelming joyfulness, and a whole manner of other things that for this 11 year old, sealed the day firmly in my heart.
We have a large number of candidates, period - let alone for a small parish church in days when it reputed that church attendance is dwindling (not here, mate). I have a faint concern that we might actually not be able to seat everyone, but I leave that concern un-uttered. We will be a church full of guests and new visitors who will experience a service (I believe) that will rock their socks. Plans are made, rehearsals will happen and the day will arrive - and a 150 people will know how faith in Christ is alive. Twelve wonderful candidates will leave church changed. And so will the rest of us - because I don't believe that anyone who cares enough about the stuff of faith can remain impartial and unchanged when vocations are exposed and blessed.
In this little church in west London, we celebrate with Leon, Tricia, Quais, Sarah, Miriam, Claire, Heidi, Marie, Roxane, James, Mia and Jeff - for those being confirmed and standing up to be counted as God's Chosen. We celebrate too for our own sake, as this is our day of confirmation too.