‘Anglicanism,’ wrote the late theologian J.I. Packer, ‘is a pastoral form of Christianity’.
By this he meant that conversion and discipleship typically take place, not via the podcast or the large convention, but through a local community and its pattern of catechism (instruction), corporate worship, and the public celebration of milestone moments such as baptism and confirmation.
On the Sunday of ‘Christ the King’, St Mary in the Valley (Parish of South Tuggeranong) was the site of one such celebration, in which Bishop Mark was present to confirm seven parishioners across three different services.
In his sermon, which reflected on the days’ gospel reading, Bishop Mark invited people to consider how Christ offered a way of leadership so refreshingly different from other models on offer in our world.
Over previous months, the group of candidates had participated in a series of evening classes which covered questions such as ‘What is a Christian?’, ‘How do I pray?’, ‘What do we believe?’ and ‘How do I live?’. These gave opportunity to explore again the foundations of Christian faith and life, using the catechism and other resources as a guide.
The confirmation candidates reflected something of the variety of backgrounds that make up our contemporary church. They included four people who had come to faith in very recent years; one who had returned to the faith after many years away; and two who had grown up in the church.
Scott Petrie was one of those whose Christian faith is quite new. Although baptised as an infant he did not grow up as a practicing Christian. Confirmation provided an opportunity to publicly affirm his decision as an adult to follow Christ, and to live into those promises that had lain dormant since his baptism.
‘I found it very moving,’ he said. ‘Partly because it was a sacred and joyful occasion, and partly because I was surrounded by my family and my Church community. I learned a great deal during the confirmation sessions, and I experienced something of the joy of baptism.’
The Rector of St Mary in the Valley, Reverend Dave McLennan, is finishing at the parish after Christmas. He found encouragement in this opportunity to celebrate the ways God’s Spirit has been at work in recent years.
‘It’s at moments like this,’ he said, ‘and especially when you consider the individual stories behind this moment, that you catch a glimpse of the varied ways in which Christ is at work in peoples’ lives. It gives a fresh burst of hope.’